Friday, August 21, 2009
Land of Some Free . . .
I was thinking this evening about a movie that Kevin and I are going to go see this weekend, titled "District 9." It is a sci-fi movie about how a sick and dying group of aliens that came into the earth's atmosphere are forced to live in a government camp, subject to cruelty and tyranny. The writer and director, Neill Blomkamp, whom I have heard has lived in South Africa, crafted this piece to act as a bit of a representation on what he had witnessed with apartheid. When Kevin and I first heard about this film we got very excited. It looks to be quite a new and interesting take on your usual sci-fi, alien flick. This one seems to not only be very original and creative, but also strikingly poignant. Wow, an alien movie that could be a piece of social commentary? Now that intrigues me!
Aside from my typical movie-going giddiness, I'm also having a difficult time shoving away the thoughts of how honest of a portrait this movie really is, according to the actions of society throughout the course of history. Why is it that some group of people must always be oppressed in our country or in others? What is it about human nature that causes such disgust for those that are different? Oppression has been present since the beginning of time. Its filthy, hateful, unforgiving fists have pounded down the rights of so many factions that were merely looking for their equal space amidst the chaos. Jews, African-Americans, Native Americans, Latin Americans . . . the list goes on and on. At some point in history I believe every group has been oppressed in some form or another. These oppressions have been built on different scales, using different means, but the purpose is still the same -- to stamp out what we don't understand, to destroy what we fear.
Fear is a very powerful weapon. I say weapon because it is just that: "1 : something (as a club, knife, or gun) used to injure, defeat, or destroy." (Merriam-Webster Dictionary). All of the most evil atrocities in our past and present can be traced to fear. Fear of war, fear of famine, fear of loss of power, fear of religion, fear of progression. And in that fear people have wept, mourned, hurt, angered, suppressed, offended, tossed aside, and scorned. All in the name of "misunderstanding."
How many people must be hurt or killed or stripped of their rights as a human being, as a child of God, all for the fear that our little, few-streets-sized world will be changed? How many freedoms and inherent human values will be crushed with vile bigotry, all for the fear that we may have to broaden our minds past the small world we've always known?
My spirit mourns for the darkness that so many people have no choice but to survive under. I have no idea what it is like to try to overcome obstacles that have always and will always be there to assure that your life and worth in this world are limited. I have only dealt with discrimination on a very small scale. I am one of the luckier ones. But there are so many that are not.
It is not only racial groups that have been oppressed, but also groups of people with a differing ideology, theology, or simply a different lifestyle. Christians, Muslims, atheists, the disabled, hippies, homosexuals. There is no one oppression that is more contemptible than the other. To restrict the intrinsic rights of a human being is to rape a person of their dignity and worth, declaring yourself as the bearer of godly powers and vision.
Like me, when you think of oppressors you probably think of various world leaders or figures, such as Hitler, Stalin, or Castro. People such as this are most definitely the most attainable symbols of how power corrupts. But it is not only the well-known that do the oppressing. It is in us all. That warped part of us, that quietly prowls in the deepest, darkest parts of our souls, dribbles out in our prejudices, our stereotypes, and our put-downs. We are all born with the ability to create hatred toward ourself or others. But it is our choice what validity we heed to these emotions. Most of us try to be good people -- to treat others with kindness and respect. But sometimes we don't see that what we are doing is hurting others and impeding their rights to live and choose freely.
There is so much in the news right now regarding an individual's freedoms. One side feels that their's are being taken away, while the other side feels that they are trying to instead give rights to those without. It all depends upon your perspective, where you're coming from, and where you're trying to go. And sometimes while on the path to retrieve your own rights, you may take away someone else's.
We cannot force our views upon others or the world at large. We cannot expect all to live and believe as we do. And we cannot use fear to dismantle the beautifully tolerant principle of equality. All are equal in the eyes of God. All deserve to be loved, respected, and accepted. Each person deserves to be happy, whether or not we agree with them. Whether or not we understand them. It is not relevant nor necessary for us to "get them" in order for them to be treated with the same allowances that we have.
Let us always be mindful of those that are viewed as lesser than, or guilty, or "unnatural." It is precisely those that we may be most at-fault for ignoring or castigating. It is precisely those that may need us the most.