Sunday, April 17, 2005

Roger Feels For Us

I don't mean to pile on Roger Ebert, but after noting a week ago that he makes obvious errors on a regular basis, we will now turn to his politics. It's been clear for quite a while he's a big D Democrat, and sometimes inserts politics into his reviews, but that's par for the course for quite a few critics.

This week, however, in his review of Turtles Can Fly, about Kurds just before the Iraq war, I think he oversteps the boundaries. The Kurds in the movie (and in reality, too) hated Saddam and supported the invasion. In fact, they have been our biggest supporters since the war started, and the biggest backers of free elections.

So what does Ebert have to say about this?:
"But what will the Americans do for them? The plight of the Kurdish people is that no one seems to want to do much for them. Even though a Kurd has recently been elected to high office in Iraq, we get the sense he was a compromise candidate -- chosen precisely because his people are powerless."
I'm not saying we've always done right by the Kurds (though we did more than most, seems to me), but we did put something on the line for them, even when many (such as Ebert) strongly disapproved. I realize we did what we did for ourselves as well--it's an odd politics that believes a nation's foreign policy can only do good when it has no self-interest.

But worse, see what Ebert does. Pauline Kael used to say "we feel" or "we think" in her film reviews. Even then it was a cheat, but at least she was referring to the films! Here, Ebert has done a sleight of hand, and is no longer talking about the film--he's referring to the actual political situation today, and telling us what we should think.

Roger, your "sense" of the situation is not mine. Not only was the election (the first of many, one hopes) a wonderful thing, but seeing a Kurd--a man from a group that was despised and slaughtered by the dictator we removed--now one of the official leaders of Iraq is a heartening development. Going from nothing to a well-functioning democracy takes a lot of work, and we should be thrilled at amazing advances in such a short time, hoping they will continue. But all Ebert can do, since the wrong President fought the war, is dump all over these achievements.

By the way, Roger, if you think the Kurds are powerless compared to how it used to be, I suggest you ask them. Or at least wait three years until someone makes a follow-up film, so you can tell us how to feel again.


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