I suppose this makes me intolerant. As “articulate” as Maggie Gallagher, author of a recent article in the National Review titled Why I, Unlike Senator Rubio, Would Not Attend a Gay Wedding, is attempting to be, what I am left with is the damaging horror that is so many religions. The fact that Gallagher believes that attending a gay wedding “would be witnessing and celebrating your attempt not only to commit yourself to a relationship that keeps you from God’s plan but, worse, I would be witnessing and celebrating your attempt to hold the man you love to a vow that he will avoid God’s plan,” is immensely disturbing. Not surprising, mind you, but deeply troubling nonetheless.
Republicans are fond of being the first at things. The first to invade a country that didn’t attack us. The first to undermine a sitting President’s authority by inviting another world leader to speak before Congress AGAINST the U.S. President’s foreign policy initiative in the midst of negotiations…
Like most things these oversized children enact, it failed miserably. Were they trying to win the Jewish vote? They probably succeeded in the more orthodox sectors, but they already had them, so it’s not quite a win. Anyone else with open eyes and even the slightest sense of politics can see just what a disastrous idea this was. Disrespectful, yes. Damaging, dangerous and irresponsible? Absolutely.
Ironically, hearing Stephen Fry publicly articulate my very thoughts in his response to Irish TV presenter Gay Byrne’s question: “What would you say if you came face-to-face with God?” on Byrne’s show THE MEANING OF LIFE, gave me immense hope for the future. It’s
folks like Rev Ian McNie who accused Fry of “spiritual blindness” that persuade me to feel any sense of pessimism about the future of mankind.
I recently responded to a friend’s Facebook post commenting on the differences between Anthony Burgess’ novel A CLOCKWORK ORANGE and filmmaker Stanley Kubrick’s adaption of the material. I tried to describe why I thought the changes that were made by Kubrick were valid and why I saw his concentration on sex and sexuality in the film (compared to the novel) as being so crucial and important an element.
What I wrote was a combination of my own thoughts and observations, mixed with ideas raised in conversation with others and, finally, other notions and observations made by professional critics, both contemporary and at the time of the film’s release.
Here is my response as I sent it. I repost it here simply as a conversation starter and because I so enjoy this type of discussion. I hope you do, too:
I think it’s important to see the film of CLOCKWORK within the context of the time in which it was made. Newfound sexuality, the sexual revolution, sexual conversations were out there in a way that was the antithesis of where they had been in the years just prior to this period. Sexual violence was also something that was finally being discussed as opposed to swept under the rug. I think it does a disservice to Kubrick to think of him as unsophisticated or adolescent. I think he’s one of the few directors for which these terms do not apply. Don’t mix up commentary on a subject for being a justification or acting out of a subject. As for subtlety, the film may be more subtle than you think in this regard. The simple fact that some people saw the film as “cool” or “got off on it” is extremely telling. I don’t think Kubrick himself was making the film to elicit such responses. He was making it in reaction to such responses and raising the topic for conversation. That said, subtlety is not a requirement for me in storytelling. Though it’s something I admire greatly. But there have been many masters of filmmaking who are not known for subtlety. In fact, quite the opposite. The great David Lean being one of them. Never subtle, but almost always amazing.
What Kubrick wanted to address in CLOCKWORK reflected what he saw in society. He wasn’t trying to simply adapt Burgess’ ideas or vision. He was “interpreting” them to what he felt was important and contemporary. In his eyes. A great book should leave one thinking, asking questions. The end of a book should be (in my opinion) the beginning of a journey for the reader in life. Burgess’ book sent Kubrick on his own journey which, for me, is incredibly appropriate and exactly what I would want from him. That said, I think that Burgess and Kubrick did say many of the same things and I don’t feel the film is as far removed from the book as you do. There have been a few films that were direct, literal adaptations of books and, in many cases, those films did not work for some of us as well as other adaptations that tried to capture the “essence” of the material as opposed to transcribing it directly. It’s another medium and another storyteller at work. One could not adapt a painting into a film and expect them to be the same.
