Wanting Discovery

I am that person you see every day,

in a coffee shop – caprice with friends,

at the prom, nervous,

in every crowd shot of each rite of passage,

walking to school,

waiting nearby,

the one that popped out of a crowd with a smile,

genuine and as easily drawn to cry as allow laughter.

 

I am that young man, woman, person, entity, enigma, peer,

sad face, happy expression,

tumultuous personality drawn to the drama,

in knowing I am always questioning who I might be,

I am that one counting upon the moment,

when my world crashes,

crumbles, unravels, unwinds the very sustenance of sanity,

who knows you will be there to catch me,

comfort me, offer solace, provide direction, allow failure

to return to a successful rendezvous

with reality.

 

Because I know you care.

 

I am the child,

now the young adult filled with a vigor for pronouncement,

yes, it is my time, to cock, to strut the walk, to corral the essence of time,

with a wish to be recognized,

to be now, finally, in this moment, after years of fear and trepidation,

to be understood.

 

I am eighteen, seventeen, nineteen years old,

I am that question,

son, daughter, neighbor, friend,

Somali, Latina, American unrecognized, white kid down the block,

African-American, in all beauty, all encompassing,

I am that Asian, Russian, Icelandic, Austrian child,

I am that person – please, hold me, and guide me,

let me thrive.

 

I am that teenager, that might not yet realize,

howsoever society defines,

I am that Graduate.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler – A Review

Lee DanielsThe Butler – A Review

I threw on a little Billie Holiday in the background because I hoped it might be an appropriate mood setter for writing a review of Lee Daniels’ The Butler. You see, I’m a white guy talking about something very personal towards a black audience, an African-American topic if I may be so bold to suggest importance of genre in this ever-evolving politically correct society.

Last night, my wife and I sat in a theatre with around six other couples, and a few single participants – all of us white to view the film that has certainly brought Forrest Whittaker back to prominence as an exceptional actor. Now remember, he is one of the black, or African-American celebrities gracing the Hollywood stage these days. My wife asked after the movie whether or not all those people that voted against Obama might be pissed off with the ending. Seems we live in a different time than the march on Washington with MLK Jr. or the preaching of Malcolm X, before they were both gunned down. Billie Holiday sweet words in the background, “After you’ve gone, and left me crying.”

What is naturally cool about Lee Daniels’ The Butler is that the context shared was not from the perspective of a film-maker having no business talking about an issue outside of their own race. Please reference Crash, The Help, and 42, all films by white directors.  In this piece, the director is black and the story is personal, consulting reference points that spoke directly to his, to their own story. Throughout the film, we see effects of life on an African-American family dealing with the divide of living amongst a white way of thinking while teaching their own children the values of identity within their own race, during a time when the racial divide was dangerous, volatile and real. On a personal note, I experienced this time through television as a child, and it had a dramatic effect on my way of thinking. But I didn’t come home to it every night. I didn’t experience it while walking to my corner store. I didn’t feel the pain of divide in my white classroom growing up in a closeted Midwestern town as a child. In the film, we see firsthand the painful realities that Cecil Gaines, the butler has to endure when he returns home from the white man’s world to a confused son that is struggling to define his identity as he begins his own challenge to do what is right for his brethren, under the prolific vision of MLK Jr.’s & Malcolm X’s separate but inclusive philosophies.

Lee Daniels’ The Butler tells a story that we don’t want to hear in today’s feigningly forgiving society. His film speaks to the realities of our time, when we can elect an African-American president that despite his earnest values and attempts, receives nothing but ugly scrutiny and divide from a country that continues to ‘behind close doors’ slam shut the avenues of cultural openness that should be the basic tenet of this seeming ‘democracy’ in the United States. Instead, we continue, perhaps more quietly, to manifest our bigotry and sullen ignorance.

I applaud this film and do hope audiences continue to embrace its indictment of a society that will only begin to recognize its failings by looking each other in the eye and appreciating one another’s contributions as human beings rather than allowing the lens of racism to cloud their judgment. Listening to Otis Redding’s closing words, “Its been a long time coming … change has gotta come” I have to really wonder when that time might actually arrive.

Thom Amundsen

October 2013

Farm road in Champaign County, Illinois Españo...

Farm road in Champaign County, Illinois Español: Camino de granjas en Champaign County, Illinois (Photo credit: Wikipedia)