The mythos of America had started long before the era of modern militarism; however, it had boomed in popularity during said era due to John Wayne. It was soon known to be the John Wayne mythos. Said mythos became of the talk of the nation, filling up novels and films, and used as propaganda for the war. It is built on heroism, the idea that America is the impeccable saviour of the world-that they are always right, no matter what the situation is. Despite how bright this mythos seems, it has some extremely negative effects on the American society.
This heroic mythos of America is ruining said nation by creating istrust and violent characters among the people. To begin, this mythos has heavily influenced the American government to hide the truth from their people multiple times; they want to keep up the righteous American hero facade. However, as most people know, the truth cannot be hidden forever. In many of these cases, the brutal truth was revealed by low-level government workers, mainly soldiers. For instance, a famous example is the case of Abu Ghraib, an American owned torture prison located in Iraq.
In the documentary Ghosts of Abu Ghraib by Rory Kennedy, it is revealed that the violent prison as never meant to be known by the American public-it was meant to stay hidden for as long as possible. Nonetheless, photos taken by American soldiers working at the prison were released through electronic media, shining light upon the horrors that truly occurred in said prison. This alone further increased the large distance between the American government and the public. The public had finally drawn the line and could no longer trust the words of the government when it came to Iraq war.
This distrust between the people and their government was further increased by the documentary itself. Within the documentary, any government worker who was being interviewed was specifically made to look sinister. Their faces would half be in shadow or there would be a white gleam in their eye, as though they were planning something evil. In a way, Kennedy is attempting to draw out an uncomfortable feeling of fear from the viewer. She is saying that if you feel uncomfortable and distressed by low government workers, then those that are higher up in the political chain are not meant to be trusted at all.
They are mischievous and full of evil thoughts- they are meant to be feared and approached with caution for hey could easily destroy a society and simply look the other way when asked. Not only does this mythos influence the government to lie to their people, it also encourages careless “act first and think later” characteristics from both the government and the people. As stated before, the mythos of American militarism boomed due to the raise of John Wayne, the human entity of American masculinity and impulsive actions. He is very much a character who would act violently first and think to question people later, usually when they were dead.
His character is alluded in many odern militarism stories in both positive and negative ways. For instance, in the film Apocalypse Now by Coppola, Lieutenant Kilgore is a shining allusion to said character and mythos. Kilgore is a well-built and dominating man with a southern accent-the perfect symbol of American masculinity or a man fighting for his cause. He is known to be heroic and invulnerable as seen during the “Ride of the Valkyrie” scene where he barely flinches to the missiles exploding around him.
Despite how brave and virtuous his character is portrayed, Kilgore is extremely arrogant and impulsive-the perfect symbol of American violence. In the same scene, he orders an all out attack on a harmless Vietnamese seaside village in order to open the area for surfing. He does not think to talk to the villagers at all or finding another open location to surf. His mind immediately goes into destroying them for good in order to keep the area open at all times. Even when one of his soldiers protests, he quickly puts an end to it with a simple phrase and carries on with the attack. By the end of scene, Kilgore says one of his most famous line, “I love the smell of napalm in the morning. Smelled like victory.
Someday this war’s gonna end. ” This line shines light upon Kilgore’s love for careless destruction -it emphasizes the fact that the shining symbol of American masculinity and the one who Kilgore alludes to, John Wayne, is addicted to violence and the war. After all, his character cannot live if the war comes to an end. As shown through Kilgore’s actions and words, this mythos encourages impulsive violence. It encourages the mindset that America is always the hero and will always win, thus the reason why there are no consequences waiting for them on the other side, merely rewards and ictories.
Without knowing the consequences and the losses, people are able to do whatever they want. They can fulfill their darkest desires over and over and over again, never really needing or learning how to stop. In reality, the John Wayne mythos comes with severe consequences, no matter how much said mythos buries it. The mythos itself does everything it can to hide the fact that with the war, comes trauma and emotional baggage. In fact, John Wayne and the characters that perfectly allude to him are always fine after the war-they come out stronger than ever and seem to eady to defend their country once again if needed.
The truth, however, is that this mythos drags people into the war, feeling hopeful and bright, and spits them out as an empty shell. It changes their way of thinking and living entirely. For instance, in the short story The Red Convertible by Louise Erdrich, she tells the tale of two brothers, Henry and Lyman, and how the war had ruined their tight bond. In this story, the older brother, Henry, had signed up for the war and was taken away after an enjoyable and memorable road trip with his brother. It was during the war where Henry was taken as prisoner of the Vietnamese and what had occurred during that time was left to reader’s imagination.
When he returns, he is a whole new person; he is emotionless and stoic. In fact, while watching the television with his family, Henry unconsciously bites through his bottom lips, busting it up and causing it to bleed all over his jaw. This action is a symbol of self-violence-it shines light upon the emotional baggage of the war and how it is able to both mentally and physically destroy a person. It erases the light from his or her eyes and fills them with darkness. It locks him or her nside his or her own thoughts, causing said person to feel lost and uncomfortable in mundane situations.
It even creates distance between him or her and his or her loved ones. In some way, everyone is affected violently by the war. For instance, Lyman’s older brother was ripped away from him; their once tight bond could never be saved after the war as shown by the symbol of their brotherhood, the red convertible, being pushed into and taken away the river. Lyman has lost a brother even before Henry had physically died. In conclusion, although the mythos of American militarism is ortrayed positively, it actually shows signs of being destructive toward the American society.
It creates distrust among the people and their government, causing the people to be weary of most political words and actions. In addition, it creates violent characters among the people, whether it be to others or themselves. Lastly, it demolishes relationships, causing a certain distance to grow among those who first hand experienced the war and society itself. This mythos does more harm to a society than it does good and should be erased from modern times as soon as possible before it truly leads to America’s self- destruction.