Burgess wrote the novel 10 years before Kubrick turned it into a film. There were great cultural shifts in those 10 years which are reflected in Kubrick’s adaptation. Burgess’ wife had been raped after the war and a lot of what’s in his book comes from an autobiographical perspective. Kubrick is taking in the story via his own experiences, as we all do, and what the characters and story mean for him. As for the book’s ending, Kubrick was more of a pessimist with a sense of the ironic than was Burgess. That is why he kept the ending he did (he did read Burgess’ other ending). The film reflects the social anxieties and political concerns of its time. Not to mention, fashions, styles, etc. The naked women furniture in the Korova Milkbar were inspired by sculptures (by Allen Jones) that had been on display and gaining lots of attention. Again, Kubrick was making a commentary. Even Alex’s costume in the film was very different from the description in the book. Kubrick was making a commentary on a certain type of cricket-playing English gentleman.
Filmmaker Fellini stated of CLOCKWORK “I was very predisposed against the film. After seeing it, I realized it is the only movie about what the modern world really means.” Again, I think it’s crucial to take the film in under the context of the times. And to give Kubrick some credit. He was never a flippant filmmaker. And he, unlike many other filmmakers today, dealt with sexuality directly and in ways that were often misunderstood (EYES WIDE SHUT). Also, Burgess was a Christian and came from that perspective. Kubrick, on the other hand, was more of a pessimist and saw the State as using many of its most violent and disturbed individuals to maintain control. Alex’s droogies becoming policemen and Alex himself being hired by the Minister of the Interior at the film’s end. Kubrick was always very vocal in regards to politicians and the military and their use of “collecting” violent individuals to enact their needs and maintain control. Again, look at the political and social upheavals, the wars, police actions, taking place at the time. Alex and his droogies are “evil” but also very human. Are they so different from a society that acts similarly but in the name of morality?
Alex is the Id. And I think any portion of him that we may recognize (consciously or, more important, unconsciously) in ourselves is a very scary notion which quite easily elicits anger and a condemnation of the film itself instead of an exploration of what it evokes in us as human beings and members of society. Alex also has some very noble and attractive qualities: he’s witty, smart, VERY much “alive,” not to mention his deep appreciation for music. Another thing to consider is that Kubrick uses films of violence as the tool with which to try and control Alex. They are the government’s form of propaganda. Kubrick is HIGHLY aware of the power of film and of violence in film. And he says as much in this sequence. He is making a commentary on his own medium and, in a way, the very film he is making.
Kubrick also chooses to comment on how open-sexuality, which had until recently been a rebellious act, had now become incredibly casual. This is one reason for the imagery in the home of the woman he kills with the penis statue. CLOCKWORK is also, in many ways, satirical. It can not –should not– be taken at face value. No Kubrick film should if it is to be understood and its many secrets revealed. And yes, there is a journey that needs to be taken in order to get to that place. But it is a journey I, as a lover of film and filmmaking, find wholly worthwhile.
And I absolutely think Kubrick’s vision is about “choice.” The entire film suggests that to try and make Alex good, they are, in fact, making him less than human. And their tactics are equally as horrific as Alex’s own. “It is necessary for man to have choice to be good or evil, even if he chooses evil. To deprive him of this choice is to make him something less than human — A clockwork orange.” –Stanley Kubrick.
In his write-up on A CLOCKWORK ORANGE at the time in “The Catholic News,” John E. Fitzgerald wrote: “The film seems to say that to take away a man’s choice is not to redeem him but merely to restrain him. Otherwise we have a society of oranges, organic but working like clock-work. Such brainwashing organic and psychological, is a weapon, that to totalitarians in state, church or society might wish for an easier good even at the cost of individual rights and dignity. Redemption is a complicated thing and change must be motivated from within rather than imposed from without if moral values are to be upheld. But Kubrick is an artist rather than a moralist and he leaves it to us to figure what’s wrong and why, what should be done and how it should be accomplished.”
“Men never do evil so completely and cheerfully as when they do it from a religious conviction.” –Blaise Pascal.
It seems almost daily that I read another comment or another statement steeped in fear and hatred uttered from the lips of Rick Santorum, self-proclaimed Christian and American moralist. I do, thankfully, realize that Santorum does not represent all of Christianity and its followers, but he does represent a portion of them. Keep in mind, though he is currently at the bottom of the heap, he is still, as of this writing, a GOP presidential candidate in a playing field whittled down to four contenders. This means there is a large enough portion of Americans who share his views, his intolerances, his fears, misunderstandings and judgements of things that, well, any good Christian would normally leave up to God and not assume upon themselves.
