The world is at war. The war is not going well. People are anxious, depressed, and withdrawn, fearful that the horrors are about to overtake us. The President is old, infirm. He could lose re-election next year and then where would we be?
There are differences between 1943 and 2023. While the fighting seems further away, the conflict is closer than ever. Fascist agitation is global. The Internet makes lies equal to truth. When it comes to Israel, some of our own people believe we’re the baddies.
But in many ways, the times are similar. There is one main villain, Vladimir Putin, and there are billionaires aligned with him in the name of “order.” There are horrors beyond imagining and we feel powerless to stop any of it.
The movie that best exemplifies the year is Shadow of a Doubt, an early film noir starring Teresa Wright and Joseph Cotten. It’s Alfred Hitchcock getting inside the war’s head, as opposed to his previous film Saboteur, a direct shot at terrorism. Shadow is also about trust. Cotton’s character is a trusted family friend. Is he also a killer? There’s a lot of that going around right now.
Back in the world, America is winning but it feels like we’re losing. Imagine being Chinese, Iranian, or Russian right now. Those governments are under real pressure, which is why they’re doing everything they can to make us feel like we’re the side about to topple. Democracy is an advantage here, even if it doesn’t seem like that. It offers a release valve on our pressure cooker. When autocracies blow up, everything blows up.
Gaza complicates matters. People are naturally inclined to support the “little guy,” and the Palestinians seem like little guys. Netanyahu is playing into Hamas’ hands as he has for a generation, and while Israelis don’t like it, they feel powerless to resist while under direct assault. Joe Biden has chosen to hug Israel close, hoping to incline it away from Netanyahu later. A cease fire brings that day closer.
To this we must add the climate crisis, which complicates everything. All war is to the benefit of the cockroaches, just as much as the oil industry is to their benefit. Scientists and engineers can only get to work on this if we have peace, however, and peace is only possible through victory. Thus, we’re all Teresa Wright in our movie, no matter what our other views.
But it’s important to remember that, in the past, 1943 became 1944, and 1944 became 1945. We’re closer to a resolution than we are to the start of this madness. I dare to believe that victory remains possible, and that democracy will survive.
As Hitchcock showed, the real war is inside us.