…from Maajid Nawaz to Mel Gibson, The Patriot

(Taking a break from Islamic extremism… )

I am probably one of the very few people alive who has never owned a VCR or DVD player. Until now…

…so it was no small event I when settled down in front of my computer screen & clicked on the ‘Start Movie’ label. And the movie I started was (drum roll, please!)….The Patriot.  It seemed most fitting that my first ever home movie-viewing should be commemorated with a film about the Revolutionary War, one of my strongest interests.

Mel Gibson played the leading role of Benjamin Martin, a farmer and widowed father of seven, living in South Carolina in 1776, shortly before the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Until the war literally came to his doorstep, Martin resisted joining in the fight. He was, after all, a father of seven.

But all that changed when a British colonel cruelly, needlessly shot Martin’s fifteen year old son, then burned his house & barn, and mercilessly executed wounded patriots being cared for there. Around this point in the movie, I had to start looking away, again & again. Almost in an instant, Benjamin Martin changed. The solid homesteader, father and provider for his family reverted to the ruthless guerrilla soldier of his French & Indian War days. A fierce freedom fighter was born. His baptism was not of fire (though fire played a tragic part), but of savage, violent bloodshed.

This onslaught of graphic combat scenes was a shock to my senses. (At first, I thought it was just me being wimpy, or girly…delicate sensibilities and all that! But Philip French, writing for Guardian.co.uk, describes those same scenes as stirring and extremely violent…’) By movie’s end, I had braced myself against them enough times that I felt almost numb. Within that numbness, though, were several other reactions that I could not quite identify. I knew that I needed some time, a little distance from the event, to let those reactions evolve into more definite concepts. (So I gave myself all of 2 or 3 days, and am watching the film again! About one-third of the way through, as I write this.)

Eager to know if the character of Benjamin Martin was fictional, or if he had actually lived and fought in those revolutionary times, I did some Internet searches, though. To my delight, I learned that ‘Benjamin Martin’ was a composite of five actual Revolutionary War freedom fighters (according to this movie review by Jon Roland.) Except for one dissenting voice –The character is clearly based on Colonel John Singleton Mosby, the Confederate guerrilla commander from Virginia in the Civil War who was dubbed the Grey Ghost…” the consensus of reviewers seems to be that his character was based, primarily, on the ‘Swamp Fox’ of the South Carolina wetlands, Francis Marion.  An anonymous source from Sony Pictures admits that the film was originally conceived as a factual biography of Marion, but research into Marion’s history & character turned up some unsavory behaviors.  It seems he possibly raped female slaves, and killed Indians for the fun of it.  Rewrites were done.

(Marion, due to his irregular methods of warfare, is considered one of the fathers of modern guerrilla warfare. He is also credited in the lineage of the United States Army Rangers.)   (Wikipedia)

Just as Martin was made a colonel in the opening war scenes of the film, in real life, in September 1776 the Continental Congress commissioned Marion as a lieutenant colonel.  As the fictitious Benjamin Martin’s background included brutal & unconventional  guerrilla tactics in the French & Indian War, Francis Marion in reality fought against (and in the process, actually learned some of those brutal practices & techniques from) the Cherokee in that same war.  Both men led, and fought with, militia more so than regular army, and their fighting styles & exploits reflected this.
Watching this movie gave  me a whole new appreciation for what ‘militia’ meant back then.  I must’ve used this term a number of times in some of my older posts, but I now see that I had no idea what the militia forces of Revolutionary times were all about.  May I say, Wow…much respect.   In the above-referenced review by Jon Roland, he cites how Gibson, as Benjamin Martin, and all those involved in the production, should be commended for “giving us a deeper appreciation of the concept of the militia, and how all of us have a militia duty to defend one another.  It has done a a great deal to revive the militia spirit to defend our Constitution, for which so many noble patriots died.”  
Although TIME magazine listed “The Patriot” as number one of its “Top 10 historically misleading films”, and certain events/situations depicted in it raised a ruckus, with critics crying racism & unfair stereotyping (among other accusations) – I think the heart issues in it far outweigh any inaccuracies or possibly misconstrued actions.  Heart & substance always trump, in my book…the difficulty of conflicting loyalties, making hard, life-shattering decisions, withstanding enemies/opponents of all sorts! (be it the Empire or your own neighbors/family)…violating or forfeiting one’s own convictions or deeper knowledge of what is honorable, for a cause…tragic, horrific loss on so many levels…sweet comradeship…painful separation…the exultant glory, finally, of victory!  “The Patriot”  took me places that I think Americans need to be taken, because we were not there back then…but ‘back then’ made ‘now’ possible. We need, and need to know, our heritage, from whence we came. Maybe knowing the names & detailed specifics aren’t necessarily important, in every case, but an awareness of the call that was answered, and the price that was paid for that, should be a part of what each of us is, today. We who become true Americans are NOT separate from those many & courageous Patriots.


7 responses to “…from Maajid Nawaz to Mel Gibson, The Patriot

  1. Pingback: ‘The Patriot’, revisited… | Jesus, the Revolution & You

  2. Congratulations on your new device. I own two VCR/DVD combos. My Grandkids actually watch old Disney tapes with us…i.e. Pinocchio, Peter Pan etc.
    The movie you watched is what I like to view and call a period piece and they are important.

    • I find it significant that almost every day people view this article, there are constant searches for The Patriot, or Benjamin Martin. The root of patriotism still remains & endures in America. My site doesn’t get much traffic, it never has, yet this one article is constantly being visited.

      Equally significant, the one other constantly visited post is about Israel.


  3. Speaking of which, one of my favorite books is “The Source” about a fictitious spring in Israel and how it fit into the history of the Holy Land. Also, the notorious Gibson production “Passion of the Christ” is a must see.
    I make a point to watch it every Easter celebration time to help keep perspective on our God’s great love for us.

    Wherever two or more of us gather in His name. No mistaking your intent and passion whenever another person finds your site.

    I heard of an attorney who gave it up and went to Uganda to free imprisoned children. His name is Goff, and his credo is written on a post-it stuck to his desk..

    “Love God, love people and do stuff.”


    • Lol! Great quote! and I’m pretty sure I’ve heard it before…somewhere…

      Never saw Gibson’s “Passion”, but maybe I’ll get the DVD sometime soon. I’ll check eBay…

  4. Pingback: Homepage

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