On the day Osama Bin Laden was killed, I remember a mixture of emotions. Even today, sitting in the theater watching Zero Dark Thirty, I had a hard time reconciling what was going through my head. The victorious elation of Bin Laden’s defeat seemed to ram up against what I firmly believe, that we should never rejoice over the death of another. As the soldiers make their way through the Pakistani compound that housed Bin Laden, and the children there mourned their fallen parents, part of me wished that every one of those children would be forced to sit and watch footage from 9/11, the sorrow, the grief, the death. How dare they have the audacity to shed tears for those who killed so many, men who devoted their lives to murdering others. Those who live by the sword, die by the sword.
And then, of course, rises the inevitable pity. Or does it? After all, this isn’t a film about pity. This is a film about the raw determination of a country, and a woman, determined to see justice done. Everything is left on the table. The bravery of our military and intelligence agencies, the frustration of dead ends, the ruthlessness of international terror at the hands of Al Qaeda, it’s all there.
And of course, the torture is there too. I’ve heard some argue that the methods shown here are not, in fact, tantamount to torture, but if this isn’t, I’m not sure what is. This is something that we, as Americans, need to come to terms with. This happened. Guantanamo happened, the waterboarding happened, this all happened. Whether you believe it was the right thing to do or not, it happened.
But now, instead of taking advantage of this time to evaluate ourselves, we’re doing the American thing: pointing fingers. Director Kathryn Bigelow and her crew have given us this chance to see the whole story. How did we get Bin Laden? This is how. We may not like it, but this is how. And instead of thanking Bigelow for laying bare what went on for that decade between
9/11 and Bin Laden’s death, we hear the war cries. All of a sudden, Zero Dark Thirty is a pro-torture film. All of a sudden, people are falling all over themselves to discredit it. It’s as if somehow, Bigelow herself was handing down orders for this brutality. How dare she show that torture helped us find Bin Laden! How dare she promote that kind of violence! And people point fingers, and accuse others, and refuse to hear how absurd it all sounds, all this empty anger spewing out of their mouths.
Zero Dark Thirty should be opening doors to a discussion. We should be asking questions. Was this worth it? Do the ends justify the means? How do we act moving forward? But we’ve devolved into irrational hate mongers instead, and instead of evaluating ourselves, we are blaming others. Instead of fixing a problem, we yell at each other. And this is actually our most common form of public discourse these days. Is it actually possible to have a rational discussion about anything anymore? I can’t even point out flaws in The Dark Knight Rises without getting called a idiot, how can anyone expect to be able to talk about something like torture, or abortion, or gun rights/control, or anything political, without having someone slobbering vitriolic idiocy all over them? We’re so quick to chide and blame, we can’t see problems with ourselves.
Sadly, this is how the next generation is learning to think. On all our favorite social media sites, the conversations aren’t civilized, we can have no decent debates. Even our presidential candidates bicker and insult each other in front of a national audience. And perhaps the thing that is even sadder is that the brakes have fallen off. The response to objective situations depicted in Zero Dark Thirty show that we cannot handle intelligent debate. Perhaps we’re afraid we’ll be wrong, so we blame others, we blame Hollywood, or the government, or the media, anything to take the blame off us. Why bother dealing with the reality of American torture when you can just have a verbal stoning and blame Kathryn Bigelow for showing it to us?
This movie should make us think. It should make us ponder what kind of world we want to be in. It shows just what determined Americans can do when they put their minds to it. We could be standing up, united, demanding that this never happens again. We could be willing to sit down with our friends and neighbors and have a civilized conversation about important issues. Or we could just stand around yelling at each other, because that always seems to work.