Vendetta: Heroism, Terrorism or Patriotism?

'The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.' ~ Thomas Jefferson

Maybe you have seen that movie, V for Vendetta. Surprisingly, if you click on the flags on the website that indicate specific countries, you will notice the movie hasn't opened in many countries.

What will the Mexicans make of it? The Japanese, with their legends of Samurai? The Turks and the Israelis? The French?

If Thomas Jefferson is correct--and how can he not be--most viewers will side with the hero, a horribly disfigured victim of government imprisonment and torture. V protests a futuristic, totalitarian government not simply with words, but with violent actions, what some viewers might consider terrorist deeds.

Unless of course you believe, as a staunch conservative Republican once believed, that 'Extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice.' Barry Goldwater said that, and few consider him a terrorist today, but a conservative patriot.

Terrorism becomes patriotism then, and you find yourself wholeheartedly siding with the swashbuckling extremist.

If indeed the ends justifies the means, as Jefferson and Goldwater assert, and 'extremism in defense of liberty' is acceptable and 'The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants,' then killing a bunch of security guards who serve a totalitarian state is heroic, patriotic rather than terrorist or deranged.

Because if you believe otherwise, that V is a terrorist and murderer, then you would have to consign ALL modern states as terrorist organizations, set up by terrorists, nourished by acts of terrorism, or the threat of terrorism. The modern state of Israel is just one good example.

In order to rid Palestine of British rule, Israeli freedom fighters (or terrorists) blew up the King David hotel, killing British officials, Arabs and Jews. The British fought ruthlessly, executing firebrand leader Abraham Stern, but the Israelis fought even more ruthlessly. Today Israelis have a modern state'which, unfortunately, practices state terror. Much like every other state.

At least in the movie, unlike the Israelis and our own, modern army of liberation in Iraq , V blows up only unoccupied buildings. These buildings represent a state that has broken a public trust. When V blows up the justice building in London (Old Bailey) and later the House of Parliament, we realize these buildings are worse than museums. They've become morgues of dead ideas. They ceased to be useful--or never were--public structures of idealism and law: our houses of Parliament, Congress and the Kremlin.

One man might be a terrorist; two a conspiracy; but a million becomes a popular revolution. V chose to lead a popular revolution.

'People should not be afraid of their governments,' observes the swordsman V, 'governments should be afraid of their people.' Washington, Jefferson, Adams, and even George Mason happened to agree.

'To disarm the people . . . was the best and most effectual way to enslave them,' wrote George Mason who, like the others, has a prestigious university named for him. The American Revolution became individual acts of terrorism, patriotism and heroism simultaneously.

And like our founders, the warrior V is not afraid to speak and then act. He breaks the government-imposed curfew and strides the streets of London , fully armed and unafraid, in a disarmed police state, like Crispus Attucks in pre-revolutionary Boston .

'What country can preserve its liberties, if its rulers are not warned from time to time that his people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms,' wrote an impassioned Jefferson , sounding almost like the dark avenger, V.

Thus if V is a terrorist, so was American Revolutionary War hero Crispus Attucks, who was the first to fall. So was Paul Revere. So were the Minutemen and that rabble-rouser, Tom Paine.

Because, according to government propaganda channel Fox News, true patriots do not destroy public or private property'or do they? Patriots do not fight guerilla warfare'or do they? Patriots do not harass an occupying army'or do they? But our founders did, Washington , Jefferson, Adams'and thousands of others who did the actual resisting.

Ironically, that great American warrior/president JFK wrote (months before he was allegedly slain by police state henchmen, whom he opposed): 'Today, we need a nation of Minutemen, citizens who are not only prepared to take arms, but citizens who regard the preservation of freedom as the basic purpose of their daily life and who are willing to consciously work and sacrifice for that freedom.'

One could almost say the colonial Minutemen adhered to the same impassioned righteousness as this fictional film character V. They would not have their rights taken from them without a fight! They would walk their streets as free men. They would not have their homes broken into by governments forces.

Vendetta--the movie--was Crispus Attucks and Paul Revere in a mask, the Boston Tea Party with a black cape (and very sharp knives).

Preposterous nonsense, say some movie critics. 'Rather than being anti-fascist, V for Vendetta comes off as being pro-terrorist,' wrote reviewer Kevin Carr. 'Supremely tasteless,' concurred Village Voice film critic J. Hoberman of Vendetta.

But is this masked protagonist nothing but an egotistical terrorist, no better than a Palestinian suicide bomber or 'Islamo-Fascist?' Exactly how can a citizen, who claims to be a fighting for his country, slice up a SWAT team sent to stop him from blowing up a sacred government building?

When the British burnt Washington in 1814, they gutted sacred buildings. Were they terrorists? No more than V, no more than our own Special Forces (less so in most cases) sent to foreign countries to blow up buildings and assassinate leaders. The British sacked our young capitol, but to the English, WE were the terrorists.

The movie opens in Japan on April 22. I imagine the Japanese may see some traits of their legendary Samurai in V. Not too difficult to predict that Vendetta will be a huge hit in a nation of swords and swordsmanship.

According to Toyotomi Hideyoshi, a Japanese Shogun who lived in the 16th Century: 'The people of the various provinces are strictly forbidden to have in their possession any swords, short swords, bows, spears, firearms, or other types of arms. The possession of unnecessary implements makes difficult the collection of taxes and dues and tends to foment uprisings.'

Like I said, the Japanese, who historically have made the finest swords in the world, will love Vendetta. Indeed, the character V resembles a kabuki avenger, a lone samurai, inflamed for long-lost ideals and burning with love, not hate, for what he fights for rather than against.

Set in a futuristic England , with security guards and cameras everywhere, the movie explores the idea of a disarmed citizenry at the mercy of an Orwellian regime. Big Brother is a grizzled old dictator (imagine an octogenarian Hitler or a grizzled old Tony Blair), heading a police state, propped up by BTN, the state propaganda 'news' channel. Imagine Fox with no competition or Internet critics.

Amazingly, the movie is already a HUGE fixture on the Internet's self-described encyclopedia! Check out V for Vendetta (film) - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. Many US presidents, not surprisingly, enjoy less accolades or information.

In one curious and final footnote, about a cowed and disarmed citizenry, and the effects of totalitarian rule and British subjugation, a famous pacifist observed: 'Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India , history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms, as the blackest.'

Yup, Mahatma Gandhi'that non-violent terrorist--said that and I'm certain Indians and Pakistanis, as well as every citizen burdened by a totalitarian government (and with no means or opportunity to ever change it), will heartedly approve of V. At least they can cheer, dream--and, perhaps, scheme.

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Douglas Herman's picture
Columns on STR: 149

Award winning artist, photographer and freelance journalist, Douglas Herman can be found wandering the back roads of America. Doug authored the political crime thriller, The Guns of Dallas  and wrote and directed the Independent feature film,Throwing Caution to the Windnaturally a "road movie," and credits STR for giving him the impetus to write well, both provocatively and entertainingly. A longtime gypsy, Doug completed a 10,000 mile circumnavigation of North America, by bicycle, at the age of 35, and still wanders between Bullhead City, Arizona and Kodiak, Alaska with forays frequently into the so-called civilized world of Greater LA. Write him at Roadmovie2 @