Special Report

The Blind Side of Avatar

When it comes to understanding America and the threats it faces, James Cameron is no match for Sandra Bullock and Michael Oher.

By 1.6.10

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Like all good morality plays, the movie Avatar clarifies certain moral issues, even where the intended message may have been confused, or actually misleading. Independent minded, thinking viewers can then draw their own conclusions, and take away their own messages.

The Morality of Avatar

The actual moral lesson seen in Avatar is that what the corporate lackeys and their military mercenaries did to the indigenous Na'vi people of the planet of Pandora was an atrocity in the bloodiest, most morally repulsive traditions of 16th century imperialism. With far more technologically advanced military weaponry, the corporate interests commit mass murder in attacking the Na'vi to impatiently force them to move off of the valuable mineral deposits underneath their ancestral homeland.

Let us hope that any future space travelers from Earth bear the plain, good sense of Jake Sully, the hero of the movie, and his associates, who rebel against the genocidal war crimes committed by others from their own home planet, and join with the victimized innocent aliens from another world to fight against the attacks. Any future corporate plunderers behaving like those in Avatar deserve the death penalty for their crimes, which they will not get unless we have freed the Earth from the fallacies of so-called liberalism by then.

The Moral Confusion of Avatar

The problem arises when the movie seeks to apply this plain, straightforward, moral lesson of the story line to other situations where it does not apply. In particular, a couple of references in the movie suggest that what we are witnessing is analogous to the War on Terrorism.

Bad timing for this confused, misleading propaganda line. Because just a few days after the movie's appearance on theater screens, America watched a real world morality play on its television screens, as the terrorists we are at war with from al Qaeda sent one of their trained assassins to commit mass murder in attempting to blow 300 innocent Americans out of the sky on a flight to Detroit.

The Islamist extremists who have been attacking and murdering Americans for almost two decades now are not in any way analogous to the peaceful Na'vi people subject to attack by the military forces in Avatar. These extremists have been at war with their neighbors for almost 1,400 years now, originally conquering an empire to impose their religion by force, and now threatening to do the same today. In that pursuit, it is they who have committed mass murder of the innocent worldwide, from India, to Indonesia, to Thailand, to Israel, to Spain (which they ruled by force for centuries, lest we forget).

They attacked America before George Bush, or any of the rest of us, even realized we were at war with them. The real problem is that we have a President today who, at this late date, still doesn't truly believe we are at war with them, thinking instead that he has a law enforcement problem on his hands to be addressed by the FBI, not the CIA. As a result, the terrorist who attempted but failed to kill 300 Americans on Christmas Day now enjoys his own team of court appointed lawyers, with the President's own homeland security advisor advising America that as a criminal defendant he has the right to remain silent, and not tell us anything about his terrorist network admittedly plotting to attack us again.

Too bad for America that President Obama ended the CIA enhanced interrogation program that was so successful in obtaining precisely such information from captured terrorists, precisely to prevent future terrorist attacks.  Not to worry, though, for we are assured that we will get cooperation from the terrorist defendant who tried to murder 300 Americans by blowing them out of the sky, through a plea bargaining deal. That means that this attempted mass murderer will get reduced time for a reduced charge in return for his information, instead of using the now condemned CIA enhanced interrogation techniques in a military context, with a military tribunal ultimately to try him. Are we all feeling safer yet? Or will this literally kid gloves treatment for this murderous anti-American inspire many more terrorist attacks?

If the Keystone Kops operation that Obama and Attorney General Eric Holder are running consequently fails to stop the next terrorist attack, and hundreds of Americans die as a result, should President Obama be expected to resign for such a failure of leadership resulting from this moral confusion? Suppose the confused criminal trial of Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the mastermind of 9/11, inspires another murderous terrorist attack in New York City? Suppose the closing of Gitmo in favor of a new prison in Illinois inspires a terrorist attack in that locality? Dead Americans are a high price to pay for the education in realism of the former prep school Marxist we now have as President.

