The 2003 German film Good Bye, Lenin! tells the story of a dedicated Communist Party member in East Berlin who suffers a heart attack and falls into a coma just before the Berlin Wall falls and the Soviet Bloc disintegrates. When she wakes up nearly a year later, her children are informed that any sort of big shock is likely to bring on another heart attack. The children must come up with a plan to keep their mother ignorant of the events that have made the world unrecognizable, and set out to construct a sort of virtual reality in which the now-defunct German Democratic Republic persists, creating fake news broadcasts and scrounging for household products left over from the old regime.
When the movie was released, the collapse of Soviet Communism was still fresh in everyone’s minds; today those memories have faded. Nonetheless, Good Bye, Lenin! is once again an uncannily relevant film—but for Americans, not Eastern Europeans.
Reading about the ongoing debates on Capitol Hill about national security and America’s global role, one can’t help but be struck by how backward-looking the country has become. As China embarks on a massive program of rearmament and Ukraine bleeds the West dry of shells and missiles, calls ring out to reactivate the vaunted Defense Production Act … of 1950. Nobody really remembers what’s in the act itself, but that isn’t the point: America once mobilized its industry to take on the world, and now it’s time to do it all over again!