Both during the current election cycle and throughout this entire year of cities and campuses marked by riots, we've heard a lot of talk about law and order. Our Postmodern dystopia holds simultaneously two very contradictory views on lawlessness: extreme permissiveness coupled with draconian punishment. We as a society hold that torture of suspects is justifiable while at the same time allow violent mobs to assault police with impunity.
For this weekend's entertainment feature we are offering a series about four criminals who turned into heroes: Garrison's Gorillas. Set during WW2, Garrison's Gorillas is based on the exploits of Lt. Craig Garrison, a West Point graduate who is given special assignments behind enemy lines. For the purpose, the Army offers parole and pardon to four inmates at Sing Sing, who were known in the series by their prison names. 'Actor' was a con-man and international jewel thief; 'Goniff' a British immigrant and roof-top burglar; 'Casino' a safecracker; and 'Chief' an American Indian and smuggler.
Garrison's Gorillas aired on ABC from 1967-1968, at the end of television's Golden Era. The premise was a popular one in the late 1960s to early 1970s and was portrayed in such famous films as the WW2 drama The Dirty Dozen and the Western A Reason to Live, A Reason to Die. As an interesting note of trivia, actor Telly Savalas played in both films, and had a guest appearance in the first episode of Garrison's Gorillas.
The reason this premise is because earlier generations of Americans had an entirely different outlook on human nature than our Postmoderns hold today. Influenced heavily by Christianity, Americans once took the general attitude that we are all guilty sinners in Eyes of God and deserving of punishment, but were redeemed by Christ. Our attitudes towards crime and punishment reflected that belief. As the terms penitentiary and reformatory suggest; the purpose of punishment was intended to perform penance and effect reform. The ideal is a uniquely American one; begun in New England by the Pilgrim Fathers a century before American Independence.
This cultural shift in attitudes also explains the paradox we alluded to at the beginning of this review. Many of us erroneously believe that our Cultural Elites behave the way they do because they deny man's sinful nature. On the contrary, both the Left and Right acknowledge this; but what they both deny are Christian concepts like Redemption and Atonement. When we understand this aspect of their outlook; it becomes crystal-clear why our so-called Criminal Justice System is rife with double-standards and is characterized by both brutality towards some and laxity towards others. In a culture where every one sins and no one is saved, virtue is political correctness and there can be no salvation to those who violate it. This describes our cultural attitudes; regardless of whether we are describing the PC Left or the equally PC Right.
Garrison's Gorillas, though, gives a refreshing portrait of a different mindset. The men of Garrison's squad are fallible---but otherwise typical---men. In one episode, the squad discusses a risky plan to save Garrison's life, when Actor addresses them: "Men, we are all gamblers. We gambled that we wouldn't get caught. We're gambling our lives for our freedom. Our plan is a gamble, but we risk for what we value. Isn't the Lieutenant's life worth the risk?" A statement that well sums up the essence of what it means to be a man: to take risks for what one values, then acting upon that risk.
The series is 26 hour-long episodes, and there is no shortage of hard-core WW2 cloak-and-dagger action interspersed with the show's high ideals. It's also available for free viewing on Youtube, as well as on DVD.