Friday, January 16, 2009

The other side

Warning: spoiler about Gran Torino movie...don't read it you're going to see the movie.

I have still been thinking about my last post about the dichotomy between our conscious belief about equality of humanity and actions which suggest an unconscious racism...talking with a friend who is about to enter into a transracial adoption and discussing the implications of it, listening to children (with a variety of skin color) cheerfully bantering about skin pigment in a way that suggests they have not yet understood the grave implications of being a visible minority. All this still sorta swirling in my head as I got talked into going to Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino.

I'm not a typical Clint Eastwood fan, but it was a pleasant evening out with friends. I have to admit that while there was a wry, dry humor that made me laugh, there were probably more awkward moments than there were chuckles given the entire encyclopedia of racial slurs that Walt, the main character, spewed on a consistent basis.

Walt is an elderly war veteran with signs of serious health problems whose racism could make your toes curl. It is a movie--it was over the top. It was offensive really, and I squirmed in my seat on behalf of all humanity as I was in my seat...and then, as is prone to happen in the movies, Walt experiences a sort of renaissance, when the Hmong neighbors befriend him. He finds himself connecting with them, and enjoying their company. He finds himself wanting to protect them from the gangs that alternatively attempt to coerce membership into their gang, and wreak their violence on the neighborhood.

Ultimately, Walt, the fellow who was offensive to the end, decides to end the threat of violence to the family he has come to love. He prepares for battle--and shows up at the enemy house...he reaches into his jacket as he says a "Hail Mary" and is shot repeatedly by the group. He has done it...the neighborhood was watching the threatening men are now incarcerated and unable to continue their destruction.

It was a curious and wonderful flip on the study in the previous post--overt conscious racism in tone by a man whose actions showed a selflessness and love for those visibly different from him. The family saw through the offensive (and horrifyingly thick) veneer to the real man underneath. When "push came to shove", Walt, as his core, is a man of honor, who was willing to pay the ultimate sacrifice for those he'd had for so long scorned, but had come to love as family. The irony of this movie given my headspace was striking.

I heard an interview on the radio about this movie which had stated that this could well be Clint's last flick...and that the way he went out is perhaps a powerful symbolic statement that he is making.

Doing what is necessary to make this world safe for others is an aspiration that, this week, is one I can't miss--when life smacks you in the face with a message, you listen, y'know?

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