Celluloid heroes and a few live ones (a reprise)

The following is a repeat of a post I wrote about ten years ago. Since heroes are hard to come by and the word superstar is over used, here are some movie heroes along with a few real ones.

My daughter is reading “To Kill a Mockingbird” in her high school English class, so we watched the movie the other night. As it is one of my favorites, we actually own the book and movie. Giving credit for part of the title to the old Kinks song, “Celluloid Heroes,” I thought it might be good to take a break from the issues of the day to talk about reel and real heroes.

Atticus Finch is one of the great heroes captured in print and on screen. Gregory Peck plays him so well it is hard to imagine someone else in that role. There are many wonderful parts in the movie, but the two that move me most are when the Reverend makes Scout stand up in the court room because “your father is passing” and when Jem is told by a consoling neighbor that “there are people meant to do our unpleasant tasks in this world… your father is one of them.”

I told my daughter Atticus Finch is my idea of a true hero. He does not have to carry a sword, although he may as noted below, but is courageous in a time when it is far easier to do otherwise. Standing up for what is right when others don’t have the gumption to do so, makes a hero live on in our memories. Some of my other celluloid heroes would include, but not be limited to:

– Robert Roy McGregor of “Rob Roy” also one of my favorite movies. While he carried a sword that was just a tool needed for those times. The key lesson he passed on through words and deed are “honor is a gift you give yourself.”

– Henry Fonda’s character in “Twelve Angry Men” who stood alone against 11 impatient jurors until one gave him a chance to be heard. When we all take our jobs seriously and purposefully like he did, we will be better for it, even if it takes more time.

– Rick in “Casablanca,” another favorite movie. He is a harder one to figure as hero at first, but rallies in the end. I think his imperfections make him more believable, so when he does the right thing, we are behind him.

– Sergeant Wendell White in “LA Confidential.” Like Rick, a man of imperfections, but he stands up for those treated unjustly and is relentless to find the truth.

– Terry Malloy in “On the Waterfront” is another man of imperfections that comes to mind as he stood up against the mob on the loading docks.

There are countless others, especially when the movies are about real people – Erin Brockovich, Norma Rae, Jimmy Braddock, William Wallace, etc.The stories play the best and the heroes stand tallest when they are playing against the odds. These real people lead me to some true heroes of mine, some of whom movies have been made about.

Gandhi and Martin Luther King are two that come readily to mind. My blog friend at “News of the Times” describes herself as a pacifist at heart.  MLK admired Gandhi so much that he adopted his “passive resistance” mantra to shine a spot light on unfairness and bigotry. Rosa Parks became another hero for similar reasons by refusing to give up her seat on the bus when it would have been easier to do so.

Nelson Mandela galvanized a country when it could have been so easy to divide it. I would have mentioned the movie “Invictus” before, but wanted to highlight him more here. His is the best example of inclusion and how he saw South Africa as a greater entity unified rather than separate. I wish our religious leaders would follow his lead on behalf of the LGBT community. The fewer “they” words we use the greater we will be.

John Adams is a true hero as well, but I remember what he did before the American Revolution as even more heroic. He defended in an American court of law British soldiers who had reacted appropriately when accosted by American rioters. His point is we stand for truth and justice and if we did not let these men go free, we would be going against our principles. This was against the strong will of the people led by his cousin Samuel Adams.

Abraham Lincoln is a hero of many and I am included in this mix. To do what he did when he did stands the test of time. Thomas Jefferson also is included in mine and many others list of heroes.  His principles drove much what we hold dear in our Declaration of Independence and Constitution.

A couple of names you may not know are Elliott Richardson and Archibald Cox. I would encourage you to look them up on Wikipedia.  They were leading the case against Richard Nixon after being appointed by him. When Nixon tried to strong arm them into pursuing a more tolerable path to justice, they resigned. They were there to do their jobs as they owed it to the American people to find out what happened before, during and after Watergate.

I recognize I am picking a select few heroes, but I wanted to get people thinking about the heroes they hold dear to their hearts. Truth be told, we have heroes we interact with day-to-day, be it a teacher, social worker, advocate, nurse, doctor or parent. These are the people I admire most. Heroes may be someone who is doing what he or she has to do to get by and try to help others. So, thank them, help them, applaud them and emulate them. When we see injustice, let’s call it out and try to do right by each other. If we had a few more Atticus Finch’s in this world, we would be in a much better place.

A revisit to words of Martin Luther King on violence

This is a reprise of an earlier post. It still resonates, especially after the recent shooting of Ahmaud Arbery.

Martin Luther King once said, “The ultimate weakness of violence is that it is a descending spiral, begetting the very things it seeks to destroy. Instead of diminishing evil, it multiplies it. Through violence you may murder the liar, but you cannot murder the lie, nor establish truth. Through violence you may murder the hater, but you do not murder hate. In fact, it merely increases the hate. So it goes. Returning violence for violence multiplies violence, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.”