Sadly, as Mr. Pascal once pointed out in the above quote, religion has spurned some of the most vile hatred and suffering known to man. And I think it’s rather easy to assess by the goings-on in the world today, that some things have not changed. Unfortunately for any forward-thinking individuals, men like Rick Santorum represent a part of society terrified of change. And, one could easily come to such a conclusion, of themselves.
Part of me feels sorry for men and women such as these since their lives appear to be made up largely of running away and holding on to the past with such desperation as to exhaust themselves of all humanity. Ironic, given that they claim to represent the most compassionate and forgiving of all beings. But this is in words only. Actions tell a very different story. The pain and suffering brought on by men like Rick Santorum is immeasurable, and it is considerable. Make no mistake, lives will be lost while others trampled. All in the name of one who is no longer here to protect his good name and teachings.
The bright side to all of this is that at least Santorum’s particular brand of bigotry is now out there for all to see. And those easily swayed toward his proclaimed “solutions” are no longer hidden from public view to boil and swell beneath the surface. They are out there where we can confront them, and ourselves, in the bright light of day. Good things will come from this in the bigger picture. It’s a step forward. Like a detoxing of the American psyche. We may feel a bit ill while we’re going through it, but hopefully we will come out the other side healthier and happier. If we choose to tackle it.
As for how we got where we are in the first place, well, history is full of men like Santorum. Perhaps the recent study published in the latest issue of Psychological Science explains part of it.
“Despite their important implications for interpersonal behaviors and relations, cognitive abilities have been largely ignored as explanations of prejudice. We proposed and tested mediation models in which lower cognitive ability predicts greater prejudice, an effect mediated through the endorsement of right-wing ideologies (social conservatism, right-wing authoritarianism) and low levels of contact with out-groups. In an analysis of two large-scale, nationally representative United Kingdom data sets (N = 15,874), we found that lower general intelligence (g) in childhood predicts greater racism in adulthood, and this effect was largely mediated via conservative ideology. A secondary analysis of a U.S. data set confirmed a predictive effect of poor abstract-reasoning skills on antihomosexual prejudice, a relation partially mediated by both authoritarianism and low levels of intergroup contact. All analyses controlled for education and socioeconomic status. Our results suggest that cognitive abilities play a critical, albeit underappreciated, role in prejudice. Consequently, we recommend a heightened focus on cognitive ability in research on prejudice and a better integration of cognitive ability into prejudice models.”
As one who does not believe in God in a traditional sense (therefore a heathen and going to hell in the minds of many), I have always assumed that it took a level of non-thinking to allow oneself to so completely abandon reason and take the words and teachings of the bible and, not only accept them as literal, but to allow oneself to become swayed by the interpretations of such texts by those with ulterior motives. However, I do not believe all who believe in God to be less educated or less intelligent than those who do not. But there is a certain ilk that have always been ready to take to the streets to express their intolerance of others; those who would kill, maim and damage their fellow man in the name of their God. A God of love? A God of vengeance? Which is it, then?
What are we supposed to think when Rick Santorum tells you that contraception is “not okay. It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be.”?
How things are supposed to be. If Mr. Santorum believes this, then he is free to refrain from the use of such tools and activities. But when he believes his beliefs should be law… This should be of great concern. Santorum warns of fascism and socialism and why you should be afraid… But nothing endangers freedom more than men and women who think like Rick Santorum. His beliefs suggest the ultimate form of fascism.
When Rick Santorum tells you what marriage is, he presents it as fact, as indisputable evidence.
“Marriage is what marriage is. Marriage was around before government said what it was. It’s like going out and saying, ‘That tree is a car.’ Well, the tree’s not a car. A tree’s a tree. Marriage is marriage.”
“It’s like handing up this and saying this glass of water is a glass of beer. Well you can call it a glass of beer, it’s not a glass of beer, it’s a glass of water. And water is what water is. Marriage is what marriage is.”
