I know that, coming from a liberal, this post will be a surprise and probably an unpleasant one to many who are old-style 'bleeding hearts' (especially 'Noble Savage' freaks) and/or those puffed up with self-righteous indignation about What White Men Did to my Sainted Ancestors. And I don't pretend to know who's who; I'll just say, if the shoe fits...
But it is to one of the latter to whom I owe the inspiration which produced at least this post's title. When Dr. Dyson either said, or quoted another person saying when he filled in for Big Eddie's show on MSNBC this past week, as saying Django Unchained needs to be seen with 'the masses', he included something on Mr. Spike Lee's reaction to it. I went and saw the movie this past Saturday and I don't know what seeing it in the middle of Brooklyn was like but my guess is it was a lot livelier than the suburban multiplex audience in whose 'company' (if one can call it that when no one even 'shares' after the film) I thrilled to it. In terms of my fellow viewers, I may as well have waited for xfinity to show it.
However, it is a consummate masterpiece and I think Mr. Lee is showing the symptoms of a condition all too common among those with whom I share a part of the political spectrum which I call being '21st century stoopid'. That to which I refer actually reflects, in a sort of fun-house way, more faith in the stated values of either the Western World, or Judeo-Christian civilization, than the right wing can certainly claim and maybe more than the 'center' as well; not sure about the latter.
Mr. Lee says he won't see it because of the frequency of use of a certain 'fighting word'. Well, sir, in 1858 that word was not so considered, not even to most of those who were called so. There are many things we in 21st century Judeo-Christian civilization consider abominations about which earlier epochs would have only shrugged at, if even that. As a film director, does Mr. Lee think Mr. Tarantino should sanitize his film for the sake of our oh-so-tender 21st century ears? Would Mr. Lee do that, were he making such a film about such dark matters past and/or present?
And tell me: what sort of 'holocaust' is it when, out of 11,000,000 Africans brought to the Americas over 350 years multiply to the extent they have? Especially here on the North American mainland to which only 400,000 Africans were brought and whose descendants have multiplied nearly a hundredfold? Take a look at the eastward African slave trade if you want the real 'African holocaust' story--not to mention that slave traffic that way is still going on, as it has been for at least twelve centuries! I have sources I can share with you on request. Finally, your ancestors were bought from other Africans for the most part, not stolen. And twenty years ago, some of the descendants of the sellers had the chutzpa to ask for reparations!
In any case, the worldwide slave trade has existed almost since civilization began. Only within the last two and a half centuries did some Christians and Jews begin to have doubts about the rightness of the slave trade as practiced at all, never mind protecting one's own group from it. Only from our own revolution does the idea of my freedom being bound up with your freedom and your freedom being bound up with her freedom over there and so on all the way around the globe even begin! I dare you to find me any other example of a culture or civilization where that idea has taken native root and if so, to what extent? All right, not everyone here understands or believes that--not yet, anyhow. But where do more people actually believe and live that than do in North America? The Orient? Who are you kidding? The Middle East? What you smokin', man? India? Latin America? Europe? Definite 'maybes', all of 'em.
We can only judge a particular culture or civilization by how the rest of the world of that time is or was organized. And our common yardstick, courtesy of Jews, Christians and some Enlightenment skeptics, is how much freedom does anyone have to choose his/her lot in life, develop his/her conscience according to their own spirituality and to have his/her voice heard in the counsels of the realm? I know it's not just a legal matter; I'm quite well acquainted with the ways certain rich and powerful folks have of vitiating the laws and institutions which are supposed to facilitate greater freedom and 'upward mobility', thanks ever so.
Anyhow, while this might be addressed to one in particular, it's also to all those who share the condition outlined in this post. I should also say that seeing the wisdom other cultures have which we can share is in my opinion facilitated, not impeded, by a healthy knowledge and appreciation of the gifts of our own. Confidence comes from knowledge and confident cultures know how to borrow from others. Those who pretend the two to be mutually exclusive I call 19th century stoopid!
Look, boys and girls: we're supposed to be the smart people, so let's not fake it in this. Jefferson was not so much a hypocrite as he was a visionary with at least one foot in his own times, to use a prominent example. Let us all develop and cherish a respect for all who sought (and seek) to expand freedom for the least among us, even if they did (and do) so unevenly, tentatively and with concessions to their own times. Uneven (that is, human) visionaries are different from hypocrites, especially from those now in our legislatures. We can't go back to Eden; if we try, we will soak the road with blood on a horrific scale. No, the only way out is forward and through. And while we're at it, remember that there are more things in heaven and on earth than you dream of in your philosophies.