Generally I anticipate a couple of what I call "shoot 'em up" trailers, and a film heavily dosed with computer generated imagery, with perhaps a drama or comedy or two for balance and good measure. On this occasion, with the exception of a dramatic biography of Jackie Robinson, every trailer previewed stories that included violence, abuses of power, excessive use of weapons, vengeance, and the domination over or destruction of one party at the hand of another.
How can we not draw the inescapable conclusion that we live, and move, and have our being deep in the stench of violence? The darkness of the trailers--and you can interpret my choice of that word in any number of ways--invited me to look from another angle at the conversation raging about gun violence in our society. What I saw, in a succession of vignettes, was that any means seemed justified to accomplish a desired end, and the end (see the list in the paragraph above) is where the problem lies.
I have no idea how many scripts cross the desks of movie producers, but I suspect that those chosen to reach the screen represent disproportionately the genres from which to choose. There are many good stories waiting to be told and brought to life that would impact and, perhaps, change lives. There is history to be reviewed, music to illuminate our souls, and laughter to carry us away from the anxieties and concerns of our own lives. What we apparently pay good money to see, however, is the dark and tawdry stuff that is best viewed in darkness among the likely presence of strangers. Darkness translates as dollars, and Hollywood appears eager to give us that for which we are so very willing to pay.
We are a culture in trouble, sad and lonely and indulging in feeding the ugly side of our natures. When what we actually hunger for and need most is light and life, we gravitate toward death. I don't believe this makes us trigger happy. I do think it gives room to the minds of those who might otherwise feel constrained to stretch toward and tap into a well of permission to "go there." We blame the media for sensationalizing the horror and fueling our voyeuristic inclinations. They do so because we lap it up and beg for more. We are all culpable, even if we are not responsible.
Again I am reminded of the words of Shakespeare, penned as the voice of the Prince of Verona lamenting the deaths of Romeo, Juliet, Tibalt, Mercutio and Paris as he cries out, "All are punished!" The word "punished" may catch our attention, but the solution is to be found among "all." Somehow when we clamor for rights--whether for ourselves or for others--we must also speak to its twin, responsibility. Individualism is trumping the collective good over and over again, shredding the very fabric that holds us together as a society and a nation.
I started this post with this thought in mind: it's no wonder that violence is so prevalent when so much of our world is saturated with darkness. Yes, guns are part of the problem. The greater problem is that we have become so detached from one another--for whatever reason--that we don't value who we are as a whole, blunting our ability to value each. This generalized statement overshadows the good work being done by many to shine light into darkness, to do right for and by others, and there are certainly a multitude of those good souls among us. Our voice, however, lacks strength, and our actions are too often obscured.
In spite of seeing with new eyes the forces at work around us, and lamenting the steepness of the road that leads away from the pit into which we are sliding, I do believe there is hope. I am grateful that the faith community of my early life taught and reflected the belief that God's light shines within each and every one of us. Not only does that mean that I am in the presence of the divine at all times because I carry it within me, it means, as well, that I am able to share it at all times and in all places. As a popular adage circulating these days states: a candle doesn't loose its light when it lights another candle.
So, light-bearers, let's be about letting light shine through and from us. Better yet, let's keep igniting the light within others so that the collective brilliance of God may overcome the darkness that surrounds us. It is a daily effort, to be sure, but one that helps us find our way, together.
Photo from Zero Dark Thirty chosen with intent. Feel free to ponder it.