“I can call this napkin a paper towel, but it is a napkin. Why? Because it is, what it is.”
But what Santorum is really saying is that this is what marriage is for Rick Santorum. And therefore it should be for all others. By law. Like it or not, there are those who do not share and were not raised with Mr. Santorum’s limited definition. And we are Americans, no more or less so than he is. Just as Santorum’s God is not everybody’s God, Rick Satorum’s definitions and interpretations are not everyone’s. Nor should they be. That would be similar to asking a nation to publicly mourn the death of their beloved leader, Kim Jong Il, even if they did not, in fact, love him or mourn his loss. And then imprison those who did not either mourn publicly or mourn sincerely. Is that the America Santorum’s followers envision? Because if it’s not, then they best rethink their stance and support of such an individual. Or is that low IQ getting in the way of reasoned thought again?
“[Marriage] is an intrinsic good … we extend certain privileges to people who do that because we want to encourage that behavior. Two people who may like each other or may love each other who are same-sex, is that a special relationship? Yes it is, but it is not the same relationship that benefits society like a marriage between a man and a woman.”
What he means is that such a relationship does not benefit Rick Santorum. I’ll tell you right now that he does not speak for me. Same sex marriages have benefitted me in my life and my world, the kind of society I want to live in. And it damn well benefits same-sex couples who are (guess what?) members of this society. Again, what doesn’t benefit Rick should not benefit anyone in Santorum’s world view.
“Whether it’s polygamy, whether it’s adultery, whether it’s sodomy, all of those things, are antithetical to a healthy, stable, traditional family.”
Once again, these may be things that Rick Santorum chooses not to engage in, but he is not in a position (no pun intended) –and it is the point of this write-up that he should not be– to tell others what sexual activities they should or should not be doing where two consenting adults are concerned. But Santorum’s answer to that would be:
“If the Supreme Court says that you have the right to consensual sex within your home, then you have the right to bigamy, you have the right to polygamy, you have the right to incest, you have the right to adultery. You have the right to anything.”
The truth is that consensual sex in the home does NOT make polygamy or bigamy or incest legal. It DOES, however, allow one (or two or three or four…) to engage in certain sexual activities that some other folks may find startling, offensive and even a little off-putting. It seems, however, that even a healthy and imaginative sex life is off-putting to Mr. Santorum. When you allow a man like this to tell you what you can and can’t do in bed… But Mr. Santorum disagrees:
“The idea is that the state doesn’t have rights to limit individuals’ wants and passions — I disagree with that. I think we absolutely have rights because there are consequences to letting people live out whatever wants or passions they desire. And we’re seeing it in our society.”
The world Rick Santorum envisions has more in common with the Crusades than it does with the teachings of Christ. And like many other religious zealots before him, Santorum will fight to ensure HIS way of life at the exclusion of all others:
“The battle we’re engaged in right now on same-sex marriage, ultimately that is the very foundation of our country, the family, what the family structure is going to look like. I’ll die on that hill fighting.”
Rick Santorum is too mired in his own fears, fear of change, fear of reality, fear of difference, fear of things he wasn’t taught, fear of things he doesn’t understand, fear of the dark and the unknown. And it has turned him into a man mired in hatred and intolerance.
“You can say I’m a hater. But I would argue I’m a lover. I’m a lover of traditional families and of the right of children to have a mother and father. … Isn’t that the ultimate homeland security, standing up and defending marriage?”
Marriage, he fails to point out, as Rick Santorum sees it. And Santorum’s “logic” is no better than claiming the KKK doesn’t hate blacks, they simply love white supremacy. No, even science, the ground beneath his own two feet, the air he breathes, and the very planet he lives on is not enough to convince Mr. Santorum that the world may not always be the way he wants it to be. The way he so clearly needs it to be.
“I’ve never supported even the hoax of global warming.”
In Rick Santorum’s world, there are no other valid points of view, no other opinions of note, no other interpretations than his own. Rick Santorum would fight to make his beliefs your beliefs. All the while pointing out the dangers of others. And if he gets his way, when the time comes and he has passed from this world, you will mourn his death. Whether you want to or not.
