Saturday, July 21, 2018

The Revenge of Love: Two Films That Made Me Cry

Dear Readers,

I do find myself at a loss for words at times in this awful era of the Trump presidency. Not that there is nothing to say, but rather that so many bad things are happening so fast that I often cannot decide where to begin to respond or comment. The separation of families at the border.... the weird coziness of Trump with Putin in Helsinki, treating him like the best person in the world, right after insulting America's allies at the NATO summit, and always, grinding away in the background, the nonstop destruction  of programs, policies and regulations that protect the environment, help the poor, and uphold human decency...It is too much, and I fall dumb. This is either evil genius or brutally effective instinct on the part of Trump and his team: to so bombard us with crazy, cruel and contradictory things that we are shocked into silence and inaction. I must confess that at times, I fall right into this trap, which means the bastards win that day. I wish I were stronger.

Two films that I saw recently, both dealing with childhood, brought me to tears. One was a film that I remember first seeing in my early teens, the animated Beatles film "Yellow Submarine" that was first released in 1968, The other was "Won't You Be My Neighbor,?" the new documentary about Fred Rogers, the late host of the long-running, public broadcasting children's program "Mr. Rogers' Neighborhood." Both films, in their different ways, are eloquent statements of the importance of  love as the glue that holds humanity together. "Love and peace," in the 1960s phrase. This is not merely romantic, sexual love of boy meets girl or girl beckons boy, or boy desires boy or girl goes for girl, but love in the deeper sense of universal brotherhood, the "peace on earth and good will toward men" trumpeted in Christmas carols but known in all or nearly all religions and worldviews as a very important thing indeed.

In "Yellow Submarine," the world is brought to a frozen, deathly state enforced by brutal, fascistic forces known as the "Blue Meanies."  The cartoon Beatles save the world by reviving the frozen, lifeless band, which is an alternate form of the Beatles, that is, Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band, who then overpower the fascistic Meanies by singing the song, "All You Need is Love."  Now I must admit, there were times when I was younger when I found this song sophomoric, so utterly simplistic in the face of all the complex problems that beset humanity. "Sure, if you have enough to eat and a roof over your head and some measure of security, great to sing about love. How about the poor and the homeless?" But now, in this grim and fearful time when Trump is empowering the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency  as well as local police and sheriffs and others to be true "blue meanies" in ripping apart families and causing irreparable psychological damage not only to young children but to the rest of their families as well, creating trans-generational trauma that will create future problems for these families and others, all for what? For the "sacred," racist purpose of discouraging brown-skinned Latinos from thinking that American society might in any way be open to them. In this time, when Trump continues peddling misleading stereotypes and ranting about how America must be cleansed of unwanted foreigners and immigrants, the Beatles song rings very, VERY true as a very potent response to the sadistic policies and the apparent delight in cruelty of the Trump regime.

We do NOT have to be hateful and cruel toward immigrants, foreigners and refugees. We do NOT have to build walls and imprison people in institutional settings that are just modern versions of concentration camps. We could instead be loving and welcoming to the vast majority of immigrants and refugees who only wish to live in peace with us, to make a new life, to be part of this society.  In this spirit, I applaud all those who are taking up slogans like "Nation of Immigrants" and "Welcome Refugees" and reminding us of the words on the Statue of Liberty. We need that. We need.... love. That is the ultimate weapon against Trump and his minions, to declare that we want to get along, get together, stand together, work together, live together, co-exist and seek the best in one another and in others... and build bridges of common purpose, not walls of fear and hate and menace.

In "Won't You Be My Neighbor," we see that Fred Rogers was not just a simple TV personality, but a moral visionary deeply concerned with the healthy emotional development of children... and society in general. He was an ordained minister, the world was his flock, and he used the medium of television not for fame or profit but as  a form of ministry. He did not make a point of treating children with love and respect and telling them they were special in order to raise little self-centered narcissists, as has sometimes been charged, but because he wanted all people to feel safe and loved that they might grow up to seek a community of love and peace, not aggression and suspicion, one group against another, one race against another, one religion against another. Fred Rogers was rightly appalled by all the mass entertainment that glorifies guns, violence, speed and death, when what human beings really need... is love. Corny? Perhaps. Trite? You could say so. Simplistic? In a way, of course. But as we now live in a time where our country's president and government are enforcing policies reveling in cruelty, discord and aggression, totally lacking in love, except for the narcissistic cult of King Donald, an orange meanie in place of the blue ones prophesied in the Beatles film, Mr. Rogers' invitation to us all to be good neighbors is a very good thing indeed. This is not sappy. This is not a cliche. This is your life raft and survival manual.

We are struggling to stand upright against a disgusting, fecal barrage of hateful misinformation and confusing propaganda dished out daily by the Trump-Putin-Fox News axis that wants nothing more than to foment division and anger so that authoritarian forces can impose  "law and order" with guns and brutality. We should remember John Lennon's advice to never forget to "imagine" a better world, and to play positive "mind games" that can keep us sane and stable even if the world seems to be turning into a sewer. There have been terrible times in the world before, let us not forget, and one of the best things we can possibly do to survive this time and hopefully reach toward a better one in a near or distant future, is to try our best to love each other.

May the spirit of peace and love be with you. May you walk in agape, karuna, ahimsa and frith.

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