Mudbound. It has been a long while since I have experienced a film of this power. Still trembling with rage at the vileness humanity is capable of. And at the supportive and enabling role the country I love has played in some of the most inexcusable and bleakest vileness.
Racism. Class. PTSD. Loveless marriage. A quadrilogy of undercurrents sliding Mudbound’s narratives along, with one standing above the others.
I think of the hypocrisies we have committed so many times in sending those of a class, those of a race off to war, to make us proud and lift the shining light of freedom up high…and upon return...yank a shroud, a social Faraday cage, a muzzle over them. Disposable heroes. The convenience of benefiting from heroism minus the inconvenience of having to acknowledge it.
Mudbound covers much ground in multiple voices as it slogs us through the farm of a post-WWII Mississippi farmstead and the two families who may live on the same land, but who live vastly different lives. Tragedy all around, with little moments of connection and tiny flickers of hope.
This is what I do not understand: I am a thinking person. And I am a feeling person. Maybe more so than some and less so than others. But a combination of those two things is what makes most of us human.
To see this film and the roots of human vileness and to realize A) this is fictional, but it is - and I concede no ground on this point - the attitudes and the actions taken are true to what have been documented as horrific reality. Reality. Again and again and again.
And the racism shown in this is brutal, bleak, and out in the open. But when I look at the roots of what drives that hatred, that ability to look at another person based on their skin color and see them not as a child of God - and therefore a brother or sister to yourself - then I have to think this. And then say it aloud:
Could this happen again?
Is this happening again?
What are the thoughts that lead to the attitudes that lead to the words that lead to the actions that lead us down this road the wrong way?
I want to be kind. And loving. And accepting.
I want to dialogue. I hold my right and privilege to converse with anyone, without agenda, as sacred.
When I look at the roads that lead us to some of those darkest places in our past, then I have to look at the mirror, gather those I care about close and am privileged to help raise and learn from,
and say to those in power, or those seeking power:
I will fight to keep those who wax nostalgic for those ‘simpler times,’
those who use euphemisms to minimize and shrug off the hard parts of the past,
those who who do not condemn others who are blatant and unapologetic in their racism,
those who gleefully, wink-wink and backslap their way around the language and nuances of the behaviors that LED to the roots of lynchings, Jim Crow, and a fascist and false Christianity…
to those fitting the above who are IN POWER OR SEEKING POWER, I oppose you. I have a tiny voice, but it can be shrill and occasionally harmonize with a choir. A choir without white robes or bedsheets on heads.
And if it’s within my power, I will do whatever small part I can to get you OUT of power, or prevent you from GAINING power.
I am speaking to those seeking power and control. I also believe in the capacity to change. I believe in redemption and trying to show a better way. And that is done, most frequently and most successfully, through relationships and dialogue, not guilt-mongering, public shaming, and feel-good callout memes. For ordinary people with no thirst for power or control, that is what I can give. Conversation, an ear, a good discussion and ideally open hearts.
But for those in power - and look. Look! There’s no need to name names to identify who they are. Look at their words and actions. Look at those who separate everything into completely binary worlds: Us versus Them. Evil versus Good. The idea that if you speak out against your leaders, you’re speaking out against your country, your armed forces, your allegiance as a citizen.
False. As a joyful citizen of this wonderful country in so many ways, I want it to be a world that is joyful for all. That is respectful to and for all. A world that is not slowly slipping down a muddy path where men with stained white sheets on their ridiculous fucking heads yank a black man out of bed in the dark of night and torture him brutally for looking at a white woman wrong.
Those ACTS don’t happen overnight. The roots to those acts are born in the hearts and minds of every person. And we either move forward and away from that. Or we go back. There is no standing still.
It’s a cliche, but let’s just ask this anyway. Not rhetorically. WWJD? What WOULD Jesus do?
Talk tax cuts and upping military spending with men in suits?
Or walk across a muddy field to share a meal with a farm family?
I don’t know. I can’t speak for him. Just like nobody else can. But what is consistent with what we know about him? How does the picture we are painted of Jesus match up with many of those in power?
Watch Mudbound. Netflix streaming. Maybe not with your young children yet. Not yet. Or do. The violent and false words of those in power are more disturbing to me for our children to hear than the the violent and true records of atrocities that have actually been committed. And are in danger of being committed with ever increasing frequency.
And remember. There is a time to be kind. And there is a time to stand up and fight. They are both powerful tools - not weapons, tools - to use. So good luck on using them. See y’all around.