Liberty, Freedom, Choice

In light of some recent events, I would just like to share a few thoughts. These are just random thoughts, but they might feel more like familiar musings about the current situations in politics, sports, society, and the country. Of course, all of these categories seem to bundle together to form one long narrative.

American Flag Controversy

I’ll start with Colin Kaepernick. I’m sure everyone has heard of the latest controversy that some people and media have turned it into. His refusal to stand for the National Anthem before football games has become the topic of discussion for many. I’ve read stories and seen social media comments and posts how the quarterback despises America and is being disrespectful. According to some, he’s even being a rich, spoiled crybaby.

I understand his reasons why he is doing what he’s doing. As he has said, it’s to try to bring change to a situation that appears to have erupted over the last few years. And seemingly, that is the injustice being done towards people of color at the hands of white authority figures. It seems there has been some discussion on the matter, but mostly it is still almost hateful dialogue towards Kaepernick and his actions. I have also read, though, there are some that support what he’s doing, and some of those are even veterans.

Do I agree with what he is doing? Not necessarily. There could be other ways he could protest and try to bring about change. But I certainly do agree it is his right to do what he’s doing as provided in the Constitution. The American Flag is meant as a symbol of liberty and freedom. And if we (Americans) are to rise and honor those who have fought to provide us those freedoms, then shouldn’t we have a right to protest when some civil liberties and rights are being denied or disregarded? The way I see it (as I have mentioned this in another post) the flag represents America’s freedom. But if you also look at how we (America) arrived at that point, by basically oppressing and slaughtering the Native Americans here for nothing more than dominance, which is also what seems to be happening today – the oppression of people of color and minorities. So that red, white and blue flag that’s supposed to stand for freedom and liberty just seems hollow when we are still oppressing minorities. So, I believe until we – as a nation – can return to a civilized, caring nation where race and oppression are not relevant any longer and people can get around without being judged or oppressed, then we can all stand in honor of that Star-Spangled Banner and to those who have fought and died to give us that honor and freedom. And until then, we should be able to protest how we see fit, as long it is peaceful and not interfering with anyone or anything else, or not hurting anyone else. Let’s refrain from being judgmental and just live.

Election 2016

In a recent post, I talked about the election and political party history. We know that Trump and Clinton are in it and they will be facing off on the debate stage in a few days. Since that post, Libertarian nominee Gary Johnson is polling 15% or higher in several states and now is on the ballot in all 50 states. The National Commission on Presidential Debates has made the decision not to include the former New Mexico Governor on the first debate stage because he isn’t polling at he requisite 15% in the national polls (a number arbitrarily set by the commission).

I’ve read where some believe that voting third party is a wasted vote. That it’s meaningless. No third party has ever won. Here’s a little history: by 1860 there were four parties – Northern Democrat, Southern Democrat, Republican, and the Constitutional-Union Party. The Republican Party was considered a “third party” at the time. Republicans won their first presidency with Abraham Lincoln as the issue of slavery was at the forefront of that election.

In this election, I don’t believe there have ever been two more polarizing candidates as Trump and Clinton. As I said before, some have said they will vote for the lesser of two evils. But which on is the lesser evil? Some say it’s Clinton. Some say it’s Trump. If you ask me, voting for the lesser of two evils is still voting for evil. Some have also said voting for a third party will take votes away from Trump and allow a Clinton presidency as it did in 1992 with Ross Perot. But really, if 62% of America want to see Gary Johnson in the debates, and those that say they will vote Trump to keep Clinton out and those that will vote Clinton to keep Trump out would vote for Gary Johnson, then he might just actually win. I haven’t done the math. But it does seem plausible. I for one cannot vote Republican or Democrat in good conscience. What needs to change is the CPD and the failing two-party system. Since the end of the Civil War, the two-party system has been in power. There have been other “third parties” but they don’t get the recognition because all the attention goes to the two major parties.

The CPD was supposed to be set up to educate America on all eligible candidates to make the choices needed to secure the next presidency. In all honesty, if a candidate is on the ballot their voice should be heard on the debate stage regardless of numbers in national polls. Plain and simple. America needs another choice. This election is too important. However, if Johnson doesn’t get in then maybe after four years of Trump or Clinton, the rules will change.

Final Thought

It just seems to me what is lacking is appreciation for human and societal differences. I’ve said this time and time again. We (America) need to put a little love back in our lives. Sometimes it just seems that until someone says something is offensive or controversial, no one really notices or is aware of it. But because someone said something, then all of a sudden it’s a countrywide (or in some cases a global) offensive controversy. It looks as though the country (world) is regressing to a more tumultuous time of racial tension, oppression, and righteous judgment. Let’s love each other and get along.

A gritty depiction of war and survival in ‘Lone Survivor’

Rating 4/5

They say war is hell. And nothing could be further from the truth as depicted in the events of this film. Not since Saving Private Ryan have I seen such a realistic display of the brutality of war. Writer/director Peter Berg adapted the book, Lone Survivor: The Eyewitness Account of Operation Redwing and the Lost Heroes of SEAL Team 10, by former Navy SEAL Leading Petty Officer Marcus Luttrell (Mark Wahlberg) and writer Patrick Robinson.

