Sunday, January 15, 2017

Seven Days in January

First off, I see by iMDB there really was a movie of that title, but this has nothing to do with that.

Lately I've been thinking about mutiny. Not mutinying, but the impulse to commit mutiny and the consequences of doing or not doing it.

During this past election cycle, I kept thinking about the speech about the democratic institution in place that Seven Days in May Pres. Lyman (Frederic March in the movie) makes to would-be mutineer Gen. Scott (Burt Lancaster). Narcissistic would-be dictator Scott's beef was that Lyman had just signed an anti-nuclear treaty with the Russians, thereby putting U.S. security at risk. Lyman's beef was that Scott needed to run for president if he had a beef with this policy.

Frederic March as Pres. Lyman (left), Burt Lancaster as Gen. Scott, Seven Days in May
The Lyman speech by March is probably my favorite presidential moment in all of moviedom.

Meanwhile, there's that other mutiny story, this one based on historical records, Mutiny on the Bounty. In this case, it's the guy in charge, Capt. Bligh (Charles Laughton in the good version), whose dictatorial acts of brutality cause a beef with his more humanitarian second-in-command, Fletcher Christian  (Clark Gable).

Clark Gable as Fletcher Christian (left); Charles Laughton as Capt. Bligh, Mutiny on the Bounty
The thing about Seven Days that has my morals in a knot is that I always had been cheering for Lyman, the force for democracy against the tyrant mutineers. But in less than seven days from now, it'll be the tyrant mutineer who will have been democratically elected to this position of power, as Pres. Lyman recommended. What turns that story inside out, however, is the role of that perceived enemy, the Russians, who now appear to have given the U.S. mutineer the power of the press he needed. (You'll recall that Gen. Scott's primary agency of change was the media. Plus ca change.)

Now as that Day in January that will live in infamy is fast approaching, wherein the U.S. has democratically elected a tyrant, there are signs of mutiny. Fearless defenders of democracy, who would normally be on the President's side, be it Lyman or Scott, have declared the future president illegitimate. 

Never mind that I once predicted another U.S. Civil War based on lines similar to those now being drawn, I am not--and cannot be--a proponent of mutiny. Look at the movie record: The only men to survive their respective mutiny narratives with their integrity intact were the deputies of the mutineers who stuck to the laws they swore to uphold: Seven Days' Jiggs (Kirk Douglas) and Bounty's Byam (Franchot Tone).

Burt Lancaster as Gen. Scott (left); Kirk Douglas as Jiggs, Seven Days in May

Franchot Tone as Roger Byam (left), Charles Laughton as Capt. Bligh, Mutiny on the Bounty
Seven Days' Jiggs had a slightly easier decision to make when the mutineer was the would-be tyrant, though Gen. Scott was also his friend (and boss). Bounty's Byam was also a friend and direct report to mutineer Christian and could clearly see Capt. Bligh's blatant psychopathic tendencies. But Byam could not defy the institutional order of the state, his kingdom and country. He chose to follow Bligh, though by bad luck missed the boat.

The bottom line is that mutiny is mutiny. Democracy is still democracy, however it's been gamed by outside players. To keep our integrity, we preserve our institutions as best we can. That doesn't mean we follow false shepherds like sheep. We preserve our humanity by being humane, by being kind to one another. And if we have to occasionally set sail for Pitcairn and build our own villages of happy nice people, let's do it the right way, through the powers of our hands and hearts and imaginations.

love, hosaa
empress of my own mind, VHNP

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