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Posts Tagged ‘MISSISSIPPI’

GREEN BOOK: A MOVIE WITH A TIMELESS MESSAGE

In Entertainment, History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 12, 2020 at 12:07 am

Every year, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences hosts its Academy Awards ceremony, better known as “Oscar Night.”

Each year, Academy members make their choices for such categories as Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Actress, Best Supporting Actor and Actress.

And each year, before those selections are announced at the ceremony, there is a huge buildup of anticipation among Americans over which person or movie should win acclaim.

Then that year’s selections are quickly forgotten.

But some movies should not be quickly forgotten. Among these: Green Book, which won the Oscar for Best Picture at the 91st annual Academy Awards in 2019.

Green Book is based on the true story of a concert tour by a black classical and jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and his driver and bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga. Mahershala Ali plays Shirley and Viggo Mortensen plays Vallelonga.

The two men are polar opposites: Shirley is cultured and eloquent; Vallelonga is streetwise and volatile. Shirley is used to dealing with the cream of New York society. Vallelonga is used to dealing with its dregs—as a nightclub bouncer. 

Mahershala Ali (29953410761).jpg

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley

Gordon Correll [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

When his nightclub closes for renovations, he responds to an ad by Shirley for a driver for his eight-week concert tour through the Midwest and Deep South.

This is 1962, a time when a black Air Force veteran, James Meredith, must be given protection by deputy U.S. marshals when he enters the segregated University of Mississippi. White and black “Freedom Riders” are canvassing the South, sitting at segregated lunch counters and often being attacked by members of the Ku Klux Klan and equally racist Southern police.

In fact, the title of the movie—Green Book—is derived from a travel guide written for blacks venturing into the Deep South: The Negro Motorist Green Book. Written by Victor Hugo Green, its purpose is to help blacks find motels and restaurants that will accept them.

And as Shirley and Vallelonga make their odyssey through the South, they find themselves staying at separate hotels—and sometimes together, after Vallelonga slips Shirley into his own room.

Green Book (2018 poster).png

An AV Film review called Green Book “a kind of comforting liberal fantasy, a #NotAllRacists trifle that suggests that our deep, festering divisions can be sutured through some quality time on the open road, resolving differences over a bucket of KFC.”

Not so. It took far more than a bucket of KFC to cement the friendship between Shirley and Vallelonga.

At the start of the movie, Vallelonga throws away a glass after a black construction worker drinks from it. But during his tour of the South, he becomes increasingly sympathetic to the plight suffered by Shirley—and other blacks forced to daily endure a series of humiliations.

Viggo Mortensen Cannes 2016.jpg

Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga

Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

According to television critic Rebecca Theodore-Vachon: “Green Book is a feel-good movie. It doesn’t really require a lot of critical thinking or self-analysis. You know, people walk out of the movie feeling that, oh, well, racism is over, we’re good.”

Actually, the film makes clear that some people will always be racists. Thus, Shirley finds himself repeatedly forced to eat in the segregated rooms of the hotels where he’s to play concerts. And he’s almost murdered by a group of racists when he makes the mistake of going into a whites’ only bar. He survives only because Vallelonga arrives in time to rescue him.

And Shirley proves just as great a friend to Vallelonga. He introduces the semi-literate bouncer to the power of the written word by helping him craft articulate, heartfelt letters to his wife.

Toward the end of the movie, Vallelonga and Shirley are pulled over by a Mississippi police officer. Shirley’s “crime”: Being black—and out at night. When the officer insults Vallelonga, Tony punches him—and he and Shirley wind up in jail.  

Shirley asks for permission to call his “lawyer”—and the man he dials is Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Kennedy, in turn, calls Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. Barnett is already having his share of troubles with the Kennedys, and he orders the police: Let those men go—now! 

This scene underscores the importance of electing people who will stand against injustice. Watching the release of Vallelonga and Shirley, it’s impossible to imagine the Trump administration intervening in such a manner.

At the end of the movie, Shirley visits Vallelonga’s home—where he’s warmly received by Tony and his family. The film’s end credits reveal that the two men remained friends until they died, within months of each other, in 2013.

In 1950, a Western called Broken Arrow-–starring James Stewart as Tom Jeffords and Jeff Chandler as Cochise—told the true story of a friendship between a white man and an Apache. For many Americans, this came as a revelation.

After decades of seeing Indians depicted as bloodthirsty savages, audiences saw that there were those—among red men and white men—who could rise above prejudice and see each other as worthy of respect.

The lesson of Green Book is exactly the same. And it’s needed now more than ever.

