Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Cynicism vs. Optimism -- where do you fall?

Mikaela says:
Watching Crash last night, I was disturbed -- not necessarily at the ugliness of racist attitudes but by how much they seemed unreal to me.

I am the first one to acknowledge the reality of racism, in all its blatantness and insidious subtlety, at all levels of our civilization. But I realized last night watching the movie that I balk at seeing it in individuals. I believe it of us as a species, but as individual human beings? How can we be so disconnected from the reality of our fellow companions? How can we move so quickly from trying in our everyday lives to be good people, to live good lives, to live in community to being selfish monsters that can only see our own realities and feel the surge of hot, visceral justification for any action we take in "self-preservation"?

I know that movies are powerful for this very reason. It is all too easy to understand the horror of the Holocaust and denounce it. It is another level of understanding to see the individual choices that people made that added to and perpetuated an ugliness that led to millions of deaths. I appreciate movies like Schindler's List when they slowly uncover the intricacy and twisted ethics of each person -- he saved all those people, but he couldn't be decent to his wife.

In Crash, I thought the movie did a good job raising issues and illustrating topics of conversation, but the move from good-guy to bad-guy was too fast, too black and white, too dramatic to be really useful.

I think the blatant aspects of racism are probably the easiest to tackle -- both in movies and as a society -- but it's the subtlety of prejudices that call for the most exploration and stretch us to the limit of our ability to understand and truly empathize with each other. This commitment to connection is the only way out of the binds of racism, prejudice, and selfishness that are the antithesis of community and the danger to a world that keeps getting smaller and smaller as the number of us keeps growing and growing.


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