This Fourth of July, every patriotic American should watch the riveting 1954 film The Caine Mutiny, based on the best-selling Herman Wouk novel. The story gives us a chilling, but accurate, metaphor to better grasp the imminent danger we face with an ignorant, anti-science president whom Nancy Pelosi, Steve Schmidt and others have aptly called "derelict of duty"in charge of our ship of state during the worst health crisis in a century.
For those of you who haven't seen the film, ostensibly it's about a crazy ship captain named Queeg (played by Humphrey Bogart) whose increasingly bizarre behavior begins to worry his crew. An authoritarian bully with a streak of paranoia, Queeg has a classic Trumpian personality. As the movie plot thickens, two of the crew members, played by Van Johnson and Fred MacMurray, begin to suspect that their captain is seriously unhinged.
But it was the pivotal strawberry scene that convinced even the doubters that Queeg was too mentally unbalanced to serve a moment longer. When the captain discovers that a quart of strawberries is missing, this trifling peccadillo triggers an explosive rage. "Who took those strawberries!?" Queeg thunders, ordering a sweeping investigation to bring the "villain" to justice. The full extent of their captain's irrationality, and megalomania, was suddenly on full display.
Trump's entire administration has been a series of strawberry moments. Beginning with "who let those immigrants in?!" His paranoiac anger at the press is also very "Queeg-like". The film's climactic moment occurs during a typhoon when the captain's poor judgment threatens to capsize the ship. Ignoring scientific evidence, Queeg orders the Caine to continue on its predetermined course... obsessed with "looking good" by completing his mission on time... while the ship is violently battered by wave after monstrous wave.
The ship is about to sink when, suddenly, the most American of miracles occurs... keeping in mind this is the Fourth of July weekend... a rebellion! Van Johnson, in full hero mode--and backed up by Fred MacMurray and the rest of the crew--has the courage to relieve the captain of his duty. It wasn't easy. Bogart's Queeg ranted and raved like a lunatic. But the ship was saved, and everyone lived to see another day.
On July 4, 2020, America is like the S.S. Caine sailing into that typhoon. Instead of ocean waves, we have waves of a deadly virus that our president has proved an utter failure in combating. While Europe, South Korea and New Zealand have flattened their curves by respecting science and having the courage to do what needs to be done, Trump's haphazard negligence makes him our Murderer in Chief. With a body count that, already triple the Vietnam War, continues to rise.
Our Caine-Mutiny moment has arrived. Who will be our Van Johnson? For inspiration, recall the heroic speeches made by Jerry Nadler and Adam Schiff during last year's impeachment trial... which would've succeeded if not for the cowardice of Trump lackey Republicans. Given the George Floyd protests, which a majority of citizens support, rebellion against tyranny has regained its glowing aura as a moral act of duty. As American as mom, baseball and apple pie.
Do I hear 25th Amendment anyone? I couldn't think of a better birthday present for America.
I also have a family connection to The Caine Mutiny. When he was a young man, my dad had a small but significant role in the play version of the film. Titled The Caine Mutiny Court Marshall, it dealt only with the trial of the mutinous officers: all of whom were blessedly found not-guilty. Henry Fonda, Joe Namath, and David Schwimmer were featured in Broadway mountings of the play. Charlton Heston played Queeg in a version that toured London, L.A. and the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. Robert Altman, the acclaimed filmmaker, directed a made-for-TV version with Eric Bogosian in 1984.
My dad played a nervous sailor who brought comic relief to a serious play. He was so good in his role, the play's director--Chester Morris, the former Golden Age of Hollywood star--invited him to join the play on the road. But my dad, recently married, chose the more stable career of a backstage worker. He joined the union, saved enough money to buy a house, and provided well for his family. Instead of star-chasing glamour, he chose duty and responsibility.
If we are to survive as a nation, the sanest, most responsible, most dutiful thing we can do is to remove Trump from office as quickly as possible. Don't believe me? Watch The Caine Mutiny.