Our Better Angels

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“We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies.
Though passion may have strained, it must not break
our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell
when again touched, as surely they will be,
by the better angels of our nature.”

President Abraham Lincoln First Inaugural Address,
Washington DC, March 1861

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∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

Back in the Fall of 2015 I had read some rumors and articles that one of my all-time favorite American, historical stories was being made into film. I was thrilled, elated this true event was finally making a screen-write then into full production. This true story is set during the 1970’s Civil Rights Movement throughout the old South, but for these two main characters the movie would begin exactly where it all began, Durham, North Carolina, 1971.

I thought about titling this blog-post Our Better Virtues, but decided against because Lincoln’s quote was just too spot on and appropriate for this subject and film. Although, “Virtues” would have inferred my own meaning, intention, and desires for human kind around the world. After all, every single living human on this planet has some virtues. They just have to choose to find them, bestow them liberally, and nurture as well as grow them. Oh well, “Our Better Angels” gets the point across just fine. 😉

I have blogged here several times about C.P. Ellis and Ann Atwater and the volatile, appalling events they both found themselves. In a February 2016 blog-post I wrote about expanding sympathy into deep empathy and how the two feelings, behaviors are actually quite different. The Golden Rule, “Do unto others” and so on, falls short of deep, impactful empathy. Real empathy requires much more than being self-centered or focused on one’s self. It requires putting yourself into their life, their shoes, and metaphorically (or literally?) walking in them 100-miles or more. It does not involve yourself.

This 2019 film, The Best of Enemies, starring Taraji P. Henson (as Ann Atwater) and Sam Rockwell (as C.P. Ellis), tells that story about finding and giving common, deep empathy for your fellow neighbor, your fellow human being. I finally had the opportunity to watch it and not soon enough! Here is one of the trailers:

Sadly and disappointingly critical reviews of the film have been average and unkind if not neutrally bland. Therefore, I am writing my own reviews and commentary everywhere I can. Why? Because I feel strongly it is important to point out a few things about historical, time-period films to less discerning audiences regarding authentic history, particularly scholarly history that seeks to gather all possible data, evidence, sources, and narratives… no matter their viewpoint. Now, for my personal review of the film, The Best of Enemies:

I imagine this film is horribly underrated and unappreciated by the majority of cinematic fans and specific “cultural” groups. BUT movie reviews will never change what Ann Atwater changed in North Carolina and the ripple-effects she and C.P. Ellis began afterwards during and for the Civil Rights in the 1970’s.

The fact that this film briefly portrays in two short hours what was accomplished in real life between Bill Riddick, Howard Clement, C.P. Ellis, and Ann Atwater—not to mention the Black community in Durham, NC—must be remembered. No matter what movie critics think about the film, and honestly, their trivial criticisms about its direction or production or script or acting do it injustice. Pffffft.

Real, accurate, authentic history is near impossible to translate/transcribe onto the silver-screen in a measly 2-hours or less. This unwinnable cinematic anomaly against movie producers, film-writers, film-budgets, then movie audiences and critics, should always be seriously considered when producing and releasing raw, historically accurate, socially-politically CORRECT and LEGALLY RIGHT Movements as the American Civil Rights, or other highly controversial subjects as the Holocaust or the U.S.’s 18th – 19th century treatment, extermination, and resettlement of Native American Indian tribes. Typically 2-hours or less will NEVER do these historical time-period subjects full justice.

Hence, when all considered, including reading and deciding the real worth/value of this film’s many bland or negative short-sighted or undeserved reviews, just remember this…

2-hours will NEVER be able to tell the full astonishing, real-life true story and relationship about and between Ann Atwater and C.P. Ellis… which required and evolved over three decades! Ignore movie critics, remember the core and marrow of what the film is telling, portraying!

5-stars and more, every time, every day!

Did I emphasize 2-hours enough? 😜

Seriously though, I hope you will make the time to watch, appreciate, and support these fine altruistic, humanitarian films like this one and the stories they tell. They will at least introduce to you a starting point to go further, dig deeper into the entire contextual narrative, facts, plausible facts, and plausible probabilities despite there often being degrees of cinematic license taken to appease corporate profits, severe time-constraints, and/or film productions at the expense of truth and full historical accuracy. Please keep this in mind.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

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Hope for Humanity?

As all of you can gather from my previous blog-post, and comments on other’s blogs about this last weekends multiple mass shootings and massacres, I was much more effected by them than in others past. That is not at all to say that the long, long list of all our country’s prior mass shootings, going as far back as 1966 at the University of Texas, Austin tower massacre, are any less crushing to me. They are! Every single fatality, every single wounded survivor scarred, perhaps permanently maimed, and those families having to deal with the life-altering aftermath and long, long, road of recovery, are all remembered and they all deeply effect me. This past weekend was especially gut-ripping heart-piercing because of how quickly they occurred in about one week. That is extremely disturbing for me. Actually, beyond disturbing.

