“Seven Days in May” was on TCM the other night. Unlike the comic book superhero movies of today, which numb you with their violence, Rod Serling’s script had only one mildly violent scene in the whole film, yet it was gripping from beginning to end. That movie has vital lessons for today. It’s about a charismatic general who plans a coup against the president, who signed a nuclear disarmament treaty with Russia. The general thinks he’s weak. He plots with other generals to take over the government.
Near the end of the film, Serling sums the situation up rather nicely in a bit of dialogue uttered by the President. He tells one of his aides that the general isn’t the enemy.
“The enemy’s an age – a nuclear age. It happens to have killed man’s faith in his ability to influence what happens to him. And out of this comes a sickness, and out of sickness a frustration, a feeling of impotence, helplessness, weakness. And from this, this desperation, we look for a champion in red, white, and blue. Every now and then a man on a white horse rides by, and we appoint him to be our personal god for the duration. For some men it was a Senator McCarthy, for others it was a General Walker, and now it’s a General Scott.”
At the very end he says at a press conference exposing the coup:
“There’s been abroad in this land in recent months a whisper that we have somehow lost our greatness, that we do not have the strength to win without war the struggles for liberty throughout the world. This is slander, because our country is strong, strong enough to be a peacemaker. It is proud, proud enough to be patient. The whisperers and the detractors, the violent men are wrong. We will remain strong and proud, peaceful and patient, and we will see a day when on this earth all men will walk out of the long tunnels of tyranny into the bright sunshine of freedom.”
Something to think about as the election nears.