Wake Up

January 19, 2015

I would say, “Happy Martin Luther King Day,” except we’re not there yet.  Instead let’s just acknowledge that it’s Martin Luther King Day and admit that we have not yet overcome and that today’s a day to keep on pushing forward on liberty and justice for ALL.

When I left Selma the other night I was so choked up that I could hardly speak for fear of breaking down in tears.

I encourage you to go and see it.  Now.  In a theater.  With other human beings.

As Andy and I filed out of the movie last Saturday night in North Hollywood, the crowd funneled into a little corridor and I fell behind Andy and into line next to a beautiful couple.  Maybe it was because they were African American and I couldn’t help but fantasize that we were, if not exactly “marching,” at least walking out of the movie together in a spirit of truth and love.  I turned to the man next to me and a few words tumbled out:  “When is American going to actually get it?” I asked.

The man looked at me and said, “I keep asking myself the same thing.”  His date turned back to me, as we slowed for a moment together in the theater lobby.   She smiled and said, “I think a lot of us feel the same way.  I think we all have to just speak up.”

I went to film school with Spike Lee, but I don’t think I really and truly got what he was talking about until maybe fifteen or twenty minutes ago.  Maybe it took the LA riots, multicultural training, psychology training, working in the trenches of mental health, working in Beverly Hills, parenting or who knows what to get my white Jewish suburban head out of my clueless butt and start to wake up (and maybe I’m still asleep but at least hoping the dream of ignorant and wrong might turn sweet and right).

It was 1988 when Spike made School Daze, and his message was indeed, “Wake up.” It’s still time to wake up.  We are not awake.

When it comes to injustice, anger is a proper response,  it is how we know something is unfair.  Racism rests on ignorance.  No one who is truly awake is unjust.  It’s safe to say that most of us, or at least myself, are not enlightened, not fully awake.  Knowing this is a start.  Not knowing things, together, and non-violently, is freedom of speech.

Dr. King was remarkable.  He stood for Truth, and his use of non-violence is in perfect alignment with Truth because while lies require liars to tell them, the Truth just is.  Justice in any absolute sense, like Truth, is beyond human opinion.  The conversation is our right, even our responsibility, but when we get it right all will be free and all will agree that they are free.

When Dr. King kneels on the bridge leading from Selma to Montgomery, a rising tide of Truth behind him, a wretched wall of racism, privilege and hate in front of him, he is like Moses continuing to lead the long march from slavery to true liberty.

Like Moses who himself never gets to the Promised Land, Dr. King helped make something possible, but it’s on us to take it all the way home to our shared world, our collective consciousness.

We may or may not be “Charlie” this week.  Freedom of speech, not to mention freedom from slavery, poverty, tyranny, sexism, discrimination, homophobia, brutality, exploitation and hate may remain a dream for far too many, but it’s a dream we can all share (or else perpetuate the nightmare of lying idiot humanity from which we cannot seem to awaken).

I’m hoping that the vast majority of human beings want a peaceful earth.  I’m hoping that the vast majority of human beings, if allowed to be educated, safe and free would come to the self-evident conclusion upon which our American Constitution is founded:  the equality of ALL.

Love and Truth and Justice are like the water under every bridge.  Truth, like Water, is  humble, powerful, life-giving and clear to everyone.

Dr. King said, “Wake up” (to his dream of equality) in the 1960s.  Spike said, “Wake up” in the 1980s.  Ava DuVerny’s, Selma says, “Wake up, dignified and non-violent” right now, although Oscar (which might be made of white gold) didn’t much notice.

The woman in the lobby said, “Speak up.”

And so I am speaking up as an infrequent blogger inspired to voice, but mostly just to say, “Go see Selma.”  Vote this Martin Luther King Day with your time, your money, your heart for justice and love—the ingredients that make this movie and that make the world I want to live in.

Selma says it straight.  I say, “Amen to Selma.”

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Of all the imaginary juice joints in the wide world of the child’s mind, it had to be Elliot, Little Elliot who walked into Bemelmans Bar at the Carlyle where I was sitting with my legs dangling from a booster seat, trading “what time is it?” jokes with Madeline.  Ferdinand was drowsing over a flower as Curious George floated above our kiddie table holding onto his balloons, one of which carried Babar himself, dapper in his green suit.

Some writers haunt the Algonquin, others the White Horse, but new dad on the kid lit block, Mike Curato, knows exactly what time it is:  bedtime, when Truth be told so quietly that only the very young and rather old can hear the wind blowin’ in the willows as sweet heads sink into lovingly fluffed pillows.

Ferdinand’s dad, Munro Leaf, said, “Early on in my writing career I realized that if one found some truths worth telling they should be told to the young in terms that were understandable to them.”  Amen.

Follow the little polka dotted elephant into, “Little Eliot, Big City,” (especially if you have ever felt unnoticed, which is for whom this tale tolls).  Elliot says that there will be other stories coming, but for now I can assure you that Ferdinand has sniffed Elliot’s tail and found that tulip to his liking.

With drawings numinous with fairy dusted brush-strokes indebted to eternal masters, homages drift like cherry blossom petals and post-modern tropes rise like Leaf Men in an hour of need to sound the call for friendship, punctuated with Yayoi polka dots.

Grown-ups may trudge on in the grim business of forgetting where they came from, getting on planes and saving the world, but in a little corner of a juice joint it’s always circle time and that time is neither the beginning nor the ending of a beautiful friendship for the very most beautiful friendships are eternal.  Elliot just may be staying indefinitely.

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nothing to say but it’s okay

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