I spent last night going out on the town (I know, I know, it's Peoria, but still...). I went shopping by myself. At Gander Mountain I bought shotgun shells for Saturday's squirrel opener. At Wal-Mart I bought some field points for my arrows and a camo T-shirt (also for the squirrel opener). I looked at a larger size travel kennel for our dog since she is now full grown and needs a slightly larger one than the puppy kennel she has. I couldn't get happy with any of them, so I left with just the T-shirt and arrow tips. I bought some sushi at the "gourmet" Kroger on Knoxville (well, it's gourmet compared to the one in Chilli where we live) and some gas at their pumps (no, not at the same time!). I also went to see Public Enemies at the Rave, the local stadium seat movie theater.
I came away from all these events with a couple impressions:
Thought Number One - "So this is what's it's like to be a divorced father. Mom and the kids are living somewhere else and I'm alone with nothing much to do and no one to go home to. This is the loneliest I've been in fifteen years!" Seriously, is there anything more lonely than going to the movies and out by yourself when no one is expecting you back home? By all reports, Karen and the kids had a great time visiting old friends over in Iowa, but can you tell I'm ready for them to be home?
Thought Number Two - "Why can we no longer make morally clear movies?" The title Public Enemies is, I think, meant to be deliberately ambiguous. Certainly Babyface Nelson, Pretty Boy Floyd, and John Dillinger are not portrayed angelically. Indeed, it's pretty clear that they are killers who are motivated by little that is more complex than their greed and their glands. But it's the movie's portrayal of Special Agent Melvin Purvis, his mob-hunting crew, and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover that is especially vexing. Director Michael Mann wants us to see that the FBI, for all the weight of federal law it carries, are willing to do almost anything in the pursuit of justice. Tjhe scene of an agent beating Dillinger's moll, Billie Frechette, while another looks on during the interrogation is particularly compelling in this regard. Mann seems to want us to ask the question, "So who are the real Public Enemies?"
Now let me be clear. I have no doubt that Director Hoover and Agent Purvis were far from being plaster saints. There is far too much evidence to the contrary. And the tactics they sometimes used to "get their man" were at least questionable and sometimes despicable. But it is also true that there is, at some point, a bright line between good and evil. As William F. Buckley once said, "A man who pushes an old woman in front of a bus and a man who pushes her out of the way of a bus should not be equally denounced as men who like to push old ladies around." That seems about right to me. And it raises the question why we no longer make movies in which the line between good and evil is clear. Is it because we no longer believe that good and evil are valid categories for reality? And if we do believe that, then why don't we act like that?