Cold Mountain Wisdom

As I was channel surfing one night this week as men are prone to doing, I came across one of the films that was moved into my top ten list of greatest films of all time. The Anthony Minghella-directed masterpiece that is Cold Mountain originally premiered in 2004 and stars Nicole Kidman and Jude Law and Reneé Zellweger in an Academy Award, Golden Globe, SAG Award, and BAFTA winning performance. In addition to those three mega stars the film also has other major star players in supporting roles including Donald Sutherland, Jack White (from the White Stripes), Charlie Hunnam and Jena Malone. The Soundtrack is also superb featuring music from Jack White, Allison Krauss, and Sting. The trailer is below.

Many people might raise an eyebrow that I put Cold Mountain in my top ten films list but it truly has something for everybody: amazingly nuanced and well written characters, Civil War battle scenes, and a love so deep and meaningful that people are willing to go to hell and back to be reunited with one another. I’d also be lying if I didn’t say that the reunion love scene between Kidman and Law’s characters isn’t scandalously hot as well. In addition to all of this, the movie takes place in Cold Mountain, North Carolina which is less than an hour’s drive from where I was born, raised, and still live. So the scenery has often reminded me of the area of this world that I call home.

Only missing the first 20 minutes of the film, I immediately put the remote down and watched the rest of the movie. However, watching the movie this time something happened that had never happened before. On three separate occasions, I was moved to tears by the dialogue of the film. Confused as to why this happened this time and not any of the dozens of times I have watched the film before, I thought about why this could possibly be, and I was struck by something that was too perfect that I couldn’t not write about it. The reason I had to write about it? It is too perfect of an antidote to the madness that is going on in our world right now. Or, I guess I should say more specifically, the madness that is going on in our country.

The first scene that brought me to tears comes about half way through the movie and is shown in the two clips below (I couldn’t find one YouTube video that contained the entire scene). Early in the film the Civil War starts and it becomes clear the south is at a disadvantage when the Home Guard (the men on the horses who go to the farm), influential men who were able to weasel their way out of fighting in the war who have been tasked with tracking down and killing deserters and those who help them visit the Swanger’s farm. We do not know it until this scene, but the movie has insinuated that the Swanger’s young sons have deserted and they are being hidden on the family farm.

The seconds scene that made me emotional, perhaps the most emotional of the three, is about three quarters of the way through the film. Ada Monroe (Nicole Kidman’s character) and Ruby Thewes (Reneé Zellweger’s character) have just learned that the Home Guard, the same people responsible for killing Sally Swanger’s husband and children, have supposedly killed Ruby’s father and another man that Ruby has a crush on. Ada struggles to find the right words to say to Ruby and Ruby responds by saying the following:

The Final scene from the movie that got me all up in my feelings comes near the very end of the movie. To set this scene, Ruby and Ada go off looking for Ruby’s father. While they are gone, they find her father and they also save his life. Additionally, they find W.P. Inman (Jude Law’s character), the love of Ada’s life who deserted the Confederate Army early in the war and has spent the entire movie trying to make his way back to her. The scene in the video below picks up as Ruby and Ada are going back to the farm where they live, and you should only watch the first 2 minutes of the scene if you do not want a major plot spoiler.

As I turned off the movie and started getting ready for bed that night, I made a point to figure out why I got emotional. I have seen that movie probably two dozen times. I even showed a heavily edited version of the film when I taught a social studies elective course called Geography in the Cinema several years ago; and yes, the three scenes are sad, but I have never been moved to tears before. So what made it different this time? Well, as I was working on some art projects the next day, I figured out the one thing that was different this time from all the others: This is the first time I have watched the movie during the presidency of Donald Trump.

In every single one of those scenes, in my opinion, there is is one line that stands out and cuts above all the rest. In the first two video clips it is what Ruby says at the very end that gets to me. In her shock, and grief, and anger, and sadness Ruby (an uneducated backwoods hick, by all accounts) eloquently states “This World won’t stand long. God won’t let it, stand this way long.”

This World won’t stand long. God, won’t let it, stand this way long.”

