Wednesday, February 20, 2008
The Gangs Of New York
Back in our previous post- "Kung Fu Congressman", readers Hand2Hand and Scott are having a lively debate as to - believe it or not- the causes of the Civil War. H2H comments that "The average Yankee working stiff was forced to fight", which got me thinking about the movie "The Gangs of New York".
According to Wikipedia, the movie is based on Herbert Asbury's 1928 book by the same name. In it, we are introduced to "Bill The Butcher", played by knife-wielding Daniel Day-Lewis - Crime boss and political king-maker. The dark settings of poverty stricken immigrants scraping out a living in - literally "the underground", and the display of inner city violence reminds us that ghettos weren't just a modern social issue. The movie culminates in a bloody fight between "Nativists", those from old families born in the United States, against the mostly Irish immigrants. This happens at the same time that Draft Riots break out, protesting conscription into the Union Army. A huge three-way skirmish occurs, with Union Naval ships firing cannons into the crowds of knife and hatchet wielding gang fighters.
This is all based on actual draft riots that happened as depicted in the movie. There is a fantastic wikipedia entry about the riots which is very detailed at THIS LINK.
As in modern times, rich kids could either pay $300 to get out or get some other poor bastard to go fight for them. Kind of an early version of George Bush's "National Guard" service (flying martinis).
As in most out-of-control civic brawls, there was much looting and scapegoating, with poor blacks being targeted and killed also.
Can you imagine what would happen if a draft was proposed for an unpopular and likely illegal war/occupation such as today's Iraq debacle? And yet, with top Generals admiting that mismanagement has nearly destroyed the effectiveness of our fighting forces, Bush will dump the whole mess (occupation, economic recession, etc.) in the lap of the next administration.
Avoiding draft riots is one of the main reasons we are seeing the rise of private mercenary contractors such as those of Blackwater, which were already used in our country also, in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast.
"The Gangs of New York" is a dark and frightening movie with solid historical roots, and a whole lot of knife fights-- it's well worth watching.