These aspirational words ring true even today. A historian made a comment on the news the other day, saying the only thing man has been very good at since the beginning is killing people. Too many people have died when leaders say I want what you have or you are different from us or you worship the wrong way. On this latter point, one of the keys to our founding father’s separation of church and state in the US constitution and bill of rights was a comment made by Thomas Jefferson who noted that Europe had been awash in blood due to religious zeal and he did not want religious zeal doing the same in our country. This runs counter to self-proclaimed constitutionalists who want a national or state religion and don’t realize they are advocating against the constitution.

My blogging friend and missionary George Dowdell has written a thought-provoking post about “No More Us and Them.” A link to his post is below.* When religious leaders exclude, they create this kind of divide. Yet, when religious leaders are inclusive, religion is at its finest. Just witness the actions of the people’s Pope Francis to see what one leader can do. We should follow his lead. We must do our best to be bridge builders. We must do our best to condemn intolerant thinking and action. We must do our best to not condone violence. We must do our best to control the proliferation of violent tools to people who should not have them and govern all owners of them well, as these tools are designed to kill. We must do our best to work toward civil discourse when disagreements occur. And, we must not tolerate treating women as second class citizens or even assets, which is even further demeaning.

I recognize we all cannot be like Atticus Finch (see Emily J’s post on “The Perfect Book: To Kill a Mockingbird” with the link below **) and wipe the spit away borne from someone looking for a fight, but he shows us what real courage looks like. It takes more courage not to fight back when it would have been so easy to do so. I recognize we cannot all be like Gandhi whose example was studied, admired and copied by Martin Luther King showing that civil disobedience is far more powerful than violence. I recognize we call cannot be like Mother Teresa who just went around helping people and praying with them not caring how they worshiped. And, I realize we cannot all be like Jesus who uttered the words we should all live by and can be found in other religious texts – treat others like you want to be treated.

We must treat others like we want in return. We must elevate women in a world to equal footing with men. We must challenge our historical texts which were written by imperfect men to diminish women. We must be the ones who lift others up. We must teach our children those Jesus words. If we don’t then we will continue to be our own worst enemy and do what we are good at – violence and killing.

* http://georgedowdell.org/2014/06/10/no-more-us-and-them/
** http://thebookshelfofemilyj.com/2014/06/09/the-perfect-book-to-kill-a-mockingbird/

Paraphrasing the words can make them resonate

I love quotes, but sometimes the quote has been paraphrased somewhat and it takes a slightly new shape. Quoting religious text is like that as the text has been translated and retranslated many times. In fact, the books of the bible were not all written in the same language. So, we should look for the gist of the point.

Regardless of religion, there are very meaningful guides that can be pulled from Jesus’ words.

– Treat others like you want to be treated, tops any list and can be found in other religious texts
– Take care of people in need as when you do you are honoring me
– Treat your neighbors well.

But, let’s not stop there. Mother Teresa said:

– Being unwanted, unloved, uncared for, forgotten by everybody,is a much greater hunger than the person who has nothing to eat
– When she had doubts, she asked God to give her the strength to carry on.

Gandhi also spoke of helping people:

– a community’s greatness is measured in how it takes care of its unfortunate ones

Martin Luther King said of hate:

– Hate is far more debilitating to keep up than love. When you hate, you are being destructive to yourself.

A Chinese proverb is used as the title to Nicholas Kristof and Sheryl WuDunn’s book “Half the Sky:”

– Women hold up half the sky (the proverb speaks volumes as does the book).

Finally, let me close with quoting lines from Bob Dylan’s “Blowing in the wind.”

“Yes, and how many times must a man look up
Before he can see the sky
Yes, and how many ears must one man have
Before he can hear people cry

Yes, and how many deaths will it take till he knows
That too many people have died
The answer, my friend, is blowing in the wind.”

Peace be with you all.

Fifty years ago, a low moment in American history

The year of 1968 was filled with major events, both good and bad. One of the lowest moments in American history occurred this week in April fifty years ago. Civil rights leader Reverend Martin Luther King was assassinated by a man whose name I will not mention as I don’t feel killers like these deserve the notoriety.

King was in Memphis advocating for striking sanitation workers looking for a pay raise. During a speech while there, he spoke of helping people get to the Promised Land, a favorite metaphor. But, in this instance, he noted he may not be there with them when they get there. With 20/20 hindsight, this added phrase seems surreal.

King won the Nobel Peace Prize for helping America achieve the 1964 Civil Rights Act. He later would provide impetus for LBJ to pass the 1965 Voting Rights Act and celebrate as LBJ helped pass Medicare and Medicaid in his war on poverty. King and far too many earned these changes with blood, sweat and tears. And, too many paid with their lives.

King was and remains a hero to many. The white Americans who would go on to vote for Alabama Governor George Wallace in the Presidential election later that year failed to see the heroic nature of King’s non-violent movement. King took a key page from Gandhi’s nonviolent protests in South Africa and India. King’s approach was key to achieving what the protestors did. And, it helps Americans of all colors.

Unfortunately, King’s murder unleashed an anger in inner cities. One major city that did not have riots was in Indianapolis as Robert F. Kennedy shared his admiration for King as well as his pain in losing his brother while campaigning there. RFK would not be alive in two months after his own assassination during this tumultuous year, but his reverence for King was notable.

Let’s remember the life of Martin Luther King. America is better for it. We should never forget that even though a minority of bigoted and hateful voices seem empowered to do so.