“Splintered, diffuse, and eruptive. . . ”

“They’re taking us over, cell by cell!”

“They’re taking us over, cell by cell!”

This morning’s little task (quoting, I fear, rather than writing) is to be sure I’m ready to begin my classes’ discussion of the 1956 version of the film Invasion of the Body Snatchers.

What does this old black-and-white film have to do with anything? And why use it as one of the literary works to study in classes in which the students are “Writing About the Grotesque?”

You might find the answer in the horror story below.

Note: I’ve changed “1950s” to “2000s” and “Communist” to “Islamist.” As you read, think about the laws passed or proposed to prevent “Sharia” from taking over our legal system. And think about the almost universal terror of “terrorism” in this country. I’ve also changed “Soviet Union” to “AL-Qaeda.”

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, Leader of the Evil Empire

Nikita Sergeyevich Khrushchev, Leader of the Evil Empire

THE HORROR STORY, from:  MacDougall, Robert. “Red, Brown And Yellow Perils: Images Of The American Enemy In The 1940S And 1950S.” Journal of Popular Culture 32.4 (1999): 59-75.

Another genre that tied American fears of [Islamism] into a broader web of postwar anxieties was science fiction. Films like . . . .  Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956) expressed fears of ideological infection and [Islamist] takeover in none-too-subtle allegories. For audiences in the [2000s], the most frightening aspects of these films may not have been the rubber-suited Martians who poured out of the skies like the Japanese at Pearl Harbor, but the insidious and nearly invisible ways in which the alien enemy might contaminate their all-American targets. . . .

Historian Geoffrey Smith** identifies a quasi-medical metaphor used in [2000s] America to describe the “contagion” of [Islamist] subversion. “Foreign ideology would endanger the integrity of the ‘Free World,’” Smith writes, “in ways more sinister than armies or advanced weaponry.” Rarely is this metaphor more obvious than in the monstrous invasion films of the 1950s. “It’s a malignant disease spreading through the whole country!” cries a character in Invasion of the Body Snatchers. “They’re taking us over, cell by cell!”

What did domestic matters like disease and sexuality have to do with [Islamism]? For some Americans, the connections seemed very real. Beneath the nation’s apparent anti-[Islamist] consensus existed two fundamentally different strains of anti-[Islamism]. The first sought to defend the United States against a clearly defined international enemy: [AL-Qaeda], its satellite countries, and its spies. The second strain was a more populist, domestic-oriented anti-[Islamism] concerned less with national defense than with the perceived decay of American moral standards and institutions. “Splintered, diffuse, and eruptive,” historian Robert Dalleck***  writes, “this was the truly popular anti-[Islamism].”

**Smith, Geoffrey S. “National Security and Personal Isolation: Sex, Gender and Disease in Cold War America.” International  History Review (May 1992): 307-37.
***Dalleck, Robert. “Modernizing the Republic: 1920 to the Present.” The Great Republic: A History of the American People. Ed. Bernard Bailyn. Lexington: D.C. Heath and Company, 1992. 327-655.

God save us!

God save us!

The more things change, the more they stay the same. We were certainly right—weren’t we?—in our terror of the Soviet Union and Godless Communism. That turned out to be a colossal (almost totally self-destructing) waste of time, energy, money, and sanity, didn’t it?

Yes, the terrorists have snatched our bodies. They have taken us over (or are in the process of doing so) in order to implant evil and anti-American values in our poor, defenseless minds. Christianity will fall before Godless AL-Qaeda just as America fell before the Soviet Union. Where is Joseph McCarthy when we need him?

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