“GREEN BOOK” AND ITS TIMELY MESSAGE

In History, Law, Law Enforcement, Politics, Social commentary on February 26, 2019 at 12:07 am

“The [Oscar] winners included Regina King, Rami Malek, Alfonso Cuaron, Spike Lee—a group of people from very different backgrounds representing films that tell nuanced stories about diverse experiences. 

“And then the top honor is given to a film that many people have criticized for being an overly simplistic story about race told from the perspective of a white savior.”

So argued Ari Shapiro, a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR’s award-winning news magazine. He made his comments the day after Green Book won the Oscar for Best Picture at the 91st annual Academy Awards. 

Green Book is a 2018 biographical drama set in the Deep South of 1962. It’s based on the true story of a concert tour by a black classical and jazz pianist, Don Shirley, and his driver and bodyguard, Tony Vallelonga.  Mahershala Ali plays Shirley and Viggo Mortensen plays Vallelonga.

The two men are polar opposites: Shirley is cultured and eloquent; Vallelonga is streetwise and volatile. Shirley is used to dealing with the cream of New York society. Vallelonga is used to dealing with its dregs—as a nightclub bouncer. 

Mahershala Ali (29953410761).jpg

Mahershala Ali as Don Shirley

Gordon Correll [CC BY-SA 2.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D

When his nightclub closes for renovations, he responds to an ad by Shirley for a driver for his eight-week concert tour through the Midwest and Deep South.

This is 1962, a time when a black Air Force veteran, James Meredith, must be given protection by deputy U.S. marshals when he enters the segregated University of Mississippi. White and black “Freedom Riders” are canvassing the South, sitting at segregated lunch counters and often being attacked by members of the Ku Klux Klan and equally racist Southern police.

In fact, the title of the movie—Green Book—is derived from a travel guide written for blacks venturing into the Deep South: The Negro Motorist Green Book. Written by Victor Hugo Green, its purpose is to help blacks find motels and restaurants that will accept them.

And as Shirley and Vallelonga make their odyssey through the South, they find themselves staying at separate hotels—and sometimes together, after Vallelonga slips Shirley into his own room.

Green Book (2018 poster).png

An AV Film review called Green Book “a kind of comforting liberal fantasy, a #NotAllRacists trifle that suggests that our deep, festering divisions can be sutured through some quality time on the open road, resolving differences over a bucket of KFC.” 

At the start of the movie, Vallelonga throws away a glass after a black construction worker drinks from it. But during his tour of the South, he becomes increasingly sympathetic to the plight suffered by Shirley—and other blacks forced to daily endure a series of humiliations.

Viggo Mortensen Cannes 2016.jpg

Viggo Mortensen as Tony Vallelonga

Georges Biard [CC BY-SA 3.0 (https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)%5D

According to television critic Rebecca Theodore-Vachon: “Green Book is a feel-good movie. It doesn’t really require a lot of critical thinking or self-analysis. You know, people walk out t of the movie feeling that, oh, well, racism is over, we’re good. So I think those are the things that are going on.”

Actually, the film makes clear that some people will always be racists. Thus, Shirley finds himself repeatedly forced to eat in the segregated rooms of the hotels where he’s to play concerts. And he’s almost murdered by a group of racists when he makes the mistake of going into a whites’ only bar. He survives only because Vallelonga arrives in time to rescue him.

And Shirley proves just as great a friend to Vallelonga. He introduces the semi-literate bouncer to the power of the written word by helping him craft articulate, heartfelt letters to his wife.

Toward the end of the movie, Vallelonga and Shirley are pulled over by a Mississippi police officer. Shirley’s “crime”: Being black—and out at night. When the officer insults Vallelonga, Tony punches him—and he and Shirley wind up in jail.  

Shirley asks for permission to call his “lawyer”—and the man he dials is Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy.

Kennedy, in turn, calls Mississippi Governor Ross Barnett. Barnett is already having his share of troubles with the Kennedys, and he orders the police: Let those men go—now! 

This scene underscores the importance of electing people who will stand against injustice. Watching the release of Vallelonga and Shirley, it’s impossible to imagine the Trump administration intervening in such a manner.

At the end of the movie, Shirley visits Vallelonga’s home—where he’s warmly received by Tony and his family. The film’s end credits reveal that the two men remained friends until they died, within months of each other, in 2013.

In 1950, a Western called Broken Arrow-–starring James Stewart as Tom Jeffords and Jeff Chandler as Cochise—told the true story of a friendship between a white man and an Apache. For many Americans, this came as a revelation.

