Is it possible to be so rightwing that you’re leftwing? Or vice versa? Erase and Forget is a documentary about Colonel “Bo” Gritz, Green Beret turned rogue politico. Director Andrea Luka Zimmerman’s portrait of a madcap American hero, a cross between Apocalypse Now’s Colonel Kilgore and a mid-life Rambo (whom some say he inspired), shows that the world of political ideology is round not flat. Pushed to the dark side of reality’s curvature, fanaticism of the left meets and merges with fanaticism of the right.
How else explain this mouthy, mesmerising maverick? One moment he’s tub-thumping for racial harmony and multi-ethnic communes. The next he’s teaching armed attack courses. He’s a pacifist; he’s a warmonger. He took $30,000 from Clint Eastwood, with President Reagan’s blessing, to help fund a Rambo-ish expedition to rescue Vietnam PoWs. Then he turned enemy-of-the-government to expose a top-brass international drugs racket, with Pentagon fingers allegedly deep in contraband heroin.
The film is so loopy you end up like Laocoön, wreathed by serpents of paradox and contradiction. His 62 citations for valour haven’t stopped Gritz (pronounced “Grights” just to confuse us) railing against the medal’s donors. But just when you think he’s a cleansing blast of anti-establishment gung ho, you find him telling British interviewer Louis Theroux about his decision to become a survivalist. He pinpoints the safest spot in America (central Idaho) by scrawling horror squiggles all over a map of the US, condemning other states for everything from tornadoes to nuclear-blast vulnerability. If you thought America had reached the ne plus ultra of telegenic wackos who covet the reins of power, think, on this evidence, again. Yet there is an honesty and transparency in Gritz’s bluster that makes him oddly charismatic.
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