But as luck would have it, in a small way, I was fortunate to catch last night on PBS American Experience their excellent documentary about Woodstock 1969. How timely it was. However, as I watched, my own memories of what took place at Woodstock were clouded, not like this show. It was different in some/many ways compared to what these actual attendees, band members, event coordinators, and journalists (actually there the entire 3½ days) interviewed and they interviewing fans, filming, photographing were saying in 1969 and was now made into this documentary. Clearly, I had been shown and told a distorted version and reports about the festival from what I now suspected were anti-Woodstock people, anti-Hippie people, anti-freedom people, pro-Warring people, all of whom would’ve had me believe their perceptions. Their presupposed conjectures while, ironically, not even there or within 5-miles of the ’69 festival. Imagine that.

I was determined to watch every single second of Woodstock: Three Days that Defined A Generation! Why? Because I wanted to know with all the major potential disasters I was foreseeing, I had to know the end results, about the injuries, the utter failures, Mob-panics turned into sheer chaos to survive, and therefore, probable casualties/deaths. What was going to happen and how bad was this going to end?

∼ ∼ ∼ § ∼ ∼ ∼

If any of you plan to watch it—and I highly recommend you do—then I won’t give too many spoilers. But there were two segments I found deeply profound, spiritual in the sense that had one been there, in those days and nights, by early Sunday you would have known beyond any doubt… you were part of something incredibly monumental, uplifting, and proof of what a half-million or so decent men, women, young boys and girls, and children, toddlers and babies, were all capable of doing, having received, and gave, helping… because it was just the decent thing to do. All these human virtues were undeniable, unavoidable as told by every person there.

When Jimi Hendrix came on stage Monday, (calm down Arkenaten!) toward the end of his set, he played The Star-Spangled Banner, a once-in-a-lifetime version of the national anthem. Spectators said it was an artform beyond verbal description. Hendrix had added his styled sound-effects dispersed throughout the anthem, like ‘rockets and bombs bursting in air.‘ Many fans picked up on his guitar-violence, death and carnage of war, the Vietnam War, and broke down in tears. The thousands there had lost dear ones, family members, brothers, husbands over there in the jungles and rice-fields. Other fans were speechless for several minutes after he finished, frozen in their postures their mouths gawked by what they just heard, felt, and witnessed.

Jimi’s encore song was Hey Joe. Perhaps one of his greatest songs ever.

As the end of the festival was drawing near, much of the crowd wanted to see/meet and hear from the owner of the farm and land they were on:  Mr. Max B. Yasgur. He was politically Conservative and had had serious reservations about what he had approved and more so when he saw how so much bigger and challenging the event became in just the first day! In the end, even he was astonished:

Today, in our current state of affairs in the 21st century, I would have been dumb-founded by what happened and more… by what did not happen! I would’ve been speechless given those 1969 events and what happened between July 28th and August 4th, 2019… and too many other times since 1966 on the campus of the University of Texas, Austin. Amazed would be an insane understatement.

Woodstock 1969 showed me that even during one of our nation’s most turbulent, bloody, violent two decades in the Cold War, the 1960’s and several major assassinations of peacemakers—John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Robert Kennedy—that about 400,000 to 500,000 “people” (labelled derogatorily Hippies by pompous Conservatives) CAN INDEED conduct themselves exemplary over 3-days and 3-nights crammed onto one little farm to share music, fun, love, drugs (of course), and peace—only one accidental death during the 3½ days—and exhibit kindness to total strangers.

Yes, humanity’s best is absolutely possible! Half-a-million people packed into a few acres, outdoors, with security/police named “Po-lease” (i.e. hospitality) not legitimate police officers, and so potentially volatile to panic and countless other possible flash-points, proved it does happen, and ended instead with no violence whatsoever. Better yet, no serious problems to the chagrin of Conservatives who prior wanted to shut down the festival or were hoping it would have horrible injuries and fatalities! That is what they had warned to newspapers and TV reporters.

What really moved me was that when natural weather-forces moved-in coupled with the opposition of bigoted, arrogant, slandering Conservatives labeling the event a pending or complete disaster and certain subsequent humanitarian rescue… the Hippies of Flower-power, cannibus, and LSD helped each other for FREE! They worked together, volunteered to resolve many arising problems! Apparently it was contagious. The tiny town of Bethel’s residents pitched in to provide food for all the festival-goers! Are you FREAKIN’ KIDDING ME!!!?

