As a movie buff, and someone who loves good historical drama, I am in the full-on process of getting “psyched” for Lincoln. From knowing many who appreciate film- I am aware of those out there who have a huge grudge against Spielberg and his film making. But I can’t hold back my excitement for this upcoming film. Perhaps it is my past-life attachment to the American Civil War still lingering in my heart- but Abraham Lincoln inspires me much in the way he inspired Walt Whitman. Just watching the last trailer brought me to tears. Perhaps the Civil War is my Bill Buckner video in the American version of Fever Pitch with Drew Barrymore and Jimmy Fallon. I can’t help but love the scene when Mr. Fallon’s character sequesters himself in his apartment after his breakup in a continuous replay of the “Bill Buckner Incident”- being a Mets fan doesn’t help but make me love that scene!
As I prepare myself for Lincoln, I feel ready after many years, to watch the film Glory again. I can’t help but laugh at myself and my past history with this film. When I was in high school I used to listen to that soundtrack over and over again in my teen melancholy. In college, I would go to the Smithsonian and sit alone with the bronze sculpture by Augustus Saint- Gaudens, dedicated to the 54th Massachusetts Colored Regiment and its leader, Col. Robert Gould Shaw. This film directed by Edward Zwick, truly affected me. I’m sure there are a myriad of reasons as to why, including a past life attachment, but there are other reasons too.
One of the most emotionally difficult lessons for me to witness is when someone suffers simply for the sake of stubbornness and their need to be correct. It really gets me inside in a painful way- almost like physical pain. Perhaps it is because as a child growing up I used to always separate myself out from others just to prove a point. In Glory, Denzel Washington’s character, Private Trip, holds onto so much pain and anger due to his difficult life as a black man and slave. When he joins the 54th he is delivered an opportunity to reconcile some of his pain but it does not happen easily.
In the film Trip gets caught outside of camp and accused of desertion. Even though Trip knows that he was not deserting, he refuses to say anything about why he was not in camp. He would rather be flogged in front of his entire regiment than yield to his stubbornness. Who knows- maybe if he had mentioned it, it would not have made a bit of difference. But you just don’t know. After the flogging, Col. Shaw approached Morgan Freeman’s character and it is here that he learns of the truth. That Trip was outside of the camp looking for shoes because he was in so much physical pain due to a lack of supplies including proper boots.
When Trip’s shirt is removed for the flogging and they show the scars of his past beatings, I cannot help but feel the pain that not only this fictional character felt- but the pain of every culture that has endured racism’s sickness. The idea that we are not human and deserve to be treated less than human because of a race or culture is the pinnacle of egomania to me. The ego driven mind’s imperative mission is to continuously prove that we are separate from one another and it grasps at anything that will continue this delusion. For me, this film portrayed how innately we share in our humanity with one another and how in the end- we all will die and be buried together just like the 54th regiment was buried with their white counterparts. The pain we all feel is a place where we can meet and see how we are the same, rather than how we are “different.”
The compassion that grows within us is like a plant waiting to be watered. We water it in sharing the love it yields with the world around us. Even if it is to be shared at a distance- our inner landscape is a part of the greater good when we focus on our capacity to love and be loved. When Trip’s character stands before his brothers in the prayer circle and finds the courage to say to them that they are the only family he has ever known, he chooses to share in his capacity to love rather than the stubbornness that he carried around as his great perception divide. He chose to come together and live rather than starve his soul of the love he deeply deserved but believed he did not deserve.
The question to ask of ourselves here is- how do we divide ourselves from others and perpetuate the ego driven mind’s delusion of separation through stubbornness and holding onto our need to be right? How would our life change if we let go of our stubbornness and simply allowed rather than pushing and pulling away from our truth, our ability to love?