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By Doug Brunell | March 24, 2005

Sylvester Stallone, the Italian Stallion, has expressed a desire to bring the character of Rambo back to the big screen. Stallone seemingly feels that America needs a hero … or a highly unlikely Vietnam vet. I’ve never been a fan of those films, but this news made me smile. It proved to me a couple of things. One: Bad ideas never go out of style. Two: You don’t always get wiser with age.

There comes a time when you need to hang your hat. I’m not saying that Stallone give up acting. Far from it, actually. I think he has some good work left in him. I’m saying he should retire Rambo, a character that was symptomatic of a problem that affects all of us.

Rambo never resembled any Vietnam vet I knew. In fact, a lot of the ones I know are so emotionally scarred that if they aren’t homeless, They’re two steps away. (Granted, Rambo was disturbed in the first movie, but the later sequels seemed even less realistic. In the third film, he actually teams up with the mujaheddin, a group that in real life would later splinter, with some members forming the Al-Qaida. Thanks, Rambo!) And while many vets are mentally disturbed, they aren’t donning headbands and killing cops — no matter how rude those cops may be. They’re in group or begging on the corner. Rambo was disrespectful to Vietnam vets, and he helped to reinforce how we view them and all other veterans.

For Stallone, Rambo was just another role. For far too many Americans, however, Rambo was a hero. All that guilt over how vets were treated upon returning to the country went right out the window like a hot hand grenade. Any question that the government never really took care of them was muted. Rambo was here, and he was kicking a*s. Those guys panhandling outside the theatre weren’t vets. They were lazy. Why couldn’t these crazy looking fellows grab a big knife and go do the due? Why did they have to sit there and beg? Rambo would never beg … not even if he were tortured.

One of my best friends, a man I greatly admire, is a Vietnam vet. He doesn’t really like to talk about his time in the service. When he does, it isn’t pleasant. Drugs, both legal and not so legal, helped him deal with it. Noise of any sort bothers him. He can’t be stuck in any one place for too long. His anger is always under the surface, and sometimes it manifests itself in the worst ways. He wasn’t homeless when I met him, but I think that was only due to some good luck and an excellent support system of family and friends. The government sure as hell didn’t do much for him, but he never acted like going into the woods and killing people was a cool and just thing to do.

Yeah, Rambo’s a f*****g joke.

Maybe in another ten years we can have a similar character who is a veteran of the first Gulf War. He can go hide in the woods and freak out that the “sand n*****s” are out to get him after some cops ride his a*s for being a drifter. He can listen to Slayer as he blows up a patrol car or something. And idiots everywhere can make him a hero, too. After all, making heroes out of people is far easier than trying to understand them.

Many of our soldiers need help … and we aren’t giving it to them. We can hang as many ribbons as we want, we can fly our flags, we can cry when they come home and throw parades for them, and we can say, “Support our troops.” It won’t change a damn thing, though. Why? Because it’s all window dressing.

We don’t want our taxes to go up in order to take care of veterans and their families, and we don’t want to be burdened with their psychological problems. If we really cared, we’d pressure our government to help these people. Instead, we send socks and idolize morons like Rambo because it makes us feel good. Hey, a little effort is better than none at all, right?

Wrong. It’s worse. It’s condescending.

You want to know what Rambo and images like him have done to our culture? I know people who want to go into the military so they can legally kill others. I know people who think a draft would help shape our youth and give them “discipline.” I know people who think that if you are against war, you’re as bad as the enemy. These people don’t see emotionally traumatized kids and borderline psychotics coming back home. They see Rambo draped in a flag and wielding a flame thrower. They don’t see “Born on the Fourth of July.” They see “Top Gun.” It’s prettier, and there’s less mess involved.

I understand that Hollywood is the land of make believe. I just don’t think a lot of other people have caught on to that yet. I guess the sad fact is that some people will never get it. Apparently, Stallone is one of them.

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