Operation Redwing was a mission to capture or kill Ahmad Shah, a feared Taliban leader, in June 2005. The mission started as a team of four was sent in on a nearby mountainside to do reconnaissance on the target. The team consisted of Luttrell, Lieutenant Michael Murphy (Taylor Kitsch), Gunner’s First Mate Second Class Danny Dietz (Emile Hirsch), and Second Class Petty Officer Matthew “Axe” Axelson (Ben Foster). The mission begins flawlessly, but soon turns disastrous. Communications begin to falter, cutting them off from the command post and then the mission becomes compromised as a small group of goat herders come across their path. Knowing there is a possibility of them being aligned with the Taliban, the men are faced with a difficult moral decision. As they debate their mission’s purpose and the rules of engagement, they are faced with three choices. Ultimately deciding to let them go, the men move to higher ground in hopes of better reception to call in an extraction team. However, they soon find themselves trapped as they become heavily outnumbered and outgunned. This ensuing sequence is intense as the four men fight for their survival, trying to dodge bullets and RPG fire, jumping off the steep cliffs hitting trees, rocks and hard ground.

The performances are excellent and provided a sense of realism to the story. The direction did the story justice from the opening that told the origin of the mission to the gut-wrenching sacrifices these men made (and every military man and woman make in times of war) during their fight with the Taliban and to the final moments of the rescue operation of the lone survivor. The dialogue was real and added to the everyday moments these men had at their base to the heightened sequences of action throughout the film.

This remarkable true story of survival was one of the finest displays of heroism during impossible odds. The mission began like an ordinary reconnaissance mission, but soon nothing seemed to go as planned and quickly became a fight for survival. One could go back, and through a series of “what if’s,” could see a different outcome and these men would have more than likely survived the ill-fated mission.

If there is one flaw in the film, it is character development. Aside from seeing some SEAL training and camaraderie among the guys, there is very little we get to know about these men other than most of them have significant others. However, that does not belittle the story or narrative of the film. The film’s deep impact is not compromised and brings forth a strong account of military brotherhood, survival, and sacrifices this small group of heroes made and how one lived to tell the tale.

‘Olympus’ sequel, ‘London Has Fallen,’ falls under its predecessor

Rating 2.5/5

Last July I reviewed ‘Olympus Has Fallen,’ which was released in 2013, in anticipation of the sequel that has just been released. Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedikt who penned ‘Olympus,’ wrote this sequel with a new director, Babak Najafi. His previous directing credits are mostly short films. Together, they seemed to fail to deliver a tense action-drama from three years ago. Don’t get me wrong. The film did have some tense moments and it did deliver explosions, gunfire, and car chases, but did not seem to be any different than previously seen in most any other film in the genre.

The film sets up the players and introduces the antagonist Aamir Barkawi (Alon Aboutboul), an arms dealer who is a very bad man. Well, what arms dealer is a good man? Tragedy strikes Barkawi and his family and he then blames the United States, primarily President Benjamin Asher, portrayed once again by Aaron Eckhart. After the tragedy, it flashes forward two years later where we see Asher jogging with Secret Service Agent Mike Banning. Gerard Butler reprises his role as ex-special forces turned Secret Service Agent. There’s the usual banter between the two and they have picked up nicely from the events of ‘Olympus.’ Banning and his wife Leah (Radha Mitchell) are expecting a child. We also learn that Banning is considering his resignation.

An international incident (the death of London’s Prime Minister) then propels the story forward, which prompts the gathering of world leaders and the U. S. President to London for the funeral. The President and his staff have days to plan the trip to London, unknown to them the Prime Minister’s death was just a ploy to gather the world leaders. The day arrives and the leaders gather in London making. Moments later, the attacks begin. As the story unfolds, plot points are revealed and the audience learns of the plot as information is revealed to the U. S. and London officials. Morgan Freeman returns and now is Vice President, Secret Service Director Lynn Jacobs (Angela Bassett) returns, Robert Forster reprises his role as Gen. Edward Clegg, and returning Defense Secretary Ruth McMillan (Melissa Leo) rounds out the key players for the United States. However, they all seem to take a back seat to the action as Banning and Asher are at the forefront this time around. Charlotte Riley is introduced as MI-6 Operative Jacqueline Marshall, who helps Banning and works with the rest of MI-6 and others to uncover the threats from Barkawi.

Butler portrays his character with the same intensity as before. But it didn’t work as well this time around because, as stated, the driving action was similar to other films in the genre. Eckhart’s President Asher did get a little more action in this film as he was running and firing guns as opposed to just being tied up and pushed around, and was believable but just not anything special. The rest of the supporting cast, from the United States personnel or the London operatives were decent in their respective roles. Aboutboul was not real convincing as the antagonist Barkawi. The fault there, I think, was that it didn’t feel like the character was written with enough dimension. Even his son, Kamran Barkawi (Waleed Zuaiter) appeared as a carbon copy of most other terrorists in action films such as this one.

From the onset, one can see the opening attack was a well-coordinated attack. As with ‘Olympus,’ there might have been a couple of things that might make you scratch your head. For example, knowing where the world leaders would be at the exact moment of the planned attack might have been questionable. But again, like its predecessor, it follows the idea that this was a well-planned attack. But if it took Barkawi two years to plan this attack, he must not be as good as an antagonist. This film, while it had its moments, seemed to have missed the mark on creating a worthy sequel.