A Pity We're Not In Kansas Anymore

In my childhood I saw lots of adventure movies -- I still do. Some were new releases, some were old ones I saw on TV, that new miracle. I was too young to tell the age of movies so they all got jumbled in my mind, now my memory; besides, many were period films, which made them all blur in time. Some, I recall, showed the machine-gunning of hordes of dark-skinned "natives" by white soldiers, and that was supposed to be a good thing. The natives were barbaric. The whites were noble. I didn't question it.

I think of those movies when I consider Black Lives Matter because quite obviously in those movies where I blindly accepted what I would now call genocide, black (or any dark-skinned) lives did not matter. It's a human trait. Only the lives of your own kind matter. No one, black or white or any other shade, is excluded from this trait. And it's a trait that lingers. In the last Star Wars movie (which I enjoyed), the good guys cheer when they blow up an enemy fighter vessel. No one stops to think they've also ended a life.

Watching The Matrix movies at home with my mom, may she rest in peace, she asked, why are there so many blacks? She was used to movies where everyone, or nearly everyone, was white. Where movies reflected the false reality of Only White Lives Matter. This deliberate upsetting of the apple cart was puzzling to her. (Neo The One and his beloved Trinity were white; the apple cart didn't tumble that much.)

I grew up with those same assumptions. White was right and I was white, what could be the problem? But I was still young when those assumptions were challenged. And I was still young when I moved to the U.S. South during Jim Crow days. That was obviously wrong to me, and even to other nominally white immigrants like me but older. Not that they held no racist assumptions. But the harshly drawn racial lines of the South seemed cruel and demeaning.  And the anger, my God, the anger in those white Southern faces when the Civil Rights movement did something as soft as send a little black girl to a white school.

Over the long years of my American life that anger seemed to have abated. I live in the South again and I see no obvious signs of that old racial hostility. In fact, I've seen more of it in northern cities, and it's been mostly black folk giving white folk hostile glares. Except New York, of course, where everyone is too cool to glare. Here, at least outwardly, everyone is friendly to everyone. Southern charm and hospitality. I like it. It makes life gentle.

But there's anger out there and some folk, many in fact, are voting in anger. Anger that the old assumptions of those old movies seem to be collapsing. If I come back to movies instead of cold political facts it's because mythic storytelling is central to the human experience. And somewhere in our brain mythic stories and what some insist are facts fuse. For some, the fusion is visible (Harrison Ford: "It's a movie, Donald."). But mythic thinking is always there. 

The world -- never mind the universe -- is only one thing we can be certain of: complex. Difficult to understand. Even more difficult to navigate. It's tough being human, having consciousness, figuring shit out. How much easier, with a stroke of the ballot, to stop that terrible headache. The one in which Black Lives Matter. Unless, of course, you're black. In which case. . . but we don't want to think about that, do we? We don't want to think, period. It hurts. Maybe not as much as being machine gunned down or gassed, but we don't want to think about that either. We want to go back to the Golden Age when America, white America, was great. A long time ago in a galaxy far, far away.