The Copperhead Chronicles: A Look at the Anti-War Writings of Bill Kauffman

Sorry if too much of my opinion is present here, but I cannot talk about someone else’s without interjecting some of my own, and how it either compares or contrasts.

The author of the screenplay which is being used for the film Copperhead is Bill Kauffman, and though we have never communicated with each other as of yet, I will be quick in my assumption that he is probably the most colorful and intellectual man on the set. He has written several books, giving his very strong opinion on American culture, or lack thereof, and how we, as this great society are falling into a downward spiral, controlled by a government that is out to do us more harm than good. My political spectrum has changed so many times over the course of my soon-to-be 21-year-old life; when I first got interested in politics I considered myself a conservative, but over time, drifted towards liberal, where I partially sit now, though I am finding myself bordering on moderate and have not and will not ever align myself with a particular party. Not to lay down the foundation for my beliefs here, as coverage for a movie is not the place to do it, let me say (and I probably speak for the majority) that I am disgusted with both parties in this country, and every person associated with them, who seem to be more interested in their own egos and playing games with each other [and our money] than actually trying to benefit the people that vote for them once they take office.

The conservatives, in the present-day modern sense, seem to be the exact opposite of what the core of conservatism is all about: a hands-off government that allows people to live in the freedom that our Founding Fathers fought for. Yet, what is the very same ideology, taken mostly by the Republican Party, that would be the first to jump in your bedroom and govern your nocturnal activities? Who would be the first to say that you can smoke this, but you can’t smoke that? Who would be the first to write into law what a woman can or cannot do with her own body? Which is the party that advertises personal liberty and religious freedom, yet wants the Bible to usurp the Constitution as the law of the land? Most importantly of all, who would be the first to ask someone to fight and die for their country in a senseless war?

Modern politics have a new definition with how war is viewed politically. Generally, liberal means anti-war and peace-loving and conservative means pro-war and war-mongering, though in actuality it is not that simple. How then can a screenwriter like Bill Kauffman, who is very critical of war and whose quotes you will read below, be considered a conservative? Well, maybe it’s because he believes in the core that is now ignored by the fake and ridiculous ignoramuses who show one face to their financial backers and another to the general public—which allows for Niccolo Machiavelli’s Il Principe to hold up to today’s down-spiraling standards—a belief for us to live free, not die in a foreign country that has no meaning to us. A paleoconservative he can best be defined as. “Government governs best when governs least” wrote conservative Barry Goldwater, who experienced a seemingly liberal left turn in his later years, and an admirable one at that, at least in my opinion. You can go back through our American history and pick and choose time periods where the government stayed out and where the government jumped in. Most often, though, the latter is more prevalent and our government has a bad habit of never climbing out once we have launched ourselves into something. You can also examine wars and conflicts that we have been involved in. The statistics show you numbers of dead, wounded, and missing, and to us, in retrospect, that’s all they are. We do not read a casualty report from a battle and think of the families torn apart, of the people who will never be returning home to their children, families, and friends ever again. The government certainly does not think of this. Their losses are in dollars spent and apparatuses destroyed. Civil War general William T. Sherman once said, “War is hell”, the shortest, most simple summary of the topic at hand is what that endearing quote indeed is. No other words are needed. It is perfect.

When I am asked who my favorite president is, I often say Zachary Taylor, my reason being, “Because he died before he had a chance to screw anything up.” If I had to give a serious answer to that question, though, I would have to say Dwight D. Eisenhower. I have not studied his presidency in-depth, I know not any famous speeches or laws passed other than the significant and obvious, but he did leave us with a warning, and a prophetic one at that: to beware of the military industrial complex. War is a business, though a temporary one, which is why we always bust after we immediately go boom because of all the work needed on the homefront to make our journeys to jungle or desert possible. It happened in Vietnam, and it is happening now, and will we ever learn? Probably not, at least not with a populace that chooses to live in blissful ignorance of the world and reality. Regarding this, Kauffman writes, “The best reason to oppose the military-industrial complex is the most intimate: because it can kill your son or brother or cousin, and its social and economic fallout can destroy your town.”

Kauffman’s anti-war zest will no doubt be present in the themes of Copperhead, which is set to illustrate the devastation on the homefront, something often shunned because of heroics or devastation on the battlefield. In his book Look Homeward, America, written in 2006, Kauffman offers this magnificent food for thought:

War devastates the homefront as surely as it does the killing fields. Soldiers are conscripted, sent hither and yon to kill and maim or to be killed or maimed; their families relocate, following the jobs created by artificial wartime booms. War is the great scatterer, the merciless disperser.

The cost of war might be measured not only in body bags, in returning boys without legs, arms, eyes, faces, but also in divorce, dislocation, novels never written, children not fathered. During the Second World War, the divorce rate more than doubled, normal patterns of courtship were disrupted, Daylight Saving Time was imposed nationwide over the objections of rural America, and the subsidized daycare industry was born via the Lanham Act, which sponsored 3,000 daycare centers to incarcerate the neglected children of Rosie the Riveter.

Almost every healthy manifestation of local culture was smothered — terminated — strangled — by U.S. entry into the Second World War.

War nationalizes culture; it exerts a centripetal force that shreds what it does not suck in.

Who can really disagree with that? We like to ignore what disturbs us, and nothing disturbs us more than seeing a family grieving, with a spouse and children huddled around a flag-draped coffin. Sometimes I think that is more disturbing, to hear a eulogy given with a tear-crackled voice telling us of the aspirations the soldier had that will never be realized, than actually seeing a bloodied and broken corpse lying out on the battlefield. The body is just a body, but a funeral brings out the life that was snuffed out, a result of the “war machine” which Kauffman warns that it is our duty to stop feeding. “Stay with your family. Your tribe. Your neighborhood. Your town. As Joe Strummer of The Clash hummed, ‘It’s up to you not to heed the call-up.'” Kauffman adds, “Don’t feed the war machine. You are not expendable, in your family’s eyes or in God’s. The soft young men in three-piece suits who write their little pamphlets proving that whatever slaughter our government is currently engaged in is a ‘just war’ should be laughed back to the seminaries they quit. Thou shalt not kill means us, too.”

If we can go back to the time of the Civil War, would we have been Copperheads? Maybe; it is difficult to say. Would we have been looked at as traitors and un-American for choosing an unpopular stance? Most definitely. The great historian Howard Zinn once noted, “…dissent is the highest form of patriotism.” When it comes to war, dissent may be just that. Stanley Kubrick had his main character in Full Metal Jacket say the following: “The dead know only one thing: it is better to be alive.” Dissent keeps one alive, and with his family and in his home. It keeps him alive to think freely. There would be no United States of America without an initial dissent from our Founding Fathers, which yes, resulted in war, but you could file that under necessary. Since then, have there been any others that could be placed in the same standing? Dissent may be unpopular, but sometimes it is necessary. Dissent is as American as apple pie.

For all the latest news, updates, pictures, and historical essays regarding the movie Copperhead, please click here to be directed to the special page we have set up on this blog for it. Also, make sure to check out their official website!

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