Reneé Zellweger as Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain

If you are anything like Ruby Thewes and me, you have felt this ghastly feeling throughout the majority of Donald Trump’s presidency. Through our outrage, indignation, tears, rage, and a myriad of other unwanted but necessary feelings we have lamented how America could have turned to this. How the country that has been the shining city on a hill as a beacon for freedom and liberty could be turned into what many of us see as the antithesis of America and her values. Ruby Thewes may be a fictional character, but she does what every single one of does when we face those feelings: she turns it over to God.

God won’t let it, stand this way long. I cannot tell you how many times I’ve thought that since the genitalia-grabbing gargoyle has occupied the people’s house. I have stared in disbelief as news cameras briefed the American people on what the President has said today (although a game of Mad Libs would probably be more appropriate). I have cried tears of sorrow looking at the pictures of the drowned bodies of Oscar Martinez Ramirez cradling his 3 month old daughter Valeria on the Banks of the Rio Grande River. I have looked at people whom I know and love and respect in disbelief as they try to defend the actions of Trump; and when I am left at a loss for words or for reassurance, I reassure myself by reminding myself that God will see us through this current nightmare.

We will be seen through this, just like our nation was seen through the Revolution. Or the Civil War. Or the Civil Rights Movement and countless other times when our nation has struggled to live up to be the nation we know she truly is. We must remain steadfast in our belief, just as Ruby is. We must constantly remind ourselves that this is not normal. That none of what is happening is okay or acceptable. We cannot waver in our belief that God and his love for all people won’t let this world that Trump and his minions are trying to create last long. God won’t let it stand this way long.

The second scene is one of my favorite scenes in the whole movie. Ruby has spent the better half of the movie reconciling with her father for a terrible childhood and her reaction to learning that he is now most likely dead is heartbreaking. It’s made even better by Zellweger’s impeccable acting. What she says in her response to Ada’s apology, however, is indicative to the way our government has functioned over the last two decades. Ruby places all the hardships that she and the South are currently facing, squarely at the feet of their leaders.

Every piece of this is man’s bull shit… They call this war a cloud over the land, but they made the weather, and then they stand there and say ‘shit it’s rainin’!

Reneé Zellweger as Ruby Thewes in Cold Mountain

If that is not the perfect example of the way our politicians operate, I don’t know what is. We have so-called leaders on both sides of the aisle obstructing the governance of this nation and only looking out for themselves. The Civil War, once it was apparent the South was going to lose, became known as the cloud over the land. Ruby was right though, the people in charge were the ones who made the choice to go to war and now they are lamenting the fact they are not going to get there way.

Both of our current political parties are guilty of doing the exact same thing. It started during the Clinton Presidency and it has gotten worse and worse, and all our politicians seem to do is complain about how they can get nothing done. Once again, Ruby was right: every piece of this is man’s bull shit. And our so called leaders have nobody to blame but themselves. They did this. They created this mess. They made this cloud on our land. And they keep making it worse.

The last clip really got me, but it also gave me the most hope and strength going forward. When staring the man who is responsible for much of the problems and stress in her life and facing the fact that she knew she was most likely going to be killed right then, Ada Monroe confidently looks the leader of the Home Guard in the eye and states what she knows and I know to be true: a reckoning is coming.

There will be a reckoning when this war is over. There will be a reckoning.

Nicole Kidman as Ada Monroe in Cold Mountain

Long after we are through this national nightmare and Trump is no longer President, there will be a reckoning. There will be a reckoning where judgement is passed and a sentence is given. It won’t be just Trump, either. It will be his lecherous family and his basket of deplorable billionaire henchmen who have helped him carry out these illegal injustices. Injustice shall be met cruelly and swiftly with true and lasting American justice. The history books will record the Trump era as nothing more than it truly is: one of the darkest stains on the American Democracy in its history.

It will not just be Trump and those in his administration that have to face a reckoning. It will be those who have stood silent (and therefore complicit) in his racism, misogyny, homophobia, and xenophobia. I am under no illusions that every single person voted for Trump is racist. I know that is not true. With that said, though, a storm is coming on the horizon. The 2020 election will be an event that this nation will have to figure out who it truly is. Those of you who are considered voting for Trump, I ask you now to reconsider, because a reckoning is coming and if you are not opposed to all of the hatred that Trump is bring to the forefront of the consciousness of this nation than you are for it. And in this reckoning, justice will be served, Cold Mountain Style.

When Did it Happen?