The Propaganda Civil War

What is troubling about the moral confusion of Avatar is that it is part of a broad propaganda civil war in America pursued by some Americans against our efforts to protect ourselves from the terrorist jihad. From the New York Times to Time and Newsweek to NBC to the ACLU to the movies to other media and cultural outlets, America is constantly under a dangerous propaganda assault telling us that it is immoral to fight back against terrorism. They tell us it is wrong for counterintelligence to listen in on overseas phone calls from phone numbers known to be associated with terrorist networks. They tell us it is wrong to interrogate captured terrorists with any methods beyond what the police can use on the local pickpocket. They insist it would be wrong to use military force to eliminate the Iranian nuclear program. They basically advocate the Obi Wan Kenobe doctrine against terrorism: Don't fight back, it only makes them stronger.

This propaganda civil war has produced real world consequences, contributing to the election of President Obama and the now overwhelming Democrat Congressional majorities. And these new authorities are reversing the Bush terrorist policies that were so successful in preventing any further terrorist attacks on American soil for the seven years after 9/11. The constant propaganda barrage more generally weakens the resolve of the nation to fight back and defend itself.

Unfortunately, our terrorist enemies mean real business, as shown on that flight to Detroit on Christmas Day, or by Ahmadinejad's threats of an all too possible EMP attack on America that would hurl our nation back to the early 19th century. The propaganda civil war, and the reversal of the serious Bush anti-terror policies that worked, are inspiring our murderous enemies to the several new attacks we have seen over the last year, thinking that they are winning the war. Those media and cultural institutions overinvested in the anti-anti-terrorism propaganda civil war should not be surprised by the cultural tsunami backlash that will result if America suffers another catastrophic terrorist attack.

The Blind Side

Finding the cultural phenomenon of Avatar sold out on my first try to see it, I opted to see the movie The Blind Side, starring Sandra Bullock in a truly brilliant performance. Unlike the utter fantasy of Avatar, this movie focuses on faithfully telling a real world story that reveals far more about the reality of America today, without apparently intending to communicate such a broader message.

The movie focuses on a black, homeless teenager, Michael Oher. Michael is a big, big boy from a chaotic family in the ghetto in Memphis, Tennessee. But one relative has the genius to deliver him his one big break in life. He successfully implores a local, almost uniformly white, rich Christian school to enroll and educate him.

In an enclave of overachievers, Michael brings an IQ of 80, in the bottom 5%. He can barely read or write, and doesn't understand anything going on in his classes. But some of his teachers apply their Christian faith to see a way to make room for the boy to succeed. They start to give him oral exams, and learn as a result that he can understand far more than they thought at first. He begins to make passing grades.

But they can't solve, and don't seem to notice, the more fundamental problem. Big Mike has nowhere to live, and he just wanders around the school area making do. As the fall proceeds towards winter, Leigh Anne Touhey, a mother in a highly successful family with two children at the school, notices him loping around the grounds shivering from the cold.

The first big lesson the movie offers, again without intending to do so, is in the sharp contrast between Leigh Anne and Michael's own, real world mother. Leigh Anne is a hard charging, Christian woman who gets things done. She has her own successful business, and so does her husband. As a result, they have a big, beautifully appointed and kept home, and a prosperous overall lifestyle.

Michael's real world mother is a barely surviving crack addict living in the projects. She admits she is not even sure who Michael's real father is, because of her lifestyle of serial sexual experiences. Early in the movie, Michael is informed that the man who may be his father just committed suicide by jumping off a bridge. Michael admits that he never knew the man.

The point here is not to morally condemn Michael's real family, but to understand them. For the difference between these two women actually fully explains poverty in America. The poverty that does exist here does not arise because our economic system is unjust, as our always thoroughly confused and thoroughly dishonest Left propagandizes over and over ad nauseam. Our economic system has always offered the most opportunity, the most social mobility, and the most broadly enjoyed prosperity of any economy in the history of the world. Indeed, it has been a true workers' paradise, especially for poor workers, those at the bottom of the economic ladder who have the most to gain from a land of opportunity. This is proven by the real world testimony of poor working people themselves, who throughout our history have flocked to these shores, even breaking in illegally to gain the fruits of economic freedom our system has offered (at least until last year's badly mistaken and confused socialist revolution).

Rather, persistent, long term poverty in America arises from dysfunctional people suffering from drug or alcohol abuse, and/or sexual irresponsibility, or in some cases mental illness. The truthtellers who have studied poverty in America explain that persistent poverty can be avoided simply by finishing high school, working in available jobs, which leads to higher income through raises, promotions and marketable experience, and getting married before having children. We are talking here about simple, personal responsibility. Not too difficult.

