One of my all-time favorite movies is, Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. Peter Sellers is brilliant in three different roles, but another actor in the film portrayed a character that was both hilarious and extremely frightening at the same time. I first saw the movie not long after its release in 1964. This was at the height of the Cold War (and a growing American presence in Vietnam), and the premise of a U.S. general losing his shit and starting a nuclear war with the Soviets was not all that far-fetched. Sterling Hayden’s portrayal of paranoid, fluoride-hating Brig. Gen. Jack Ripper was pitch-perfect, and very scary:
General Jack D. Ripper: You know when fluoridation first began?
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: I... no, no. I don't, Jack.
General Jack D. Ripper: Nineteen hundred and forty-six. 1946, Mandrake. How does that coincide with your post-war Commie conspiracy, huh? It's incredibly obvious, isn't it? A foreign substance is introduced into our precious bodily fluids without the knowledge of the individual. Certainly without any choice. That's the way your hard-core Commie works.
Group Capt. Lionel Mandrake: Uh, Jack, Jack, listen... tell me, tell me, Jack. When did you first... become... well, develop this theory?
General Jack D. Ripper: [somewhat embarrassed] Well, I, uh... I... I... first became aware of it, Mandrake, during the physical act of love.
General Jack D. Ripper: Yes, a uh, a profound sense of fatigue... a feeling of emptiness followed. Luckily I... I was able to interpret these feelings correctly. Loss of essence.
General Jack D. Ripper: I can assure you it has not recurred, Mandrake. Women uh... women sense my power and they seek the life essence. I, uh... I do not avoid women, Mandrake.
General Jack D. Ripper: But I... I do deny them my essence.
We all laughed nervously at General Ripper’s extreme right-wing conspiracy theories, feeling safe in the knowledge that this was a work of fiction and our government would never allow a loose cannon like Ripper anywhere near nuclear weapons.
How naïve we were. Let me introduce you to former U.S. Lieutenant General William G. "Jerry" Boykin who was once a top Pentagon advisor to the Bush Administration. General Boykin has never been afraid to express his own hardcore far-fight philosophies, and he once called the war on terror a spiritual battle between Muslims and “Christian America.” More recently he spoke to a group of conservative legislators and audio of the talk fell into the hands of Right Wing Watch. Jack Ripper sounds sane compared to Boykin. Here’s a sample:
“The Lord is a warrior and in Revelation 19 it says when he comes back, he's coming back as what? A warrior. A mighty warrior leading a mighty army, riding a white horse with a blood-stained white robe ... I believe that blood on that robe is the blood of his enemies 'cause he's coming back as a warrior carrying a sword.
And I believe now - I've checked this out - I believe that sword he'll be carrying when he comes back is an AR-15.”
Jesus will return to earth armed with an assault rifle. Okay. This guy isn’t playing a role in a movie. He’s the real deal, and while he might be retired from the military, he held very high-level positions during his time in the service.
Like all great satire, Dr. Strangelove’s General Jack Ripper is not that far from the truth, and that should scare the hell out of all of us.