Saturday, November 16, 2013

12 Year a Review...Also, F*** Richard Cohen

The Real Solomon
For the last 2 months, There was only one movie that I wanted to see. I waited with baited breath for is to be released, and was plotting trips to Canada to view it when I found out is was not available in my town. When I finally did see it, I was both horrified and elated at the same time. This movie is the most terrible, enriching, and best movie anyone will see in 2013. Everyone should see it, but at the same time, some might need counseling after having seen it. If you bring a friend to this movie and it doesn’t move him/her, there is a strong chance that he/she is a Cylon. Out that motherf***er.

The film of which I speak is Twelve Years a Slave. It is an adaptation of the narrative by Solomon Northrup, a black man born free, but on a business trip was drugged, kidnapped and sold into slavery. He spent 12 years in captivity, “owned” by two men, until he finally was able to free himself from captivity thanks to the help of a nice Canadian. If you haven’t read the narrative, you really should, because as horrifying as some of the scenes were, the book was even more descriptive.

I found quite a few things interesting about this movie. Nothing was embellished from the book. Everything was matter of fact, and the fear and emotion that was going through Northrup’s mind was palpable. Chiwetel Ejiofor was the best choice for this role. I never empathised with a character on screen quite like that. Can you imagine? You’re living a good life, free to do as you wish, you go to bed, and you wake up in chains. You are told that your birth name is NOT your birth name. You are beaten nearly to death until you answer to a name that you never used. You You are stripped naked like an animal and sold to another human being. Perhaps that man is “benevolent”, but he still “owns” you. You can no longer speak your mind, lest you be strung up and hung, struggling and dying slowly. You live in horror as people in your same situation, treated the same way, beg you to kill them so that they no longer have to suffer. You might be killed if people find out you can read and write, simple skills that we all take for granted. Then, after 12 years of this life, when you gave up on ever seeing your family again, you come home to see that the life from which you were ripped has grown up and on without you. Your children are adults and have children of their own. Your wife has remarried. The freedom you had is good, but you lost so much. I don’t know if I would have survived, let alone have the emotional wherewithal to become an avid activist after the ordeal, even after having unsuccessfully sued my abductors and lost, because you legally cannot sue anyone due to your social status.
"You've been good. Here's a violin!" ... -_-

No one was punished for his actions in this whole thing. That is the most frustrating part of Solomon Northrup’s situation. Even though the film had a “happy” ending, right before the credits ran, you get a punch in the gut when you find out that absolutely NO ONE was punished, penally or financially, for kidnapping a free man and killing 12 years of his life.

Everyone needs to know about and see this movie for a myriad of reasons. I thought it interesting that when It was showing in Canada, I was willing to take the path that many runaway slaves took to watch this film about a man who was kidnapped into slavery and finally freed, yet not many people had heard of it. Everyone needs to see the horrors that slavery wrought on this land. People think that because it was in the past that it need not be dwelled upon, but when even the Washington Post’s resident racist Richard Cohen can attest that the film is good, you know you’re on to something. If more people have an idea of slavery like what Cohen has, which he MUST have learned from Song of the South and Gone with the Wind, then it is imperative that every person in the US see Twelve Years a Slave.

The most important reason to see this film is because though it shows a story of the past, it echos what is still happening today. Strip away the racial aspect of the film and just see the people as human beings doing terrible things to each other. This is happening right now. It is not just women from the Eastern Bloc being tricked into prostitution by various criminal organisations. It is Filipinos getting carted onto fishing boats and forced to work, lest they get thrown overboard. It is children in Sierre Leone torn from their families to mine for precious gems, and if they are suspected of stealing, will have their hands or arms lopped off. It is child soldiers in the horn of Africa and in the Middle East being either brainwashed or told that if they don’t fight, their families will be killed.

Don’t think that we in the States are any better than anyone else. We still have “free labour” in America. Not all au pairs, field workers, caregivers, and housekeepers are here of their own free will. No one is immune to it, and race has nothing to do with slavery. It is wrong to think that even if a slave is treated well, it’s okay. He is still a slave, and it is not his fault. It is the fault of everyone complicit in the bondage. That includes you reading this. That includes me.

Watch this film. Bring a friend or two. You’ll need them.

Also...F*** Richard Cohen.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

An Empty Stool at the Toad

I wish that nature would get the memo that there is such a thing as “too young to die”...

I had all these plans of making stupid, snarky tweets and status updates while pretending to pay attention in a weekly meeting, but instead I found out a friend of mine passed away last night. I am dumbfounded. I really thought that he was immortal. Seriously.

I moved to Rochester 5 years ago. The first bar to which I went was the Old Toad. The first person I met was Jules, and the first scary-looking bouncer I met was Tony. I didn’t really “meet” him so much as I decided not to f*** with him as I saw him physically eject a young man who thought he could start a fight in the Toad. My mama always told me not to f*** with a bald white man with a beard, because he might stab you or run you over with his Harley.

So a few weeks later, when I came in and he carded me, I was a little bit intimidated, but my credentials were legit, and he had a big smile on his face, so I thought perhaps my mama’s generalisation may have been a little bit off base. You can just get the vibe from him: this man is a mensch. When I came back a second, third, and fourth time when he was running the door, and he remembered my name, I felt like an ass for not even asking his. I think I think I asked one of the Toadies at the time what his name was so as not to feel like a complete ass in front of him. After a while, thanks to the size of Rochester, I would see Tony everywhere, and everywhere I saw him, he was the man who brightened up the room. You can’t be in a bad mood if Tony says, “Hi” to you. It is impossible. We’ve shared more than a few barbs at each other, more than a few jokes, and more than a few actual deep conversations, mostly about comic book heroes, but that s*** was real talk. Tony has successfully made an ale go up my nose as he made a wise crack at JUST the right time. I took for granted that he would always be around, because he’s immortal!...F***ing nature…

I only knew Tony through the weekly conversations we had over pints and food, about pints and food and ridiculously obscure conversations, but I knew that after my first encounter, this was a man who you can count as a friend, even if he barely knew you. He did good things just to do it. More Tonys need to roam the earth. I pity the people who never met him, because they just don’t know what they missed. I hope reincarnation exists, because I hope Tony is reborn and gets to touch even more people, perhaps across the globe this time. I’m really glad I didn’t pay attention to my mama’s advice, or I would have missed out.

So things I learned: 1) I CAN trust bald white men with long beards. 2) I should not listen to mt mother. 3) Friendship between some humans, like energy, is a thing that was always there. You just don't know it until you meet said human. 4) I CAN successfully brush off that a few tears as just "allergies" when I'm presenting at a long as I get the f*** out of there within 15 minutes, before it really hits me. I would have made him proud.

Rest In Peace, Tony Gerardi. Your bar stool will never be filled.

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