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 second Saturday in 2022 – a plethora of potpourri to ponder

Since I woke up to a plethora of thoughts and news nuggets, let me offer a potpourri of topics to ponder. In no particular order:

  • This headline says it all – “Ahmaud Arbery’s killers get life sentences; no possibility of parole for Travis and Gregory McMichael.” A black man should not fear for his life when he is out jogging. Given we are almost sixty years removed from the passing of the Civil Rights Act, it would be my hope that stuff like what happened to Ahmaud Arbery and countless others should not be happening anymore. We have made progress, but we seem to have backslid some.
  • The world lost one of its finest actors in Sidney Poitier yesterday. Several outstanding movies include: “To Sir with Love,” “The Defiant Ones,” “Guess who’s coming to Dinner,” and “In the Heat of the Night” to name only a few. “To Sir with Love” ranks on a short list of the best teacher movies. Seeing Poitier in the final scene tear up his offer letter to go teach elsewhere is poignant. Also, to see him and Rod Steiger in the last film is powerful as they showed what institutionalized bigotry looks like. He won an Oscar for the movie “The Lilies in the Field,” but I think each of his roles in the above films were more impactful.
  • In the midst of all the year-end deaths, the world lost a peacemaker and humanitarian in Desmond Tutu. Along with Nelson Mandela, Tutu helped bring attention to the rights of the disenfranchised during Apartheid. God bless the peacemakers. Seeing Tutu interviewed always brought a smile to my face as he seemed to ooze joy and kindness. Here is one of many wonderful quotes of Tutu’s along those lines: “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.”
  • Reading Tutu’s quotes and knowing what he has overcome, I encourage folks to find ways to look past differences and find some commonality. There is far more good in our world than people realize as the bad news makes the headlines – “if it bleeds, it leads.” This may be one reason Tutu’s passing went by too unnoticed. Look beneath the headlines and find the good in people. We should celebrate those peacemakers, the truth tellers, the kind spirits that exist in our world. They usually don’t beat on their chests with false bravado, so sometimes you have to look harder.

Have a wonderful 2022. Be safe. Be wise. Be kind. Be civil.

Some more odds and ends from around the globe

From the death of Nelson Mandela to the reaction to Pope Francis’ essay on being less about material wealth and reaching out to those in need, the news has been interesting as well as moving and puzzling.

Mandela’s death has caused an outpouring of celebration of his life as one of the greatest leader’s of this planet. People from all persuasions, countries, ethnicities and races have been moved by this man. Many wrote articles and posts, as I did on the previous post, about how we feel about what he did for the world and South Africa. Yet, there are always some who choose not to join in. A small South Carolina town sheriff refused to lower the American flag to half-staff as requested by the President, because “we should reserve that tribute for an American.” It should be noted other places in the town flew flags at half-staff.

Rush Limbaugh was in the news for calling Pope Francis a Marxist since he was not in favor of unfettered capitalism and we should all look to help those in need. The fact that the US moved toward fettered capitalism in response to the Robber Baron greed period where lower economic classes were exploited is lost on Rush and his band of merry men. There is a movement afoot among the 1% (and those who aspire to be) to go back to the Robber Baron period claiming there is war on the rich. The war is over – the rich won. We have one of the greatest economic disparities in our country’s history and have continued to decline in rankings in social economic mobility. Poverty is an US as well as global problem. And, the Pope is the best leader we have globally on this topic. The same could not be said for the provocative radio host.

George Orwell’s books “1984” and “Animal Farm” are prescient as well as historical. “Animal Farm” shows how the rulers in a communist system can make out like bandits, but it probably applies to any system unless the people can keep track of what is going on. It was reported this week that JP Morgan Chase has had an active “Sons and Daughters Program” to build business in China. The straightforward idea is to hire the sons and daughters of Communist party officials to curry favor. If you’re not keeping score, this is bribery. “1984″ is alive and well with Big Brother spying electronically on everyone. Of course, even Orwell could not have predicted that retailers and online vendors have taken spying to a new level to sell you more products or services.

It does not pay to be a relative of Kim Jong Un. The boy emperor sacked his very powerful uncle Jang Song Thaek. He has already “purged” his ex-girlfriend, ex-wife and is reported to plan to “purge” the wife of his sacked uncle. Purge means what you think it means. On the good side, his country made up for a mistake and released an 85-year-old American who was visiting, but had fought in the Korean War over 60 years ago. I guess he was not as dangerous as first thought. And, by the way, North Koreans should take note South Korea continues to flourish.

Before people place Putin on a pedestal, note that his country continues to use strong-arm tactics to get its way both inside and outside his country. Ukraine citizens are in revolt over their President relenting to Russia’s pressures not to join the European Union. Putin’s goal is very obvious in that he wants to rebuild the Soviet empire, but is using economic clout as his weapon. And, people who disagree with him in his own country are more than frowned upon; they are dealt with. One of his challenges is Russia has young people who never grew up under the Soviet iron fist who want social and economic freedoms to continue.

So called American leaders and pundits who beat on their chest and want to go to war rather than use diplomacy have a right to their opinion, but I don’t see them putting their fannies on the line. When I hear this “invade” or “bomb” rhetoric, my first thought is “what do you plan to do when they fight back and you have no clear-cut plan?” Haven’t we learned anything from Iraq or Afghanistan? Winning battles does not mean victory – in fact, the US has lost far more than lives with what we have done in these places. You win hearts and minds by helping people with commerce. You make it easier for the citizens of a country to make a living and you will do far more to help your influence than destroying something. Syria is very complicated, especially when Russia and China did not support the UN call to action. The world missed a chance to intervene early on. Now it is a mess (there is a better word beginning with cluster..).  What does victory look like? I recognize trusting Iran is difficult, but we should try to work with the new regime to see if this is a better path forward. The President and Secretary of State John Kerry deserve a lot of credit for not giving up on Mideast diplomacy.

Enough odds and ends for today. Let me know what you think of these thoughts. Have a great week.

Another hero has left us – Nelson Mandela

Nelson Mandela has died in peace at the age of 95. One of the true heroes of many, Mandela helped forge a new South Africa and, in so doing, showed how leadership should be done. It is a lesson Mohammed Morsi should have followed when he won the Presidency in Egypt. If he had followed Mandela’s inclusive governance, he might still be in power. Attached is an excellent summary of “Seven Ways Nelson Mandela changed South Africa.” http://worldnews.nbcnews.com/_news/2013/12/05/17519665-7-ways-nelson-mandela-changed-south-africa?lite

Instead of punishing white South Africans for the years of apartheid, when elected he made sure that he galvanized all South Africans toward a common purpose. In so doing, he created a new South Africa which brought two cultures together. The movie “Invictus” is an excellent example of how he made sure that the South African rugby team continued to flourish and be an example to others. Had he failed to bring his country together, South Africa would be unrecognizable to what it looks like today and might resemble other African countries in constant turmoil.

Mandela belongs with an elite group of humanitarians and civil rights leaders. People who fought for the impoverished and the disenfranchised: Mother Teresa, Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, William Wilberforce, Susan B. Anthony, Francis of Assisi and Abraham Lincoln are several heroes who fought for others. At great risk, they stood up against bigger and well-entrenched obstacles as they fought for the rights and dignity of people. I recognize there are others who have done wonderful things over periods of time, but I wanted to highlight these important few.

I am hopeful that we all take the opportunity to celebrate the life and wisdom of Mandela. He did so much for more than just South Africa. We are better place for his life work and example.