Invasion of the Body Snatchers is a cult classic from 1956 in which aliens invade the earth by taking over our bodies after we have fallen asleep. Anyone who wants to remain human has to stay awake. What makes the invasion so insidious is that it is subtle, gradual, barely noticeable except by those with enough fortitude to resist not just sleep but the growing hordes of people whom the aliens subdue through the use of “pods.”
The director of the film, Don Siegel, denied that it was a critique of McCarthyism, or the fear of Soviet infiltration of North America. Still, it’s hard not to make comparisons. Once people are taken over by the aliens, they look the same as before. However, their behavior changes dramatically. They lose the capacity to choose freely and think independently, They are controlled by an unseen, centralized force of aliens who are referred to as “we” and “us.” To resist this force, one must remain awake; presumably, not become a victim of the paranoia that sees Russian agents everywhere.
Enter not Donald Trump but Donald Sutherland, who starred in the 1978 remake of the film. For him, the alien force sweeping the land today is not McCarthyism but “Trumpism,” the most pernicious manifestation of which is white privilege. Sutherland went on mainstream media recently to say that he is “ashamed” of being white and doesn’t know what to tell his grandchildren about the election. “How can I face them?” he mused painfully. The interviewers, one black man, one black woman, and one white woman, seemed all too eager to help him figure it out.
To counter this new alien invasion, it has become de rigueur to make racist remarks about whites and to show contempt for them by declaring “f**k whiteness” (seen on placards at anti-Trump rallies), attributing the election results to “whitelash” (as Van Jones did), and pummeling people for being white. Of course, white liberals are at the core of this racism, because it is an effective way to root out inherited–and inherently patriarchal–cultural values.
This kind of thinking (if it can be called as such) is destructive, anti-intellectual, and, ultimately, totalitarian. Beyond that, there are two things wrong with its conclusions. First, most white people who voted for Trump did not do so because of race. Many of them voted for Obama in the last two elections. Neither is the effort to “make America great again” code in the way that liberals interpret it. Again, this shows that mainstream media still does not understand what happened. Trump’s support came from people concerned about the economy and their security, not suppressing blacks or denying a woman the White House.
And isn’t the idea that a woman is owed the White House because she is a woman another form of privilege? I think Hillary should have been disqualified simply for being a Clinton; the same with Jeb Bush–had he gotten that far–for being another member of the ruling class. Apparently, the Republicans have more sense than the Democrats in that regard.
Secondly, I agree with the Dalai Lama regarding the self-hatred of the West. We hate where we come from, how we got here, and who put us here. This self-hatred compels us to produce revisions of history and profile people according to Marxist parameters; i.e., oppressors, property owners, racial privilege. But the Dalai Lama asks, rightly, “How could you think of yourself that way?” I remember a speaker from the University of Wisconsin, Madison, who not only made fun of Scott Walker publicly but referred to “middle-aged white men” in a disparaging way. I objected to her remarks not because of my profile but because they were morally wrong.
Using Body Snatchers as a metaphor for post-election developments is tricky. Tricky, because the alien force sweeping the land is neither McCarthyism nor Trumpism but a new dispensation that justifies bigotry and violence to achieve a specific end. What is that end? An upended social structure in which oppressor and oppressed switch roles. To my way of thinking, that is immoral, morality being not a function of power but compassion.
But you’ve got to be awake for that.
Haven’t had enough? Go to Robert Brancatelli. Note to self: To get out of an awkward conversation about the election, quote Prof Harold Hill: “Excuse me, I’m expecting a telegram from Rudy Frimmel. This could be it!” For banner photo, go to KultureShocked; all others included under Fair Use.