Monday, January 18, 2016

Let the Fire Burn

Last night after a day mostly spent in front of the television -- suffering (mildly) through elimination of the home team (it has been a rough year, and the 31-24 loss to the Panthers in Charlotte comes almost as a relief) in the divisional round of the NFL playoffs, followed by the Broncos comeback against Pittsburgh, then on to the Democratic presidential debate on NBC before skipping over to CBS and the Sean Penn interview on 60 Minutes -- I decided to watch some more TV, this time in the form of Let the Fire Burn (2013), a documentary about the premeditated destruction of a MOVE house by the Philadelphia Police Department. The police dropped from a hovering helicopter an improvised satchel of explosives onto the roof of the MOVE house on Osage Avenue after an armed standoff. The city authorities, both police and fire, then let the fire burn, burning up most of the block and killing 11 people in the MOVE house.

An appropriate beginning to the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, interspersed as it was with my reading of Gail Collins' slim biography of William Henry Harrison, the ninth POTUS, renowned for catching pneumonia while delivering his inaugural address and then dying after only a month in office. Harrison's reputation was built on defeating the great Pan-Indian leader Tecumseh at the Battle of the Thames and swindling the Great Lakes tribes out of their land.

My feeling before drifting off to sleep is that the United States will always need the other -- Indians, blacks, whomever -- to rob, oppress and annihilate. It is part of the nation's hard-wiring. You'll notice that not even a self-avowed socialist like Bernie Sanders could deviate from the threadbare demonization of Iran as the bogeyman of the Middle East.

Let the Fire Burn is immaculately produced from archival footage of investigatory commission hearings the city conducted into the police attack on the MOVE house on Osage, as well as footage from local television reporters on the scene. It is worth checking out.

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