This is what possible Republican candidates have been reduced to: either they pander to the least-educated, racist, conspiracy-nuts, or they simply don’t stand a chance. Mike Huckabee has recently received some flack from the left (and any sane individuals remaining on the right) for not only misrepresenting President Obama as having been raised in Kenya (Obama didn’t actually visit Kenya until he was in his 20’s), but suggesting that Obama’s time spent NOT living in the United States (he did live in Indonesia from ages 6-10) had made him un-American.
“And one thing that I do know is, his having grown up in Kenya, his view of the Brits, for example, is very different than the average American,” claims Huckabee.
Well, it seems when called out on this, Huckabee’s spokesperson informed us that Huckabee meant to say Indonesia and not Kenya at all! A simple slip of the tongue. Great. So now that we know Obama grew up in Hawaii and lived for a short time in Indonesia and NOT Kenya, we can ask the real question: Why would Obama have issues with the Brits since they never colonized Indonesia (it was, in fact, the Dutch that took that honor)? And wouldn’t it be Americans who might take issue with the Brits since our very country was founded on a war we started to break from British rule? Isn’t that the foundation of this country?
So while Huckabee has since admitted publicly that, yes, Obama is “technically” an American, he still reserves a right to judge Obama’s “spiritual” patriotism:
“…I do think [Pres. Obama] has a different worldview and I think it’s, in part, molded out of a very different experience. Most of us grew up going to Boy Scout meetings and, you know, our communities were filled with Rotary Clubs, not madrassas.”
I don’t know what fantasy world Huckabee lives in, but I think he just insulted far more Americans than just President Obama. How many American men would you imagine have also not attended Boy Scouts? And how many American women have not attended Girl Scouts? And how popular are those rotary clubs in your community these days? Mike Huckabee is clearly far less in touch with what it means to be an American in 2011 than just about anyone else out there spouting off in public. And for the record, both the Boy Scouts and Rotary are international organizations, not exclusively American. And yes, they have Boy Scouts in Indonesia. And yes, Barack Obama was a Boy Scout there. But perhaps Huckabee feels that only the American arm of the Boy Scouts is truly honorable, and that any attempt to teach such values in a place like Jakarta, where Obama was a member, would be fruitless, even anti-American.
Values like those taught to Huckabee’s son David who, according to Newsweek, “was involved in the hanging of a stray dog at a Boy Scout camp in 1998. The incident led to the dismissal of David Huckabee, then 17, from his job as a counselor at Camp Pioneer in Hatfield, Ark.”
It has even been suggested (but not proven) that David Huckabee hanged the dog, slit it’s throat and stoned it to death.
But I suppose being a cruel and inhumane Boy Scout in America is more American than not being a Boy Scout at all. Perhaps David Huckabee is next in line for the coveted Dick Cheney Award For Humanitarian Concerns, which automatically comes with a job offer training recruits at Abu Ghraib.
But wait, there’s more! To add insult to injury, Huckabee has also managed to alienate all single mothers by lambasting Oscar winning actress Natalie Portman for being pregnant out of wedlock and “flaunting” it publicly at the Oscars.
“…one of the things that’s troubling is that people see a Natalie Portman or some other Hollywood starlet who boasts of, ‘Hey look, you know, we’re having children, we’re not married, but we’re having these children, and they’re doing just fine.'”
Maybe Huckabee’s son David might want to consider hanging Ms. Portman from a tree, slitting her throat and stoning her to death.
Or, the Huckabees and others like them can just back off and start the long painful process of coming to terms with the reality that Americans come in all different shapes and sizes, hold many different beliefs, and are never, ever, going to all be like one another no matter how severely you judge them. And the America I personally feel more connected to is one inhabited by the likes of Ms. Portman. But I accept that there are men like Mike and David Huckabee out there. And they also represent what it means to be American. But they have no exclusive claim on the definition.
In the meantime, it seems a vote for Mike Huckabee might just be a vote for open intolerance and moral judgement, albeit of the American variety. Weren’t in the Boy Scouts of America? Not American. Pregnant out of wedlock? Irresponsible and immoral. Bad American. Yes, it seems the margins for being a decent American (or American at all) are very narrow in Huckabee’s book. So get ready because, liberal or conservative, you’re probably not going to make the cut.