“And You Know These Bad Men by Sight?”

Harrison Ford’s Witness is one of my all time favorite films. The Wiki entry includes these lines:

Witness was generally well received by critics and earned eight Academy Award nominations (including Weir’s first and Ford’s sole nomination to date).

Roger Ebert of the Chicago Sun-Times rated the film four out of four stars, calling it “first of all, an electrifying and poignant love story. Then it is a movie about the choices we make in life and the choices that other people make for us. Only then is it a thriller—one that Alfred Hitchcock would have been proud to make.” He concluded, “We have lately been getting so many pallid, bloodless little movies—mostly recycled teenage exploitation films made by ambitious young stylists without a thought in their heads—that Witness arrives like a fresh new day. It is a movie about adults, whose lives have dignity and whose choices matter to them. And it is also one hell of a thriller.”

I’ve never been able to shake some scenes, and the clip above is one particular sticky example. It replays in my mind often, and lately every day.

Some critics dismiss Witness as “just another cop movie.” Others praise it for being “devoid of easy moralizing.”

This Sunday morning I am asking myself, what does my country want to be? Is the 21st Century U.S.A.  just another cop movie? Or will we be willing to go deeper?

Wishing you a day of peace and reflection.

The Imagined Tiger

Sometimes I simply wonder, does everything have to mean something?

The shootings in Arizona scream out for commentary, and there is plenty of it already.  I think David Gergen’s piece, “No Time for Finger Pointing,” does an excellent job of acknowledging some possible contributing factors to the horrible event, but also of asking for a time-out on blame casting and causality theories.

When bad things happen, we need to find cause and fix blame.  It must comfort us in some way to think that hindsight will surely demonstrate some kind of rational explanation that will stop the violence.

I’ve reached a point in my life where I no longer go through this process, because the process has failed me too many times.  There will always be random and unforeseen destructive impulses that lurch forth, striking down members of the human family who never saw it coming.

I liked what a local journalist in West Virginia had to say on Twitter: @RyRivard What is almost no one talking about re: shooting? Mental health services in U.S. Why? Probably not sexy enough/too complicated.

Everything there makes sense to me.  Sarah Palin and people of her rhetorical technique aren’t helping anything, but I hardly think it’s rational to suggest they are responsible for what a deranged individual did.  It would be comforting to think if we were all just nicer and more civil to one another in public discourse, unhinged and unstable young men wouldn’t pick up firearms and take out their rage at the world in bloody displays of false courage.  Unfortunately, it just doesn’t work like that.

How does it work?  Obviously, no one knows.  My small contribution to the conversation is this: Sometimes, as hard as it is to swallow, there is no answer.  This has happened before in human history, and it will keep happening, no matter what we do or don’t do.  None of us are so powerful as to legislate or meditate a 180 degree change in human nature across the board.

Get serious about mental health services and yes, gun control laws especially where mental health is at issue.  Don’t get sucked into phony debates about whether the right or the left is to blame for this sad and terrible event.  Be a little less likely to rant and rave, but be willing to disagree and to talk.  And realize, perhaps, that sometimes there is no deep meaning to or clear cause of tragedy.  Someone’s death may be senseless, but that does not mean his or her life was.  Focusing on life is my biggest comfort right now.

As my friend Rick summed up so well in his post Causes and Reasons, we are wired to keep trying to find the patterns, and perhaps that is not such a terrible thing after all.

Often we’re wrong in attributing agency to things that just happen, but in evolutionary terms the consequences of a false positive are not as bad as that of a false negative. Being mistaken in trying to escape an imagined tiger isn’t as costly as not trying to escape from a real one.

Image credit: CNT Photo Illustrations