Is This Really Liberal Thinking?

Last night I had a conversation with two people I have tremendous respect for, the subject quickly turned to politics, and I openly expressed my dislike of our current state of affairs. I spoke of my dismay with our current POTUS’s views and motives, and the dialogue took an icy turn to defense and validation. The three of us bandied back and forth for many minutes about the pros and cons of what we believed in earnest. The positive takeaway from the conversation is the three of us finished forty five minutes later, and together walked out of the room, smiling, and said good bye for the night. I think it is important to recognize that people can have honest, often animated conversations that include their views, without the fear of character assassination afterward. That was my takeaway from yesterday’s debate with two people whose opinion I value.

A concern that evolved from our dialogue is their personal anxiety with the inability to be open about their views around their own community, specifically the school they attend. I’ve heard this conversation before, and the tone has been similar in that there is a general fear with expressing one’s political views no matter the side that someone carries or believes, because someone on the other side is always going to be waiting to pounce with wrath and indignation. The subject of a divisive culture is prevalent in our American society today, and both sides of the argument are easily persuaded to lay the blame for this current mindset upon the other, rather than step back for a minute and process their own contribution.

In a democratic society, the true definition of democracy is to suggest an open debate always exists that merits argument and opinion from all sides. Democracy itself is dependent upon actions that inherently support social equality. I wonder if anyone can look about their own personal world beyond their backyard and see this belief in action. I’m afraid not. Instead we are talking about walls, and bans, and now steadfast agreements of a scorned party to vote down another party’s proposals in a unified attempt to recreate what we as a people have witnessed for decades upon decades of political ignorance. I’m afraid putting a narcissistic, megalomaniac into a position of power will not change things anytime soon. In fact, even if I could be in complete agreement with any of the current administration’s  proposals, which I am not, I just cannot believe that ‘the people’ will rise to support those ideals in a complete and unified manner any time too soon. There is far too much anger in people’s minds right now, and it is evident first, in the children.

We live in a pretend away society. The sort that would suggest if we don’t talk about it, then the repercussions will not impact us directly. Until it does, when the ramifications of our society begin to knock on our front door. In the meantime, let’s sit in sidewalk cafes and debate the subject until we are lacking oxygen due to vitriolic fuels slapped back and forth between good souls trying to justify and rationalize their own way of thinking. I sat in that very coffeeshop this morning, in between two paired conversations, where one side lauded the efforts of our current administration, while the other decried the present swing of governmental bureaucracy. If the two pair had literally gotten up and walked through each other they would have magically disappeared as their parallel universe would have quietly combusted with little fanfare.

Growing up as a child I had a certain advantage. I was raised in a divisive household, a political separatist movement. My mother and father had differing views, and for most of my childhood and well into my teens, and later adult life they proudly canceled each other out at the ballot box. Here’s the important thing to remember though. No matter how differing their views were, and there certainly were heated debates over the years, they at the end of the day, had respect for one another’s viewpoint. So me, I learned how to weigh both sides without forgetting that people could actually get along together, quite well actually with differing opinions.

How do we possibly get started with our current state of affairs? I think our first objective is to recognize that liberal or conservative thinking do and will cancel each other out forever. That’s not the issue. I think the solution exists elsewhere and somehow we as a society need to recognize that path, together.



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)