One of the more disturbing science fiction novels ever written, H. G. Wells' War of the Worlds, begins with the words, "No one would have believed...that this world was being watched...that as men busied themselves about their various concerns they were scrutinized and studied."
Controversy stirred over whether Martians in this year's new version of the film reflect our military actions in the war on terrorism. It occurs to me that whatever the intention it, like beauty, is all in the eye of the beholder. After beholding the original 1960s movie, and re-reading the novel, I've come to some rewarding insights.
On the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks, I can see aspects of the novel and our current war on terrorism that Hollywood has conveniently missed. As the quote above indicates, before that fateful day Americans went about their activities oblivious to the fact that we were being scrutinized by an enemy determined to find a crack in our wall of defense.
Under the guise of being innocent immigrants, our enemies trained at our own private flight schools and used that knowledge to attack our country in a fiery gesture of merciless violence. As in Wells' novel, the enemy attacked at the heartland of America suddenly and without warning, only this time it wasn't Grover Mills but the World Trade Center.
In Wells' novel, a defeated soldier predicts a world where man hides in the cities from his enemy, scurrying about like a new form of cockroach. Far from hiding in the darkness after 9-11, America stood up to become the leader in fighting the world's terrorist regimes.
Both the film and novel serve as reminders, if taken in the context of this analogy, of both the reason for our current struggles and why our precautions cannot diminish.
But no novel or movie could possibly capture the horror and abject terror of desperate victims leaping from the Twin Towers to escape a fiery death, of human bodies dropping like hail to splatter on our city streets. Likewise, no literary or cinematic endeavor could possibly depict the heroism of first responders fighting through a wall of flame and smoke to save the innocent victims.
Mere words cannot divulge the emotional impact of knowing that the passengers of Flight 93 sacrificed their future, and that of their children, in order to save their nation's capitol, their president and their country from terrorist attack. The relentless onslaught of the Martians is a washed out reminder, by comparison, of the total disregard for life witnessed in London in July, and in New York on Sept. 11, 2001.
There is no doubt in my mind that if we are not proactive, the monsters of fanatical sects will continue to wreck havoc upon mankind in a more calculated and cruel manner than fictional Martians. In August, in a meeting before German Muslims, even Pope Benedict XVI stated: "Those who instigate and plan these attacks evidently wish to poison our relations, making use of all means, including religion, to oppose every attempt to build a peaceful, fair and serene life together."
Make no mistake. We are involved in a War of the Worlds - the world of the compassionate and very humane mainstream religions of the earth against the fanatical, inhuman, and bloodthirsty fringe sects of Islam.
In the original novel, the Martians were killed by a very common earth virus. Today, a virus of another kind is sweeping through the nations of the Middle East, and it will cause their demise as surely as any biological germ. It is a virus which has already infected the western world for over two centuries - a profound thirst for individual freedom and a democratic political system.
It will, no doubt, be a strain shaped by the culture and history of Iraq and other nations it is carried to, but it will be a victorious conclusion to our struggle. No greater homage may be paid to the victims of 9-11.
(Dennis Jones is a Martinez resident.)
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