Repost on Charleton Heston

The original Planet of the Apes 5-movie set has recently been released in Blu-ray, so that is how I have spent the weekend so far. I have not yet made any statements on the Newtown event. But these two things converged to remind me of something I wrote four and a half years ago:

When I recently read the news about Charleton Heston, I was a little sad. While I strongly disagreed with the ideals he took up in the last couple of decades, I think he was a respectable and decent person. Yes, he allowed himself to become a tool of Wayne LaPierre’s imbecile empire. Yes, he joined the ranks of militant Jesus freaks that so thoroughly beat down the forces of reason over the past couple of decades. Yes, he exemplified the angry rich white man I have recently described. Nevertheless, I thought he was a very interesting character.

He had many interesting characteristics. Like Ronald Reagan, he was a former liberal transformed into a conservative by a changing society. Unlike Reagan, however, I never got the idea that his transformation was due to overt racism (Reagan’s switching parties seems to have been due entirely to the Democratic party’s embrace of the blacks). His religious epics ranged from the impressively lame The Ten Commandments to the truly great Ben-Hur.

After Ben-Hur, my favorite Heston movie was definitely The Planet of the Apes. Heston’s character, Taylor, spends the entire movie fighting the oppressive system where science is kept under the heel of religious dogma. That may seem ironic, as Heston was one of the most vocal supporters of such a mindset in American politics. But if you look further, the end of the movie washes away that personal irony with a plot irony. Ultimately, the dogmatic policies of the Keeper of the Faith, Dr. Zaius, proved sound.

Dr. Zaius, Keeper of the Faith

Dr. Zaius, Keeper of the Faith

His final advice to the fleeing Taylor was “Don’t look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.” proved true. But there is still a nice little sliver of personal irony, in that a reading from the Sacred Scrolls on which the philosophy of Dt. Zaius is based seems to target some of Heston’s future pet topics:

Beware the beast Man, for he is the Devil’s pawn. Alone among God’s primates, he kills for sport or lust or greed. Yea, he will murder his brother to possess his brother’s land. Let him not breed in great numbers, for he will make a desert of his home and yours. Shun him; drive him back into his jungle lair, for he is the harbinger of death.

Or, more succintly, “Beware the beast Man, he is a Republican.”

Aside: as Taylor was about to enter the barren wasteland know to the apes as The Forbidden Zone and Dr. Zaius warned, “Don’t look for it, Taylor. You may not like what you find.” My son responded, “New Mexico?”

Still, I did appreciate the moral courage required of Mr. Heston in his acceptance of an impromptu interview with Michael Moore posed at his residence for the film Bowling for Columbine. While I disagreed with his positions, I thought it took some character to oblige Mr. Moore, despite the invasion of his privacy. As well, he presented a much better image for the NRA than the oily little weasel Wayne LaPierre.

Few gun nuts have ever had consensual sex

Few gun nuts have ever had consensual sex

Anyhoo, I haven’t bothered to look, but I bet if I did, I’d find thousands of webpages making some joke or reference to Heston’s “cold, dead hands” quote. I won’t. I bet he was a decent guy. Deluded and wrong about most things political, sure, but a decent guy nevertheless.

I think the events of the last two weeks have made me think more and more on the degree to which only the most diseased of minds should find themselves capable of arguing for increased availability of assault weapons. But these minds exist, and are possessed of loud voices.