by James M. Wall
Works of film art endure when the underlying intent remain the same. One segment in John Ford’s film, The Searchers, reminds us that revenge is not a morsel best eaten when cold, but a morsel best buried with the dead.
Jesus said it best, “little children, love one another”.
I wrote a Wall Writings posting April 10, 2017, which featured The Searchers. It began:
A raid has killed members of a frontier family. Ethan Edwards, portrayed by an angry, unforgiving John Wayne, was secretly in love with one of the victims. The quick burial in a nearby hillside cemetery is conducted by a family friend, the Reverend Captain Samuel Johnston Clayton (Ward Bond).
Mourners sing, “Shall we gather at the river”. The Reverend Captain Clayton, formerly of the Confederate army, stands beside three wooden crosses. He prays.
Ethan Edwards abruptly ends the service with an angry shout, “Put an amen to it. There’s no more time for praying.”
An angry posse prepares to ride out in search of the raiders.
The scenes below from John Ford’s 1956 classic western film, The Searchers, begin a long search driven by the dark emotions of hatred and revenge.
The posting from April, 2017, was provoked by an angry President Donald Trump’s orders to fire 60 Tomahawk missiles at an airbase in Syria.
It was from that base the U.S. claimed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad launched a deadly chemical attack on a rebel-held town in northern Syria.
It is now August, 2019, and this nation has just lived through two more mass shootings in Dayton, Ohio and El Paso, Texas. We have once again had our mourning and our anger. Once again, we insist, this is not who we are.
We are wrong. Once again, the hate and fear that divides us clings to hate not love. We put an end to prayers and in the spirit of a revenge-seeking John Wayne, we choose hate and denial.
This Is Us, as Mitchell Plitnick writes, in an essay of that title. Here is a pertinent segment from his essay that should be read in full.
Plitnick begins by sharing a brief speech he found on MSNBC, by Dr. Eddie Glaude, Jr., Professor of African-American Studies at Princeton. At the conclusion of his answer to a question, Glaude noted that when we see these horrific mass shootings, we ask, “Oh my God, is this who we are?”
Glaude answered his own question. “What we know is that this country has been playing politics for a long time on this hatred—we know this. So, it’s easy for us to place it all on Donald Trump’s shoulders. It’s easy to place Pittsburgh on his shoulders. It’s easy for me to place Charlottesville on his shoulders. It’s easy to place El Paso on his shoulders.”
But then Glaude resoundingly proclaimed, “This is us! And if we’re gonna get past this we can’t blame it on [Trump]. He’s a manifestation of the ugliness that’s in us. Glaude hit the nail on the head.”
Mirchell Plitnick continues in his essay:
No one should minimize the horror of the Trump presidency. We should not belittle the fact that with his every word and action, Trump is trying to create a nation where white makes right, where the poor increase in number and are increasingly unable to survive. He is trying to create a country that hates itself, directing that hate at the other, while he and his cronies laugh all the way to the bank.
Glaude is correct to point out that Trump is not inventing this, he is unleashing it, harvesting hate that has festered for decades, suppressed—but not defeated—by liberal ideals.
But as Americans so often do, we think of the Trump presidency in terms of ourselves, of what happens within our borders. For many of us, that doesn’t even extend to a place like Puerto Rico, which Trump was able to smugly neglect in a way he never would have dared to do to a mainland U.S. city. But what of our foreign policy under Trump and for years before him?
Progressive Americans are asking themselves every day how we can tolerate the separation of families at our borders, the incitement to violence frm the White House, the undermining of democracy by the Republican party, who either block legislation en masse or go meekly along with whatever the president and Senate majority leader say. How do we continue to tolerate police shootings of unarmed black men? How do we tolerate an enormous tax cut for the rich while the same people are trying to find ways to kick millions off of health insurance that they can already barely afford?
The list goes on and on. But we do far less introspection when it comes to foreign policy. Events in Gaza, Iran, the United Kingdom, Congo, Kashmir, Syria, Iraq, Egypt, and other places do not exist in isolation from the United States. Sometimes by action, sometimes by inaction, the U.S. affects events all over the world. That’s hardly news. Most Americans know it. But too few of us take it seriously enough to let it influence our votes or political activity.
Mitchell Plitnick is a political analyst and writer. His previous positions include vice president at the Foundation for Middle East Peace, director of the US Office of B’Tselem: The Israeli Information Center for Human Rights in the Occupied Territories, and co-director of Jewish Voice for Peace. His blog may be found at http://www.mitchellplitnick.com.
How may we best take seriously these words of urgency from Mitchell Plitnick and Eddie Glaude ?
Start by studying and sharing Mitchell Plitnick’s essay and Eddie Glaude’s MSNBC speech. Then find the role you may play in helping others and yourself, grasp the reality that revenge, and hate must give way to love.