Wow, I’m stunned. Just stunned. And I really don’t know what to say or how to say it. So, what do I do? I try to write about something that has plagued this country for ages. I really don’t know how it is going to go but this topic has been gnawing its nasty little teeth at the back of my mind for quite some time and I suppose it is about time I address it. So, here goes.
Yesterday I was sick and spent most of the day lying in pain and loaded up with all types of cough and cold medicine. I’m better today as I write this. However, during my interim, I had endless hours of television to watch. Mostly I watched “How the Universe Works” as narrated by Mike Rowe. I like this sort of programing. It lets me know that there are larger things in the universe, galaxy and solar system, than me. It grounds me and gives my life a perspective I don’t normally have. However; as the day waned and darkness took over the hemisphere where I live, I lost control of the remote to my wife.
She flipped channels for a while and then settled on the movie “Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner” with Kathryn Hepburn, Spencer Tracy, Sidney Poirtier and Katharine Houghton. Sure there were more in the cast but those are the four main characters. It’s an amazing movie and one I know my wife and I have watched at least a dozen times. Yet each time I see the film I walk away with a new perspective, a new thought or idea. The film makes me think. A lot.
Also; my wife was flipping to a re-airing of the Grammy awards. Now, as a general rule, I avoid any and all award shows. Especially ones where people just give themselves awards. So, when one show was on commercial, the other show was flipped to and watched. Which means I could tune out the awards show and become attentive when the movie was on.
The movie… I have two favorite scenes in the movie.
One of them, I’m sure is everyone’s favorite scene. It is at the end, where Spencer Tracy makes his speech about his feelings towards the interracial marriage of his daughter and all the crap the couple would receive from a world full of ignorant people. SPOILERS: He was for it for the simple reason the two people loved each other.
My second favorite scene is where Sidney Poitier says to his father “You see yourself as a black man, where I see myself as a man.”
I like to tell myself this is the line in the movie that won the writer “William Rose” his Oscar. But most likely, the gold on the statue was poured for the ending speech alone.
We, as a country that is, have tried for over 70 years to try and put race relations to rest and it seems to me that in 1967, when Sidney Poitier said that line to his father about seeing himself as a man, we were on the path to equality and understanding.
Now, fast forward to 2016, with the horrific utterings of the word “racism” at the drop of any hat or misconceived slight, we are all guilty.
Guilty of not learning from the past. Guilty of not learning. Guilty of even the slightest prejudgment. This is not just blank on blank prejudice. (Insert your own race or creed in the blanks). It seems to go deeper.
Not just in our neighborhoods or cities. Nor is it a national problem. This seems to be an international problem. We have elected and non-elected leaders telling us that our problems come from this type of person or that type of person. We even have self-important people with access to social media and millions of followers talking about slights based on race. All of these actions seem to be step backwards and not forwards. It all hurts my head and worse, it hurts my heart.
In a country where marijuana is legal, where homosexuals and lesbians can marry each other, where an African American man has been elected not once but twice to the presidency and even where a woman is running for president, we are still mired in the sins of our fore-fathers.
I say for-fathers even though I come from a turn of the 20th century immigrant family. Yet, this is my country and I’m proud of it. I’m just not proud of the actions of some of my fellow countrymen.
This also makes me sad. I thought we were better than this. I know we are better than this. We have to be in order to survive.
Which brings me to one of the performances on the Grammy’s. I don’t know the artists name nor would I write it if I did. However; his lyrics and song made quite an impact on me. He came out in handcuffs along with his backup singers and dancers. They were also dressed as inmates. I understand the point he was making. I also understand that as an artist you have the freedom to express your feelings, good or bad, in your art. I also know that there seems to be a great chasm between crimes and criminals in our justice system. A system that is not perfect but it is a system that has changed over time. Slowly it seems but there has been change.
There are actions that are not excusable committed by people in voice and power that make me ashamed to call myself an American. However; I’d like to think that as our country grows older, we also become wiser. I hope that one day, like the great actor Sidney Poitier said “You see yourself as a _______man, while I just see myself as a man.”
Or, in the lingo of the new enlightened world “You see yourself as a _____person, while I see myself as a person.”
After all, we are all people and we are all sharing this journey together and while we may not get out of this journey alive, it’s easier and nicer to be together through the joys, the pains, the success’s and the travails of life than struggling through our own misguided prejudices.
Have a great week. And remember, try and understand and love your fellow travelers. We all deserve a little of both.