The point here, again, is not to morally condemn these dysfunctional people, but to understand them, our society and economic system, and poverty and what to do about it. In a society of free people each in their own personal pursuit of happiness, it is not surprising that about 5% to 10% lose their way and slip into dysfunctional hopelessness. Morality, in fact, calls for a safety net for these people that will prevent deprivation and suffering, while maintaining positive incentives to restore them to personal and economic independence and self-sufficiency, rather than incentives to perpetuate dependency. As I will show in this column this year, such a well-designed safety net can, in fact, completely eliminate poverty in America, while costing far less than our current welfare system.

The Left once again broadcasts fundamental lies about America as an uncaring society focused only on self-serving greed, leaving the poor in the gutter. The truth is that America maintains a vast welfare empire spending far more than enough already to eliminate poverty. Far too many Americans do not have any understanding of this, and keep voting for still greater expansions of the welfare state ignorant of what we are already doing. In fiscal 2008, even before President Obama, total government spending on means-tested welfare spending for the poor amounted to $714 billion, as the Heritage Foundation accurately reports. That doesn't count Social Security or Medicare, which together cost an additional $1 trillion in fiscal 2008, for a total safety net cost of $1.7 trillion, almost three times what was spent on national defense that year, out of a total federal budget of $3 trillion.

President Obama and the Congressional Democrat majorities have already adopted budgets increasing total federal welfare spending by one-third in just two years. As Heritage reports, this year total government welfare spending will reach almost $900 billion, on its way to over $1 trillion by 2014. President Obama's own budget projections show that government welfare spending overall will total $10.3 trillion over the ten years from 2009 to 2018.

The Left tries to present an untrue vision of poverty and America's welfare system because they are trying to use the poor to gain still more power and government control, just as they are doing with their dishonest discussion of the global warming issue, among others. They claim that those telling the truth about poverty in America are "blaming the victim." But as the above discussion shows, the real victim in regard to poverty in America is the taxpayer, who is already funding a vast welfare empire costing far more than necessary to eliminate poverty.

Besides all the government welfare, the American people voluntarily provide extensive funding and service to the poor through the private sector, which is often far more effective than counterproductive government programs. This is what we see in The Blind Side, where the rich, white, Christian Leigh Anne Toughey takes the poor, black, child Michael into her own home, and then uses her considerable talents to fight for his interests, winning one battle after another.

Therein lies another lesson from the movie, because it shows in the process the reality of the life of true Christian families in America, still more truth distorted and misrepresented by the lies of the Left. And the movie is ultimately so touching because it shows as well how a parent can develop such a total, selfless commitment to a child, experiencing such personal joy just from the child's happiness and success.

When the football coach at first fails with Michael because he is too much of a gentle giant, Leigh Anne stomps on to the field, and explains to Michael what is expected of him in terms he can understand. When Michael needs to improve his grades to qualify for a college football scholarship, she hires a personal tutor for him. When one last teacher holds out on improving his grades, she goes to ask him exactly what Michael has to do to improve.

And when his high school highlight tape shows Michael, who in real life is 6 foot, 5 inches tall, and 309 pounds, as an offensive linemen pushing his opponents around all over the field, she is rewarded with one famous top flight college football coach after another trooping to her home to convince Michael to come to their school. Michael chooses the family favorite, Ole Miss, where in real life he went on to star as an All-American. On April 25, 2009, Michael Oher was chosen in the first round of the NFL draft by the Baltimore Ravens. He just completed his first season as the starting left tackle for that team.

Avatar is a technically beautiful movie, and a highly enjoyable fantasy tale of a battle between good and evil. Keep your thinking cap on as well as your 3D glasses when you go to see it. But to learn about the obscured reality in the country you live in, you should go to see The Blind Side.

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About the Author
Peter Ferrara is Director of Entitlement and Budget Policy at the Heartland Institute, General Counsel of the American Civil Rights Union, Senior Fellow at the National Center for Policy Analysis, and Senior Policy Advisor on Entitlements and Budget Policy at the National Tax Limitation Foundation. He served in the White House Office of Policy Development under President Reagan, and as Associate Deputy Attorney General of the United States under President George H.W. Bush.