After decades of seeing Indians depicted as bloodthirsty savages, audiences saw that there were those—among red men and white men—who could rise above prejudice and see each other as worthy of respect.

The lesson of Green Book is exactly the same. And it’s needed now more than ever.

SCIENCE VS. SUPERSTITION

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on April 22, 2013 at 12:01 am

Bureaucracies are not made up of robot-like machines. They are comprised of flesh-and-blood men and women.

That includes even the most important bureaucracies–such as those of the House, Senate and White House.

And as much as Americans like to believe their elected leaders always behave rationally and intelligently, they don’t. In fact, they can’t.

In a democracy, those who hold public office reflect the values of those who sent them there.

Consider the following:

On the eve of the 2012 Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, a Public Policy Poll survey revealed a series of startling truths about the voters in those states.

Among the Republican voters of Alabama:

  • Only 26 percent believe in evolution.
  • Sixty percent don’t believe in it.
  • Thirteen percent aren’t sure about it.
  • Twenty-one percent still think interracial marriage should be illegal.
  • Twelve percent aren’t sure whether it should be.
  • Forty-five percent believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
  • Fourteen percent think he’s a Christian–although he’s always attended a Christian church.
    •Forty-one percent aren’t sure.

Among Republican voters in Mississippi:

  • Only 22 percent believe in evolution.
  • Eleven percent aren’t sure.
  • Fifty-four percent think interracial marriage should be legal.
  • Twenty-nine percent believe it shouldn’t be.
  • Seventeen percent aren’t sure.
  • Fifty-two percent think President Obama is a Muslim.
  • Only 12 percent think he’s a Christian.

These are among the voters who vilified a black, Harvard-educated, rationalist Obama–first as a Presidential candidate, and then as President.

And they aren’t going to change. It’s easier–and more comforting–to believe we are fallen angels instead of risen apes.

Just as it was easier for Germans in 1920s Germany to deny they had been defeated on the battlefields of World War 1.

It was far more satisfying to believe–and assert–that they had been “stabbed in the back” by Jews and “slackers” and Communists at home. Out of this denial of reality came the Final Solution.

Now, fast-forward to the 21st century.

The winter of 2011-2012 was the 4th warmest winter on record, behind 2000, 1999, and 1992. Winter temperatures have increased by about 1.7°F per century.

Despite ever-mounting evidence that global warming is indeed a reality, millions of right-wing voters refuse to accept it. The largest portion of these are concentrated in the South.

In April, 2010, America suffered its worst oil-spill disaster. For the next three months, 4.9 million barrels worth of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico from a BP oil rig.

BP tried one oil-capping method after another–and the country feared that nothing might work. Those who had cheered on Sarah Palin in her chant of “Drill, baby, drill” during the 2008 Presidential race suddenly fell silent.

The second anniversary of America’s worst environmental disaster–April 20–is fast approaching.

And the country’s oil- and coal-producing conglomerates are flooding the airwaves with billions of dollars’ worth of lying propaganda.

“Clean coal” ads promise that America can meet its needs for energy and protect the environment. These ads never mention that the technologies for supposedly doing this are still in the experimental stage.

But most of the people watching these ads take them at face value. They want to believe they can have all the cheap gas they can get–and not feel guilty about destroying the world for their children.

Once again, millions of Americans–including those who live in the still-damaged Gulf of Mexico–are loudly demanding that President Obama “unleash America’s energy resources.”

President Obama is easily one of the best-educated men to occupy the White House. Like John F. Kennedy, he believes in rationalilty as a problem-solving tool.

But smarts at the top cannot make up for irrationality at the bottom.

During the 2008 Presidential race, Obama made a near-fatal mistake: He said that many Americans “cling to their guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The fact that this was–and remains–absolutely true did not help Obama.  In fact, it threatened to cost him the election.

When an educated leader who believes in rationality must persuade a largely uneducated and irrational electorate, he must reshape his message accordingly.

That strategy must be the product of rational planning.  But the arguments aimed at such an audience must appeal to emotions rather than reason.

Republicans learned the lessons of emotion-driven politics decades ago.  Consider the words they routinely use to describe their political opponents:

Liberals…radicals…traitors…subversives…terrorists…socialists…communists.

In Mein Kampf–“My Struggle”–Adolf Hitler outlined his principles for the effective use of propaganda:

“…All effective propaganda must be confined to a few basic essentials and those must be expressed as far as possible in sterotyped forumulas.

“Those slogans should be persistently repeated until the very last individual has come to grasp the idea that has been put forward.”