History is filled the tipping points, or watershed moments, that we can point to as moments in time when everything changed. It can be an event, a place, a person, or even an invention: it really doesn’t matter. That is why I loved history so much as a kid and still teach it today. Using the evidence we have, historians look back and say this is the moment when everything changed. It is often followed with a statement that goes something like “without __________ happening, there would have been no _____________.”

Watershed moments can be tricky, because oftentimes we don’t know they are watershed moments until much after the fact. When we do realize it, though, the evidence is overwhelming. For example, we can now look at Napoleon’s invasion of Russia and the Battle of Waterloo as two different Watershed moments that led to his two different downfalls. The invention of the printing press changed literacy as we know it, and Martin Luther nailing the 95 Thesis to his local Catholic Church door in Wittenberg changed religion as we know it. Finally, the Stonewall Rebellion is now seen by historians as the watershed moment that started the LGBT Rights movement around the world.

In all of the examples above, you can see the exact moment when history is changed (can you tell I am geeking out right now?). The world is invariably better today because of those examples, but a historians job is never done. We are constantly looking at recent history to see if any more of these watershed moments have occurred and what is the result if they have. There is no question we have experienced a watershed moment in our nation’s history in regards to politics and the political parties many of us follow. Well, actually one party: the Republican Party.

The Republican Party, for better or worse, is one of the two parties are nation is stuck following. Over the years, they have had good ideas and bad ideas (for the record, I think the exact same thing about the democratic party. However, Something happened with the Republican Party. We are living in a time when I no longer understand the party of Lincoln and Reagan: two of the greatest Presidents this nation has ever seen. It seems like the Republican Party has sold its very soul and turned into something so grotesque that I am looking at friends and family members and I am left wondering how any decent human being could be ok with any of this.

I have racked my brain as to what we will end up considering the watershed moment of this change when we are 50 years removed from the present. You might think, as I did at first, that the Election of Donald Trump would be the Watershed Moment, but this is bigger than one racist misogynist winning an election (after all plenty of those have won before). Half the nation did not wake up on November 10, 2016 and started belting out the hateful and cheap rhetoric or silently acquiescing their approval of said rhetoric. All of that had to have been there before Trump.

Going forward, I just have one question for Trump Supporters, but more importantly, I have the same question for the many friends, family members, colleagues, and acquaintances that have come to know, love, and respect: When Did it Happen?

When did you start to agree and go along with things that the rest of us consider to unconscionable? When did you become supporters of tactics seen in police states and dictatorships? When did you decide to stop denouncing racism and extremism and thereby giving it your stamp of approval? When did it happen?

When did people with torches and nooses become “fine people?”

When did it become ok to rip families apart and shove them in cages? When did it become ok to deny those people in cages toothbrushes, showers, and basic human dignity products like feminine hygiene products? When was it decided we were now going to allow so many human beings to be shoved into one cage that had they been the actual dogs you consider them to be, ICE agents would be arrested for animal cruelty. When did it happen?

When did this become ok? When did this become what America does?

When did you decide you were no longer bothered by vandalized mosques and synagogues? When did it become ok to intimidate and belittle the Muslim faith? When did a scarf warn around the head as a symbol of deference to God become a symbol of oppression? When did you first start to believe that an entire religion was deemed unworthy of entrance to this nation of immigrants? When did it happen?

When did you start to believe only some houses of worship are worth protecting?

When was it decided that a football player, an alpine ski, a snowboarder, a figure skater, a championship basketball team, and a 4 time world championship female soccer team should be met with shouts of “I hope they lose!” or worse “I hope they break a leg!” for exercising their constitutional right to free speech? When did you start to believe they are getting paid millions of dollars to play ball so they should shut the hell up and dribble? When did you believe that professional athletes should not use the platforms and publicity that have to advocate for a better America for all people? When did it happen?

When did you decide that any family that does not look like your family is a threat? When did you decide that the family my brother and his fiancé are getting ready to start once they are married is less worthy of federal protection and recognition? When did start saying with anger “The only reason they are allowed to get married in the first place is because of one liberal justice?” When did you decide to support a party that is still actively trying to take away my brother’s right to marry the person of his choosing? When did it happen?

