The Searchers

In my exploration of John Wayne movies, I watched The Searchers last night. This one was definitely a little different from the couple of others I have seen so far (Stagecoach and the Shootist).

Here, the chauvinism was much clearer. The circle of concern narrowed down to just a very small group, the rest of the world made into an “other”, and a strong sense of separation between the two.

The “us” group was the small group of civilized white folks in the Texas wilderness (although shot in Monument Valley, Utah as most of these movies). The “them” group was the Native Americans and to some extent the landscape.

And, predictably, the “other”humans were dehumanized and there was probably a lot of shadow projection going on as well. We are civilized, they are uncivilized. We are right, they are wrong. We deserve to be treated fairly, they don’t. We are humans (with all that entails), they are not. And so on – it is a familiar story.

On the one hand, I noticed how we have come a long way since 1956. This movie could not have been made the same way today, other than as a parody.

On the other hand, I see how these same patterns are played out even today. Although now with Bush and other white folks as John Wayne, and the “terrorists” in the role of the indians. It is quite astonishing to see the same dehumanization of the “other”, not only by a very small group of “terrorists” but also – and mainly – by educated people leading the most powerful country in the world these days.

With our current general familiarity with basic psychological processes, it is a mindset that I would think few would be proud to exhibit, but Bush and company seem to do it very happily. Of course, they probably have various motivations behind it, such as whipping up emotion among the public so they can push through policies (eroding democracy and human rights) which would otherwise not have a chance.

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