Rationalistic politicians like Barack Obama believe they can attain their goals by appealing to the rationality of voters.  They forget–or ignore–the bitter truth that most people decide with their emotions, not with their intellect.

Until Obama and other Democrats learn this invaluable lesson–and start applying it–they will continue to lose to their Republican enemies.

IRRATIONAL? NO PROBLEM

In Bureaucracy, History, Politics on March 16, 2012 at 2:09 am

Bureaucracies are not made up of robot-like machines.  They are comprised of flesh-and-blood men and women.

That includes even the most important bureaucracies–such as those of the House, Senate and White House.

And as much as Americans like to believe their elected leaders always behave rationally and intelligently, they don’t.  In fact, they can’t.

In a democracy, those who hold public office reflect the values of those who sent them there.

Consider the following:

On the eve of the 2012 Republican primaries in Alabama and Mississippi, a Public Policy Poll survey revealed a series of startling  truths about the voters in those states.

Among the Republican voters of Alabama:

  • Only 26 percent believe in evolution.
  • Sixty percent don’t believe in it.
  • Thirteen percent aren’t sure about it.
  • Twenty-one percent still think interracial marriage should be illegal.
  • Twelve percent aren’t sure whether it should be.
  • Forty-five percent believe President Barack Obama is a Muslim.
  • Fourteen percent think he’s a Christian–although he’s always attended a Christian church.
  • Forty-one percent aren’t sure.

Among Republican voters in Mississippi:

  • Only 22 percent believe in evolution.
  • Eleven percent aren’t sure.
  • Fifty-four percent think interracial marriage should be legal.
  • Twenty-nine percent believe it shouldn’t be.
  • Seventeen percent aren’t sure.
  • Fifty-two percent think President Obama is a Muslim.
  • Only 12 percent think he’s a Christian.

These are among the voters who vilified a black, Harvard-educated, rationalist Obama–first as a Presidential candidate, and then as President.

And they aren’t going to change.  It’s easier–and more comforting–to believe we are fallen angels instead of risen apes.

Just as it was easier for Germans in 1920s Germany to deny they had been defeated on the battlefields of World War 1.

It was far more satisfying to believe–and assert–that they had been “stabbed in the back” by “Jews and Communists” at home.  Out of this denial of reality came the Final Solution.

Now, fast-forward to the 21st century.

The winter of 2011-2012 was the 4th warmest winter on record, behind 2000, 1999, and 1992. Winter temperatures have increased by about 1.7°F per century.

Despite ever-mounting evidence that global warming is indeed a reality, millions of right-wing voters refuse to accept it.  The largest portion of these are concentrated in the South.

In April, 2010, America suffered its worst oil-spill disaster.  For the next three months, 4.9 million barrels worth of crude oil poured into the Gulf of Mexico from a BP oil rig.

BP tried one oil-capping method after another–and the country feared that nothing might work.  Those who had cheered on Sarah Palin in her chant of “Drill, baby, drill” during the 2008 Presidential race suddenly fell silent.

The second anniversary of America’s worst environmental disaster–April 20–is fast approaching.

And the country’s oil- and coal-producing conglomerates are flooding the airwaves with billions of dollars’ worth of lying propaganda.

“Clean coal” ads promise that America can meet its needs for energy and protect the environment.  These ads never mention that the technologies for supposedly doing this are still in the experimental stage.

But most of the people watching these ads take them at face falue.  They want to believe they can have all the cheap gas they can get–and not feel guilty about destroying the world for their children.

Once again, millions of Americans–including those who live in the still-damaged Gulf of Mexico–are demanding that President Obama “unleash America’s energy resources.”

President Obama is easily one of the best-educated men to occupy the White House.  Like John F. Kennedy, he believes in rationality as a problem-solving tool.

But smarts at the top cannot make up for irrationality at the bottom.

During the 2008 Presidential race, Obama made a near-fatal mistake.  He said that many Americans “cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

The fact that this was–and remains–absolutely true did not help Obama.  In fact, it threatened to cost him the election.

No doubt Obama knows there are millions of Americans who will rabidly hate him until he leaves office.  And many will hate him long afterward.

But he may believe this is another problem that lends itself to rational solutions.  It isn’t.

If he’s to win re-election, he’ll have to pursue a strategy that aims to:

  • Neutralize some portion of those voters who hate him–that is, persuade them to sit out the election; and
  • Persuade independents to vote for him.

The strategy must be the product of rational planning.  But the arguments aimed at these audiences must appeal to emotions rather than reason.

Emotions such as greed, fear and pride.

Obama will do it–he wants another four years in office.  But he will hate himself for doing so.

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