A teaser at the top of page one of the Tribune‘s Friday Movies section touts an essay by movie critic Michael Phillips inside. The point of the teaser is to make us flip to page six, so it asks a tantalizing question: “Despite an Oscar-worthy performance by Tommy Lee Jones, the public indifference to ‘In the Valley of Elah’ suggests a weariness with the Iraq war. Are we just too close to the subject?”
It’s a question Phillips’s essay doesn’t ask. He doesn’t say we’re weary. He simply thinks that at the moment, “when it comes to Iraq and our post-9/11 anxieties this country hungers for truth, not topical fiction” — a very different point.
But I want to consider the question. If anyone gets the benefit of the doubt in this elegant democracy of ours, it’s not the president, or Congress, or the courts. It’s we the people. Where’s the evidence that we’re “too close” to the war in Iraq to put up with movies on it? It’s a sweet, flattering thought, but I propose that, on the contrary, we’re too distant from the war, too unengaged, to want to be confronted by it. I suggest this is a war we the people don’t wish to be implicated in, and we’d hunger for distractions if there weren’t already too many to count.
What do you think? Is the war in Iraq “too much with us”? Not enough? Or is it just right?