-by Brandon Tomlinson
This dialogue is from the movie, “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007). In it, John McClane (Willis), the actioner’s big savior, says this about being a hero:
John McClane: You know what you get for being a hero? Nothin’. You get shot at. You get a little pat on the back, blah, blah, blah, attaboy. You get divorced. Your wife can’t remember your last name. Your kids don’t want to talk to you. You get to eat a lot of meals by yourself. Trust me, kid, nobody wants to be that guy.
Matt Farrell: Then why you doing this?
John McClane: Because there’s no body else to do it right now, that’s why. Believe me, if there were somebody else to do it, I’d let them do it, but there’s not. So we’re doing it.
Matt Farrell: Ah. That’s what makes you that guy.
It’s pretty epic. You can watch it here: http://movieclips.com/zKbR5-live-free-or-die-hard-movie-nobodys-hero/
So, I suppose my question is simply this: Classical Liberal or Civic Republican (naturally, the question that arises while watching a Bruce Willis flick)?
Looking at it from one perspective, one could see that McClane is a civic republican. He is one who takes on the responsibilities of the common good. He is determined to save the United States from domestic hacker terrorist Thomas Gabriel. McClane is the one detective with the action-movie skills, guts, and grit to take on this enemy of all that is is good in America, like Social Security and Applebee’s. He is acting for the common good. The Anti-federalists would approve; they were concerned with the “liberty, happiness, interests, and great concerns of the United States as a whole,” (p. 17, ‘The Essential Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers’). Looking back to Kemmis, we see such a nature of self-sacrifice for the common good as well. McClane’s bullet-dodging is akin to Albert Volbrecht’s toleration for Lilly’s dismay at his general behavior, and vice versa (p.121, Kemmis). They are both a toleration of things that are less than pleasant (i.e. Albert’s crass jokes, or the hot lead poured out at McClane every time he emerges from cover). It is an acceptance in order to move toward what must be done to serve the community best.
However, there is the lingering possibility that McClane is a classic liberal. Think about the possibility that he is participating in this action not as the highest form of service, but as the man fulfilling the role of the one who does the necessary evil. Is McClane the one who serves because he must, acting as the force that keeps the statement “The only good which a man can do to one another and the only statement of their proper relationship is – Hands off!” true (Rand, p.410)? He is doing it because he must, sacrificing by becoming the one who cannot pursue his desires. McClane is protecting the rights of a man like Roark, the private rights that the Federalist feels “alarm” for the safety of (p.168, ‘The Essential Federalist and Anti-Federalist Papers’)?
I suppose my thoughts boils down to simply this: Detective John McClane is a civic republican. He does what he has to. While the possibility of the classic liberal perspective is possible, I see Detective McClane as one who believes in sacrificing for Paine’s “People.” He doesn’t want to be a hero, but he is because he must. What do you think?