03 August 2010


FILM. Yesterday I watched a movie called Imaginary Witness: Hollywood and the Holocaust. It was both a harrowing and a redemptive experience. As the name implies, this documentary traces how the Holocaust has been portrayed over the years in movies -- portraying the histories of world events, politics, our culture, and ultimately every individual who has been touched by World War II and the genocide of six million Jews by Hitler's Nazis. Which is to say, everyone. It is not an easy film to watch, in part because of the starkly graphic subject matter, and in part because we are witness to our own years-long disbelief, denial and callous disregard of systematic and brutal oppression, abuse and mass murder. It shocks and grieves to learn that many lives could have been saved, if our leaders had decided to act upon intelligence they had as early as 1942, and probably much earlier. World War II in general, and the Holocaust in particular, were the defining moments of the twentieth century. And while we in the US like to congratulate ourselves on winning that war, in the end we only entered the war out of animal self-preservation. The isolationism practiced by the US prior to December 7, 1941 is a permanent stain on our national character.

I was reminded of another film that deals indirectly with genocide, politics and war -- Spaulding Gray's brilliant and chameleonic Swimming to Cambodia. Gray's monologue revolves around the filming of The Killing Fields, and includes the historic backdrop of the Vietnam War, social and political upheaval in the US, as well as Gray's own experiences while filming in Thailand. Shifting from biting satire to deep questions about the duality between integrity and expediency, the movie can be seen repeatedly, and still remain fresh and relevant.

In my post on 15 May, 2010, I described yet another film about cultural brutality, The Stoning of Soraya M. The movie's Iranian-born star, Shohreh Aghdashloo, today expresses her horror over Iran's decision to stone a woman to death for committing adultery. Her interview is passionate and eloquent, and includes a link to the trailer for her movie. Please take a moment to read her thoughts, out of compassion and in honor of bearing witness so that we may learn how to transcend our own visible and invisible violence. Thank you.

[Please note that I watch many genres of movies -- it is happenstance that the titles I've recommended today all deal with grim (and very real) topics.]

NATURE. Here is a link to the website for the Cheetah Conservation Fund. One of the founding themes of this blog is the reality that predators are in dire need of our protection and stewardship. They are an integral part of nature's balance, culling out the old, weak and ailing among prey species, leaving the strong to survive and reproduce. Unfortunately, predators are too often perceived as either a threat to humans, or as competitors for common prey species. The natural world exists in a state of dynamic equilibrium until we arrogant humans intrude ourselves and start to play god with the balance of things. We have managed to screw things up so badly that we may already have passed the threshold for recovery for many species, not to mention entire ecosystems.

In this context, the health of predators provides a gauge for the health of the biome as a whole. Human abuse of resources, and human pollution and habitat degradation, all filter up the food chain to where they are most visible -- to the top predators, who not only deserve to live freely in their own right, but also serve as the canary in the coal mine, signaling the prospects for human survival. It is in our own best interests, as well as theirs, to act as informed and responsible stewards for all nature's predators -- on land, in the world ocean, and in the air. All life forms are connected.

Speaking of in the air, I've discovered a wonderful website where you can hear the calls of every species of bird in North America. Individual species are arranged taxonomically into groups, so if you have a certain species in mind and are not a regular birder, the index of any popular bird guide will help you discover the group to look for. Mostly the search is easy, and it's fun just to randomly explore and see what you discover.

No comments:

Post a Comment