WESLEY CHAPEL — The problem with the movie “America” is not its rather long and somewhat misleading subtitle. No. The problem with “America: Imagine The World Without Her” is it's unlikely to be seen by those to whom the creator/narrator is preaching: Your politically left-leaning neighbors who, according to recent findings by the Pew Research Center, are proud of their country only about half the time, or less.
“America, Etc.,” by controversial author, filmmaker, partisan and, alas, admitted campaign finance cheat Dinesh D'Souza, is a slick and largely satisfying refutation of claims against the United States' essential decency, honor and generosity. He takes on directly, with force and footnotes, charges against America whipped up by socialist college professor Howard Zinn's zany “A People's History of the United States” — especially pertaining to black slavery, Mexican bullying and American Indian “genocide” — and examines in detail the Chicago mob origins of rabble-rouser Saul Alinsky, later catalyst in the collegiate transformation of “Goldwater Girl” Hillary Rodham (Clinton) and the radicalization of a youthful Barack Obama.
Those first at the box office when the movie opened Wednesday at noon at the Cobb Grove 16 were those you would expect: Generally older conservatives with an afternoon on their hands and patriotism in their hearts. They were not disappointed.
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There on a much-anticipated date, Wesley Chapel's Golda and Milton Lamay, retired nurses in their 80s from near Buffalo, N.Y., emerged buoyed up and eager to act. “We always vote,” Golda said, “but now we want to do more. What can we do?” Ah, the eternal question.
Then again, the fading 82nd Airborne tattoo on Milton's right forearm suggests the Lamays were part of D'Souza's target audience.
“The country is going to hell on a bobsled,” Milton huffed. Until it turns around, “They ought to show ['America'] 24 hours a day, seven days a week.”
Linda Hedstrom and Todd Bryant wouldn't disagree.
The youngest members of the audience by 20 years, minimum, Hedstrom and Bryant had been plotting this afternoon out “for months.” They'd seen D'Souza's “2016: Obama's America” when it screened in 2012 — lots of people did; the movie did $33 million at the box office, although not enough to help Mitt Romney — and were determined to be in the theater for “the first showing on the first day,” said Hedstrom, a Pasco school district social worker.
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Bryant, a printer by trade — like founder Benjamin Franklin — and self-described “tea party Democrat” whose father, an Air Force electrical engineer, worked aboard Air Force One during the 1970s, sounded like a publicist. “I know not every American will see it, but every American should.”
Hedstrom rang in, “It's the perfect Fourth of July movie.”
The couple brought their son, Connerton Elementary rising fifth-grader Joseph, who declared himself in favor of the people who “gave speeches about why it was bad to have black slaves.” D'Souza paid particular attention to that egregious blot on the national resume, while also making the point that, although slavery has been common among civilizations throughout history and remains regrettably persistent today, America waged a civil war to end it.
They admitted their blood pressure rose as D'Souza laid out the left's assorted indictments of America's claim on righteousness, pinned to a quote attributed (spuriously, it seems) to the French author and political philosopher, Alexis de Tocqueville: “America is great because she is good, and if America ever ceases to be good, she will cease to be great.”
Convince enough of her people that America was rotten from the day Columbus dropped anchor in the Caribbean, and subsequently rose to unprecedented power and wealth through a series of evil acts that continue even now, and the result will be a population eager to address its guilt by fundamentally changing their country: death by political suicide, as Abraham Lincoln warned.
D'Souza never quite gets around to addressing, directly anyway, the premise of the subtitle. There's dramatic footage of George Washington being taken out by sniper, causing the rebels to scatter or surrender and the Revolution to collapse, but otherwise he only hints at a Planet Earth robbed of the nation that midwifed, as the Irish rock star Bono says in a speech near the movie's end, an idea that became a country.
“You and I were created equal,” he said. “The idea that if we have dignity, if we have justice, then leave it to us. We'll do the rest.”
We have. We can. We will again, if D'Souza's film — as mentioned above, perfect Independence Day weekend fare, borrowing from Frank Capra and John Ford — gets traction.
Its chances are pretty good, if the first to see it are an indication. When the credits rolled, over a stunningly inventive rendering of the “Star-Spangled Banner,” nobody budged toward the exits. Not a one. And when the last note trailed off, everyone in the house applauded.