When did you decide to support a party that has catered itself on defending white nationalists and neo-nazis? When did you allow the Republican Party to go from the party of Lincoln and Reagan to the party of lies and racism? When did you decide to vote for old crusty white men who believe they know what is best for women and their bodies than the actual women and their doctors do? When did you become the party that gives free passes to rapists, misogynists, homophobes, and straight up assholes? When did it happen?

When did it happen that you moved away from what it means to be a true republican?

When did your views on America and what she represents to the world change? When did stop believing that America should be the shining city on a hill and start believing that the only way for America to succeed is for the rest of the world to fail? When did you decide that people from one of the largest and oldest continents on earth were nothing more than unworthy people from “shit hole countries? When did white people from Sweden become more worthy of existence than black people from Haiti? When did you decide that actual Americans were less worthy of federal disaster assistance because they speak Spanish and have brown skin? When did a desperate father willing to die trying to give his daughter a better life become a something we do not care about instead of a heartbreaking tragedy? When did it happen?

When did you give in to the fear mongering, the war mongering, environment raping, science denying, and branding news you do not like as fake or wrong? When did religion become something that was used to rationalize and defend family separations or marriages only between people of the opposite sex? When did the world become a world that only allowed science or religion, but not both? When did it happen?

When did you give into fear and stop believing in love? When did it happen?

If I were to ask each of you these questions face to face it would end in a couple of ways. Angry shouts about how I am wrong or misrepresenting your beliefs and positions. Many of you would try to flip the script and paint my beliefs and positions in a negative light. Usually, though, they all end the same way: loud and indignant protests of “that is not what I believe!”

My response to that is always the same: Then why are you not shouting that from the mountaintops? Why are you not calling and writing your elected officials and telling them that no of this is normal or ok? Why are going along with any of this? Why are you not being the people that I know and love and respect and standing up and rocking the boat? Why are you letting your silence help the oppressors and not the oppressed? When did it happen?

I humbly beg you to consider the following question and honestly think about it and try to answer it, because the future of the party you support and the future of this nation as a whole depends on it. When did racism, hatred, misogyny, homophobia, islamophobia, xenophobia, and bigotry become things we oppose or only when someone calls us out and forces us to give our opinions? When did it happen?

-WB

Wynnesday Wisdom & Whimsy: 3 Jokes, 2 World Leaders, and a Buzzsaw

Today is Hump Day! Also known as Wednesday. I felt like it had been a few days since I have posted and there has been a lot to discuss so I am starting a recurring segment called Wynnesday Wisdom & Whimsy (See what I did there?). W³ will be posts where I talk about whatever moves me or whatever is currently going on in the world – that’s the whimsy part. The wisdom part is me telling you how you should feel. Because I am usually right on things (today’t things especially). So, without further ado, here we go!

3 Controversial Jokes

People love to laugh and it used to be that people watching a stand-up comedian perform or a sitcom knew that a joke was just that – a joke. But in the age of being ultra-politically correct, our society has gotten so overly offended by stuff that was designed to make our days less tense its ridiculous.

The first is Roseanne Barr’s joke. On Twitter Roseanne tweeted the Picture below. And boy was the reaction a doozy of a news cycle. The “vj” in the tweet refers to Valerie Jarrett. Jarrett was a senior advisor to President Obama and is a highly accomplished woman in the law field and now in the private sector once again.

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I am unsure of a lot of the information on this joke or how to feel. On the one hand I think its sad and disgusting and as Bill O’Reilly said it just proves to Black America that racism is still an issue. With that said, I believe Roseanne Barr when she says she is not a racist. Scoff all you want, but I have watched her stand-up as well as her show long enough to know she most likely isn’t racist. On an episode in season 7 of her show DJ (her son) did not want to participate in the school play because he had to kiss a black girl. In the episode (you can find in full below) you can find the important since eight and a half minutes in. Roseanne says in a way that only she could, Black people are just like us and anybody who thinks differently is a banjo-picking bigot who gives respectable white trash a bad name.”

Roseanne’s reaction is not the episode a bigot would produce – especially when the episode was an addition to the season and aired shortly after the Rodney King/LA Riots fiasco. Is Roseanne an idiotic jerk for some of the conspiracy theories she retweets? Was she an asshat for tweeting at Valerie Jarrett?  Of course. But nothing in that tweet was as vile as some of the stuff the president has tweeted. I do not think Roseanne should have been cancelled either, but seeing as how that’s what happened, it is what it is.

