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The A-Team's Message of Non-Violent ResistanceErsun Warnke Salem-News.com Business/Economy Reporter
Oddly enough, this mix of fantasy violence and subversive anti-military themes is being actively marketed by Fox to the evangelical Christian right.
(EUGENE, Ore.) - A movie like the A-Team raises some interesting questions and is ultimately a fascinating snapshot of a certain segment of American culture.
The most obvious question that movies like the A-Team raise regards the taste and propriety of creating fantasy depictions of war, targeted and marketed to children, that are set in current war zones where they may soon find themselves.
The plot of the A-Team, which depicts a civil war between Army and CIA personnel, both operating outside of any recognizable chain-of-command, is certainly not your classic morale boosting war film that reinforces traditional military values.
In the A-Team everyone is a criminal. The A-Team may have been convicted for participation in a covert operation, but as it turns out, their participation actually was criminal in the first place. The CIA operatives depicted are even bigger criminals, so the members of the A-Team must reject military law and launch an independent operation against their CIA antagonists.
What is implied in the subtext of the plot is that the CIA’s authority derives from civilian control, which is the ultimate source of the corruption that the A-Team is fighting within the military. The A-Team can no longer follow military law because it has been compromised by civilian control. The A-Team must reject both their chain-of-command and military law in order to launch their war against the foot soldiers of the corrupt bureaucrats, represented by the CIA.
Oddly enough, this mix of fantasy violence and subversive anti-military themes is being actively marketed by Fox to the evangelical Christian right. The “magazine of evangelical conviction,” Christianity Today, ran a “review” of the film, which tries to contextualize it in a framework that will convince Christian parents to show it to their children.
Hannibal's classic love of a plan is extended into a belief in a bigger plan. He says, "I don't subscribe to coincidence. No matter how it looks, there is always a plan." When things get murky, the team struggles to see a plan amidst their struggles. While bent on revenge and saving face, the team holds honesty, truth, and justice at a high commodity—and they will risk everything to uphold them. Also, the movie tries (sometimes too hard) to set up some interesting contrasts: self-reliance vs. teamwork, military vs. mercenary, being in the trenches vs. merely calling the shots, having a plan vs. the unpredictable variable.
In the evangelical Christian context, the A-Team is reinterpreted as following God’s plan in the pursuit of honesty, truth, and justice. The central theme of conflict between the Army and CIA, and by extension military and civilian authority, is dismissed as an “interesting contrast” of “military vs. mercenary.”
An interesting aspect of the Christianity Today review is that more than being an advertisement for the film, which all reviews are, it actually instructs the reader on how to interpret and think about the film. The review is followed by a section called “talk about it,” which lays out questions about the film that can be used as “discussion starters.”
How do you react to the revenge angle in the film? How do your thoughts about revenge differ? What does the Bible say about revenge?
Here, against all odds, this trash film is portrayed as an exploration of the philosophical teachings of Jesus and Ghandi.
While the A-Team is certainly no philosophical treatise, the teachings and history of Ghandi are not irrelevant to the audience for this film.
On June 10, 1938 Ghandi wrote a letter from Peshawar, where he was visiting with Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan, the “Pride of Afghan as the Pashtans delight to call him.” At the time, the Khan was leading 100,000 Muslims in a resistance movement allied with Ghandi’s Hindu movement against the British empire.
At the time, Ghandi described his mission there saying:
“My purpose will be fulfilled, if I succeed in reaching these men's hearts and making them see that, if their nonviolence does not make them feel much braver than the possession of arms and the ability to use them, they must give up their non-violence, which is another name for cowardice, and resume their arms, which there is nothing but their own will to prevent them from taking back.
Included with the letter is a copy of the pledge that the Khan’s soldiers had to swear to:
In presence of God I solemnly affirm that:
It can immediately be observed that this code of conduct is a tall order indeed, and that any man capable of building a 100,000 strong movement willing to pledge themselves to such a code of conduct is a force to be reckoned with.
It can also be observed that we don’t hear much about unity between Hindus and Muslims, or about the leading role that the Pashtun tribes in what is now Pakistan and Afghanistan played in freeing Pakistan and India from the Bristish Empire.
Those same Pashtun tribes in Peshawar are now being violently oppressed by the central government in Pakistan, in accord with what is perceived to be a U.S. policy.
Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan was indeed a crucial leader in the overthrow of the British Empire, and a strong opponent of the partition of British India into India and Pakistan. After the partition, and the creation of the State of Pakistan, he was treated as an enemy of the government that his actions had brought to power for the rest of his life.
Gaffar Khan died under house arrest at the age of 98, by which time new wars for control of the Indian sub-continent were underway.
In the two paragraph notice of his death published by the New York Times on January 23, 1988, it is noted that a ceasefire was declared between the Afghan army and guerillas for the Khan’s funeral in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, which was attended by 200,000. According to the notice, guerillas had broken the ceasefire, setting off bombs that killed 15.
Also of note is that this legendary leader is reported to have supported the “Soviet-backed” central government in Kabul against the guerillas.
While Khan Abdul Gaffar Khan may only warrant two paragraphs in the New York Times, which wrote him off as a State enemy; the memory of this man who led the resistance in Pakistan to the British Empire, and was called the “King of Chiefs” of the Pashtun people, may warrant a slightly larger place in the memory of Pashtuns that the U.S. is fighting in Afghanistan and Pakistan today.
The fact that the Pashtuns, now called “The Taliban,” were led for decades by a close friend of Ghandi’s who was dedicated to an Islamic practice of non-violence came as a surprise to me. The fact that he supported the government of Afghanistan against the “Jihadi” guerillas backed by the U.S., Pakistan, and others, came as an additional surprise.
In the end, with a bit of help from the internet, the A-Team did turn out to be an informative film. The superficial questions raised by the film in fact lead to much more complex answers.
The history of the Pashtun people is fascinating and highly relevant to our current predicament in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Understanding this history could very well be essential to the resolution of our conflicts in those countries.
Salem-News.com Business/Economy Reporter Ersun Warncke is a native Oregonian. He has a degree in Economics from Portland State University and studied Law at University of Oregon. At a young age, his career spans a wide variety of fields, from fast food, to union labor, to computer programming. He has published works concerning economics, business, government, and media on blogs for several years. He currently works as an independent software designer specializing in web based applications, open source software, and peer-to-peer (P2P) applications.
Ersun describes his writing as being "in the language of the boardroom from the perspective of the shop floor." He adds that "he has no education in journalism other than reading Hunter S. Thompson." But along with life comes the real experience that indeed creates quality writers. Right now, every detail that can help the general public get ahead in life financially, is of paramount importance.
You can write to Ersun at: firstname.lastname@example.org
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