Somewhere in the world right now, there are prisoners being brutally tormented by U.S. forces without ever having stood trial. Somewhere else, there is a middle-aged man sitting at a vintage video game, trying feverishly, obsessively, to nudge that electronic score higher than it's ever been. And in Minneapolis, Minnesota, Nayana's head is about to explode as she tries to digest both these slices of America in one night.
So Wednesday night, Captain Crash and I attended an advance screening of the Oscar-nominated documentary, Taxi to the Dark Side. As is my preference, I knew almost nothing about the movie before we went to see it, only that it was a documentary about Afghanistan. Yeah. It was a documentary about an innocent taxi driver (in Afghanistan) who had been arrested by U.S. forces, held without trial, and tortured for days until he died. I had already gotten a small dose of the-United-States-tortures-people-now-and-apparently-that's-ok outrage when I saw The Ghosts of Abu Ghraib, but Taxi went much more in depth. According to the film, those horrifying pictures from Abu Ghraib that were supposedly the work of just "a few bad apples" reflect a systematic pattern of psychological torture, developed by the CIA, and used on thousands of military prisoners. Yep...thousands of prisoners were (and are) held by the United States, without ever being brought to trial.
It's awful. And it pissed me off. But, to be honest, I (and much of the rest of this country) have been pissed off for quite a while. Remember when I mentioned "outrage fatigue"? That is exactly how I felt when walking out of the theater. To be sure, the film was impeccably produced, and the message is urgently relevant (especially in an election year), but I'm so freaking tired of being pissed off!
So when I got home, I thought it would be a great idea to lighten the mood with The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters. It had just come in the mail from Netflix, and I thought, hey, my evening has just been one big bummer. Maybe this will give me a laugh. Boy, did that backfire.
The King of Kong was another very well-done documentary... but it just fell flat with me because of the circumstances. Basically, this really nice guy named Steve Wiebe, who hasn't had a whole lot of luck in his life, sets out to beat the all-time world record for Donkey Kong that was set by Billy Mitchell in 1982. Billy Mitchell, apparently, is not a really nice guy. He's got this whole posse of hangers-on (who seem to have their own sad little lives), sneaky tactics, and a Styx haircut/Jesus beard combo that he was probably sporting when he set the world record 26 years ago. Sure, it was entertaining. It definitely got me rooting for the "good guy"... but the whole time I kept thinking "there are people in Guantanamo Bay being waterboarded right now. Is it really crucial that Mario jumps all the barrels?"
I think I'll have to catch it again sometime when I'm not so utterly bummed out. That's the problem with outrage, I think. It takes away all the joy of the stupid stuff in life. I miss the stupid stuff.