The second joke is Samantha Bee. To make a long story short (too late!), Samantha Bee called Ivanka Trump a “feckless cunt.” The backlash in America over Australia’s favorite swear word was fierce. Bee apologized, TBS condemned her, and sponsors pulled out. But here is thing about this whole ordeal. When the administration in the White House feigns indignation over over Michelle’s Wolfe’s supposedly sexist jokes at the White House Correspondent’s Dinner and Bee’s joke’s over Ivanka, the hypocrisy comes though loud and clear. Guess what Trump Administration and Trump Supporters? You don’t get to cry foul over jokes you deem sexist when the misogynist-in-chief brags about grabbing women in the pussy. That is more than locker room talk. That is sexual assault. And Lastly, You don’t get to criticize jokes and say Samantha Bee should be fired when you have a woman working in your administration who makes a “bad joke” about John McCain. We all know there is a liberal slant to the media, but if you want people to be fair, you also have to be fair.

The last thing I am going to say about the Samantha Bee situation in regards to why she wasn’t fired and Roseanne Barr was is pretty simple. Roseanne Barr compared a black person to a monkey This is wrong, disgusting, and a way back in the day of saying black people were less than white people because they were not human. Samantha Bee used a bad word in a truthful situation. Thousands of us who did not vote for Trump had optimism and hope when we found out Ivanka and Jared Kushner would be working in the White House because it would be a way for the more moderate Ivanka and Jared to help guide policy on women, the queer community, and the environment. People know Trump listen to Ivanka because she is his favorite. He values her advice so we hoped she could guide policy. Since this not happening Samantha Bee’s comment ring true. She is most definitely feckless. The word cunt is what is bothering people, and although it is not a word I personally use or like all that much, the joke in and of itself is pointing out a truth. Ivanka isn’t helping and she could. Change the word cunt to bitch, bimbo, or butthole and the statement still isn’t wrong.

The last joke comes from a valedictorian in Kentucky Coal Country. Ben Bowling trolled a bunch of coal miners by reading a quote and then saying President Trump was the person who said it. After people started to clap, Bowling told people he was kidding and it was actually President Obama who said it. The applause quickly dies. A few boos can be heard as well. This, ladies and gentlemen, is the level of petty and shade I aspire to.

 

2 World Leaders

CNN reported today that President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau got into a heated discussion over new tarriffs the US put on Canadian steel and Aluminum. President Trump apparently originally assured Trudeau that Canada would be exempt from these tases, but has since changed his mind. I could care less one way or the other to be honest, but I now want to speak directly to President Trump to explain something.

President Trump,

If you get into an argument with Prime Minister Trudeau because you change your mind more than a boy-crazy 13 year old teenager, you will lose the war of public opinion hands down. For someone who seemingly cares what people think of him a whole lot, you have not thought this through.

And last, but certainly not the least (its actually the most damning), Mr. Trump, I give you this piece of evidence:

Mr. President, it is time to face the facts. There is not a jury alive, not a millennial voter, not a thirsty middle aged women, or any gay alive that would pick you over Trudeau in any kind of discussion. So Tread lightly.

The Word Buzzsaw

For those of you who do not live in South Carolina, here is a little bit of context. It is currently primary season and we are getting ready to vote for governor. The incumbent (Boss Hog Henry McMaster) is being challenged by Catherine Templeton. I am not a fan of Henry McMaster by any stretch of the imagination, but I equally loathe Catherine Templeton at this point; however, at this point, I loathe the word buzzsaw more than both of them. At some point somebody labeled Templeton a buzzsaw, she likes the label, and McMaster thinks its an insult to her. I don’t know how in God’s Green earth being labeled a buzzsaw can be a good thing or a bad thing, but every five seconds I am reminded that Catherine “Buzzsaw” Templeton is a buzzsaw. So there is that. At this point, I would be fine if McMaster and Buzzsaw Templeton stood on the edge of a cliff and ole Buzzsaw used her skills and sawed them both right off because both their commercials are terrible.

There is your wisdom and whimsy for the week. I will close in the style of “Auntie Maxine.”

Have a Good Night One and all!

-WB