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On July 30, 1956, "In God We Trust" became the official motto of the Untied States of America by act of Congress (Public Law 84-851). I had long been opposed to such a statement appearing on the noisemakers in my pocket, but I recently learned that the primary impetus behind such an act was a direct response to the "godless" Communists, our Cold War enemies. The motto has been challenged in the courtroom, the battleground of the intellectual, and the Supreme Court ruled in Aronow v. United States (1970), "[the motto's] use is of patriotic or ceremonial character and bears no true resemblance to a governmental sponsorship of a religious exercise." There you have it, a ruling by the Supreme Court that God is a figurehead for America. So I'm okay with it now. In God we trust, you pinkos!
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When I was young, the world feared the effects of a nuclear war that could end mankind as we had come to know it in a matter of days, if not hours. These days, kids seem to be more concerned about the effects of using non-renewable resources such as coal and oil. I'm pretty sure that no matter how old I get, I'll never be more concerned about the extinction of endangered species or the melting of ice caps than I am of the possibility of unexpectedly finding myself trapped in a glow-in-the-dark corpse. Hard to believe that within a generation, people have moved from fearing sudden, immediate death to fearing the use of gasoline-powered automobiles. Is that really an improvement?
This trend is clearly visible in modern movies, where nuclear war seems to have lost some of it's impact. Of course, I have complained in the past that in The Day The Earth Stood Still remake the aliens aren't worried about man's use of The Bomb, but of how we treat our own environment. (Why the fuck do aliens travel across the infinite reaches of space to warn us that they will kill us if we don't stop killing ourselves? Ugh.) In the recent movie version of the 1986 Watchman comic book, the solution to imminent nuclear war was nuclear war. (Not a perfect adaptation to Alan Moore's original solution: fake aliens.) And in this past weekend's G.I.Joe: The Rise of Cobra, the 1980s Cold War sentiment directed at a child audience has been adapted from an evil anarchist organization threatening world destruction into the "mature" story of a weapons manufacturer who wants to destroy manmade things. (Presumably, natural things will only be damaged if Cobra is really pissed off, not as a byproduct of some stupid explosion. How urbane.)
What's next? Movies extolling the virtues of laying miles of recycled water bottles instead of asphalt in roads so that less energy can be expended on the nation's highways-turned-conveyor belts? Sci-fi flicks where the creature is mutated not by nuclear tests but by "inorganic" corn crops? A remake of Dr. Strangelove where the world is doomed not by overzealous militants but by overaggressive fishing practices? A modern Soylent Green in which the hero proclaims that "Soylent Green is people," and he's happy about it?
Call me old-fashioned, but I'd really rather duck and cover my eyes than watch these. The old ways may not be the best ways, but if you ask me, they certainly make for better cinema.