Life adventures, inspiration and insight; shared in articles, advice, personal chats and pictures.
Have you ever watched a film that dramatizes a real event from the past and then you were so disturbed your sleep was fitful? I can see why education textbooks cloak history in the driest of presentations—dates and names and labels that might describe geological formations on distant moons instead of human experiences. I never felt any sense of drama in history classes—even in college when I was supposedly studying the precursors of the Vietnam War that was killing former classmates. Don’t go into too much detail about the genocide of indigenous tribes or ethnic or gender injustices. Ignore American blunders. We don’t want to upset our young people with raw, emotional truth or the fallibility of traditional presumptions. As a result, it’s not difficult to find citizens who have no clue on whose sweat and bones they’re standing or why they should care. So what?
The film that troubled me last night was VICEROY’S HOUSE, a British-Indian historical drama about Britain’s withdrawal from and division of India into different nations. A million people died as religious groups turned on one another while families (14 million people) were uprooted, and the enmity between India and Pakistan was begun. As I watched the film, the misery and carnage became more than tidy dark words on the white pages of a textbook. I saw actual photos. During the colonial years, setting one group against another served the agenda of occupiers in tightening control. Divisiveness was also a back story in Rwanda that led to their horrific massacre. In India, slashing an ancient country in two was merely a culminating move to secure British access to resources—done behind a lie that the plot was designed to help unify citizens.
So why did this history of colonial India bother me? Because it was about government manipulating the peoples—exacerbating differences, feeding lies, and fomenting hatred—to achieve the hidden agendas of the powerful. Sound familiar? It did to me—from our past and present. I can easily name populations being targeted around me—as can you. It’s a recurrent theme in American history and current events as it is elsewhere. One antidote to the ugliness appeared in yet another recent dramatization of a true story from the USA: THE BEST OF ENEMIES. Ann Atwater, a civil rights activist, and C.P. Ellis, a local Ku Klux Klan leader, were forced to work together to debate the desegregation of Durham, NC schools. They began interacting as individuals, as parents, earning begrudging mutual respect and support while they struggled to create a kinder society.
As corny as it sounds, the ability of the masses to realize the commonalities beneath their superficial differences and to stand together against being ill-used is the force that can release them—us—from our places in the yoke of servitude. Once we see the emperor not only has no clothes but also needs us as we need one another, we gain independence. We can resist “divide and conquer.” For whom do we wish “to secure the blessings of liberty?” For our masters? No. “To ourselves and our posterity.” We said as much in our Constitution.