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Men in Black, Men in Blue

I am nervous about these Men in Blue. I do not like the plot they seemed determined to play out on the global stage.

So long, in fact, I accepted with delight the earphones offered by the attendant. I settled in for an hour of silliness, courtesy of the summer sequel to “Men in Black.”

I knew what to expect, somewhat at least, having seen the prequel, but long after its premiere. Like most Americans, I like Will Smith and Tommy Lee Jones; they make good movies, mostly.

Somewhere over Utah, could have been Nebraska, something about the film struck me as familiar. “Have I seen this movie already?”

Such conversations with myself are more frequent than they used to be. This one could be explained by the sheer zaniness on the screen. Nevertheless, it provoked a strange and uneasy sensation of remembrance.

Earnest Men in Black (black business suits, that is) slipping about town; appearing and disappearing; speaking with insider information; acting with absolute authority.

Men in Black, so goes the movie plot, alerting everyone of danger: danger lurking, looming.

Men in Black warning of dangerous, desperate men, agents of evil determined to undermine the very structures of Western civilization; clever operatives unseen to the ordinary citizen, visible only to the valiant few, only to the Men in Black.

Men in Black—or is it Men in Blue?

I see the Men in Black on the movie screen. I see the Men in Blue on the television screen: the evening news and the Sunday shows.

They wear blue suits with fine white shirts and, as often as not, red silk ties. The Men in Blue move about America. They also speak of unseen assailants, ubiquitous enemies and the urgent necessity of vigilance … or is their word, violence?

Men in Blue make their case for American action. “We must strike first and fast,” they say; and in so doing, stir up the spirit of organized violence we often call war.

Trust us, they say, these Men in Blue: so like the Men in Black.

My interest in the movie version of “Men in Black” lasted not even to the Mississippi River. Thin plots and characters put me to sleep. I turned away and laid the earphones on the empty seat to my left. By the time we landed in Atlanta, the Men in Black were sinking out of sight and out of mind.

It has not been so easy to be rid of the Men in Blue.

They are everywhere: in the air and on the ground; on the air and all around. They are attended by staff and escorted by security; they are trailed by reporters and mobbed by people. They occupy the public square, at least the section of the square displayed on the evening news and the morning paper.

Their cause is the salvation of civilization; it bespeaks a grand vision. Their strategy is the mobilization of the military; it belies a gory reality.

Back in Lexington, I listen as the Men in Blue talk of Middle Eastern enemies and the inevitability of war, talk that sits on the uneasy ledge from which fiction falls into fact.

I am one who finds it difficult to tell fact from fiction, especially as I listen to these Men in Blue. There are many of us, it seems.

As the father of three adult children of prime age for enrollment in this army, I listen carefully and critically. I am not convinced that this army can (or even should) set out to conquer a rebellious quarter of the globe.

I am nervous about these Men in Blue. I do not like the plot they seemed determined to play out on the global stage. How I wish my response was so simple as an earphone and an empty seat.

Dwight Moody is dean of the chapel at Georgetown College in Georgetown, Ky.