I saw the Quentin Tarantino film, Django Unchained, a decade ago but I watched it again last night. What a movie! Jamie Foxx was fantastic; Christopher Waltz was fantastic; Samuel Jackson and Leonardo, though in despicable roles, were also really good. It was Tarantino's most profitable film and won him an Academy Award (screenplay) as it did Waltz for best supporting actor. But I woke up this morning wondering why I loved the film as much as I did-- why it gave me such a sense of satisfaction. And, no-- it wasn't because of the violence per se, it was more because of the violent way instant justice was meted out to his white overlords by a black slave/freedman.
I called my old pal, sharp film-critic Michael Snyder to ask him if I was crazy for being so head-over-heels about the movie. He knew just what I was feeling-- and knew how to express it: "One of the remarkable elements in Tarantino's recent movies," he told me as he was masking for a flight from Seattle this morning, "is a sort of wish-fulfillment-- wherein he uses the filmmaker's omnipotence to rewrite history in a way that brings justice to the wicked and reverses some of the greatest horrors of the past. So Inglorious Bastards has a crack team of Allied soldiers killing Hitler in a hellish blaze some time before his actual death in a Berlin bunker; Once Upon a Time in Hollywood sees members of the demented Manson Family beaten down by heroic show-biz tough guys and prevented from slaughtering Sharon Tate and Roman Polanski; and Django Unchained, features bigoted white supremacist slave-owners (and some of their significant collaborators) getting slain in violent fashion while a proud black man escapes the yoke of America's original sin. By highlighting and-- yes-- exploiting these awful historical circumstances, Tarantino reminds us of the presence of real evil in the world and shows what can happen when people of decency, courage and determination fight back against the darkness. It's a worthwhile lesson." Michael didn't want to be quoted saying R-e-p-u-b-l-i-c-a-n.
But just before I spoke to Michael, I had gotten a press release from populist Missouri Senate candidate Lucas Kunce-- vey much a person of decency, courage and determination. He had a very Tarantino perspective in what he was communicating this morning, not about slavery but about a different kind of injustice-- the military industrial complex kind. "Defense contractors and Wall Street elites," he wrote, "spent twenty years of war getting rich, and what do they have to show for it? $6 trillion wasted in U.S. taxpayer dollars. 6,000 U.S. troops dead. I know what this war cost because I was there. These war profiteers and their allies in Congress-- both Democrats and Republicans-- have had their twenty years of reckless spending. It’s time our politicians did the job we sent them to do by standing up for the troops who put their lives on the line for this country time and time again." He wasn't done-- not by a long shot.
"When I’m in the U.S. Senate," Kunce continued, "I’ll criminalize war profiteering. We’re going to make it illegal for defense contractors to lobby members of Congress and outlaw them having any kind of impact on foreign policy. Places like Lockheed won’t be allowed to hire overpaid corporate lobbyists anymore. It will also be illegal for these war profiteering defense contractors to give money to politicians, ending the dollars to AUMF pipeline. Any politician or defense contractor found in violation of this rule should be put in jail. If you’re working for the people, then you work for all of them-- not just the ultra wealthy who rarely send their kids to die in war."
Alan Grayson is also running for the Senate-- in Florida, where he recently represented Orlando in the House-- and he admires Kunce's straight-forward approach and Tarantino's movie making. "It really takes someone who has been 'inside' to understand how awful things really are," he told me this evening. "It was a Marine Corps General (Smedley Butler) who wrote the book War is a Racket and, of course, it was the Supreme Allied Commander, and then President (Dwight Eisenhower) who said that:
Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.
"We need more people in Congress today who not only understand that, but feel it, and remember it," concluded Grayson.
The American people know what lobbyists are and they hate them. Lobbyists are the least admired and least respected occupation year after year in Gallup's annual survey of job perceptions. But members of Congress (and this really bipartisan)... don't agree with Lucas or with the American people on this. Kunce may try to weaken the role of lobbyists and make it harder for them to corrupt members of Congress, but... well, these are the ten members of Congress who have gotten the most in bribes from lobbyists (directly) since 1990. This is a pretty powerful list of men and women with a lot of incentive to opt for the status quo that gets most Americans-- and that includes Lucas Kunce-- sick:
Hillary Clinton- $5,873,569
Mitt Romney- $2,504,680
John McCain- $2,383,643
Mitch McConnell- $2,281,292
Chuck Schumer- $2,041,218
John Kerry- $1,871,755
Harry Reid- $1,852,007
Patty Murray- $1,837,076
Barack Obama- $1,769,002
Ed Markey- $1,761,668
How about the members taking bribes from the war profiteers? After all, those are the ones Kunce is talking about throwing into prison. Let's just consider current members of Congress, leaving out former members like Biden (who would be #1) and Hillary (who would be #6).
Kay Granger (R-TX)- $2,251,087
Mitt Romney (R-UT)- $1,886,430
Richard Shelby (R-AL)- $1,798,116
Adam Smith (D-WA)- $1,614,970
Mike Rogers (R-AL)- $1,565,490
Robert Aderholt (R-AL)- $1,492,043
Steny Hoyer (D-MD)- $1,450,804
Michael Turner (R-OH)- $1,410,845
Rob Wittman (R-VA)- $1,409,355
Dutch Ruppersberger (D-MD)- $1,377,409
Any interest in knowing who's on the war profiteers' most favorite list right now? These are the dozen who have so far taken the most-- this cycle only:
Ken Calvert (R-CA)- $127,400
Chuck Schumer (D-NY)- $124,920
Adam Smith (D-WA)- $108,500
Kay Granger (R-TX)- $102,351
Tommy Tuberville (R-AL)- $74,900
Michael Turner (R-OH)- $74,150
Jim Banks (R-IN)- $59,140
Patrick Leahy (D-VT)- $57,830
Gerry Connolly (D-MD)- $53,300
Vicky Hartzler (R-MO)- $53,251