People… WordPress readers… THAT is what an intelligent species does full of compassion, unity, selflessness, understanding, and embracing pure HUMAN connection. You don’t even have to belong to any nation, any charity, any political party. It’s JUST. NOT. THAT. COMPLICATED.

What a spectacle. What an epiphany those four days must have been… intimately amongst 400,000+ others you had not known before that Friday! Wow. My hope in and for humanity, decent caring people—if any Woodstock-goers would’ve ever been called that by 60’s ultra-Conservative Americans—but human beings being very human, were part of something bigger than self, glad to help each other while having fun openly, loving freely, dancing, smiling and never once considered gun-shots to be a fix, ever. YES… my belief in humanity’s finest virtues were restored, are restored. At least from Hippies in 1969 they are.

However, I think there are some/many today equal to those good Woodstockers who were grossly stereotyped and wrongly judged as useless before anything started Aug. 15, 1969. Because there are many of us today, many decent people like them in 1969, who know violent-hate or verbal-hate can be stopped and will not be tolerated, ever. Let’s not forget we have many, thousands, millions who know what the right thing to be, say, and do is really about, what it actually looks like, sounds like, and behaves like… for anyone from anywhere on this beautiful planet.

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Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always — Stop Stereotyping & Hating

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There’s No Way!

Anyone who has had to deal with manifested psychiatric-psychological disorders like manic bipolar disorder as well as/or clinical addiction, which often go hand-in-hand, then like me you can probably relate to and empathize about why this particular song* speaks volumes to me. It captures the intensity. It covers ALL of the mental and emotional ups and downs, successes and failures, that seem to be a never-ending saga of love, hope, destruction, beauty, anger, disappointment, joy, and most of all perseverance. I sometimes wonder if staying isn’t abnormal.

I live a chemical life
I’m on a mission to try
You went insane for a day
I’ll have to shove it away
My only option is gone
Smile as they break and they fall
You want a simpler life
You can’t erase what was mine

Even though it is human nature to often seek perfection and expect perfection, we eventually find that in seeking and expecting perfection, we find imperfection. The more perfection desired, the more imperfection found. Sounds quite insane, quite a formula for cyclical chaos doesn’t it?

[Pre-Chorus:]
You must be out of your mind!
This was a simple design!
You fuck it up every time
How could you leave me behind

Yes, there have been many times over the decades where I thought I was going out of my mind! But many times I felt denying or running from the problem(s) wouldn’t solve anything or teach me/us anything either! But everyone doesn’t think or feel like I do, so some do indeed “run”… and leave me behind. Some truly want immediate satisfaction and relief!

[Chorus:]
It’s alright, it’s alright
’cause I know what you want
but you’ll just have to wait
If I had it to give
I would give it away
I’m living it up
while I’m falling from grace
There’s no way, there’s no way that I’m running away

And in my years of employment in the Psych/A&D field helping others, I eventually found that if I don’t remain disciplined with my own mental-emotional health, rest, and recreation, I too can fall from grace. I am just as human as the next and I am reminded of that, dancing that edge sometimes as I must, as long as I remain truly human inside humanity. Make sense?

How many thousands of times I have heard this rationale and events play out…

I’m used to making it worse
Made up of four letter words
You wanna know what it was
Now isolated and gone
You fall apart at the seams
I’ll never know what it means
Try not to pull it apart
You’re anger’s straight from the heart

[Pre-chorus]

[Chorus]

There were numerous times when my patience and will were exhausted, done. All I wanted was to be selfish, left alone in solitude, or to do one of my favourite therapies: dancing. And yes, even dancing and screaming energetically angry too… at first, maybe. (wink)

But then…

It had to be the worst for me
I don’t know what to say so let me be
And now I find you left me behind**
I don’t know what to say so nevermind!

You’re mine!

I still belong here, there… with my human family, with my tribe, with my soul mates… through the good times and the bad. Together.

’cause I know what you want
but you’ll just have to wait
If I had it to give
I would give it away
I’m living it up
while I’m falling from grace
There’s no way, there’s no way that I’m running away

I don’t have all the answers, nor can I guarantee immediate results — you’ll just have to wait… be patient. If I had it to give, I would give it away! But in the meantime, I’ll be here with you. I might get frustrated, even angry, but I will celebrate successes just as pumped and just as excited as you do! “You’re mine.” You’re ours.

You know, maybe we don’t need such super high expectations of perfection. Since perfection always accompanies imperfection, let’s find all the beauty in imperfection and embrace it along with perfection. Let’s learn to screw up better each time! But do not fear…

There’s no way that I’m running away.

(paragraph break)

* “Simple Design” by Breaking Benjamin (2004)
** This line refers to my Dad who in July 1990 took his own life without reaching out.

Live Well — Love Much — Laugh Often — Learn Always

(paragraph break)

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