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Creating a spectacle of slaughter at the movies: Ambush at Kamikaze Pass

Note for TomDispatch Readers: Call it a summer whim or something about this grim moment of ours, but I had an urge to post at TomDispatch my very first piece of published writing. It appeared 48 years ago in what was, at the time, one of the more obscure journals on the face of the Earth, one I helped found as a then-antiwar-China-scholar-to-be: the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars. As happens in so many lives, however, I became anything but a China scholar. I was instead swept out of my life by opposition to the Vietnam War and ended up elsewhere entirely. The piece I wrote would, more than two decades later, lie at the core of my second book, The End of Victory Culture: Cold War America and the Disillusioning of a Generation. Anyway, having been on this planet for three-quarters of a century, I wanted to bring this piece, “Ambush at Kamikaze Pass,” and its vision of how Americans (particularly white Americans) were once taught to look at the rest of the world back to our twenty-first-century moment. It’s long compared to normal TD posts and I’ve changed nothing in it (except to add section titles). I’d stand by it today. Tom Engelhardt

[This essay first appeared in volume 3, number 1, of the Bulletin of Concerned Asian Scholars in 1971.]

“I was visiting an Indian school and a movie was being shown in the auditorium about the cavalry and the Indians. The cavalry was, of course, outnumbered and holding an impossible position where the Indians had chased them into the rocks. The Indians, attempting to sneak up on the cavalry, were being killed, one every shot. When it finally appeared that the Indians were going to overrun the army position the ubiquitous cavalry appeared on the far horizon

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