So I just saw Gran Torino. (Like, just).
What a strange redemption story. I’m left with a heavy angst over the brutality of the gang culture. Relevant magazine just ran a story covering the LA gang scene and referenced a hs senior with a basketball scholarship being shot nine times in the leg, just to ruin his prospects.
Meanwhile, on the other side of town, all the affluent American Dream families are guilt-ridden (per Jim and Casper Go To Church). No wonder; they’ve bought themselves out of the mess by moving.
The weight of this inequality is staggering. The story we tell here in America, that we’ve been telling for 300 years, is that if you work hard and go to school, etc, you’ll succeed, and you won’t have to threaten to kill people to get home from school. (Or take a different path every day so they can never find you).
So when the Marines are done in Afghanistan, do you think someone will ask them to use counter-insurgency tactics in our city centers?
I get that humanity is depraved. I don’t understand how any humanists could successfully argue otherwise. But it’s no comfort.
So if this were a modernist evangelical essay, I would pivot off of some bland verse or hymn and say “this is why Jesus came”. But no such luck. It’s a post-modernist, post-evangelical blog post.
I think a society’s justice should be judged by the least offenses; the way we judge workplace safety- if somebody dies, it’s not safe, not 99% safe. It is unjust for humans to suffer under thug violence anywhere– and that makes America unjust. We shouldn’t judge our prosperity by the most prosperous, but by the least –if the poorest can’t afford life, we’re a poor country. This inequality is especially painful in a democratic country. What are their tax dollars doing? Where’s the life and liberty? We’re supposed to be the one free and prosperous country!
And honestly, if were a bunch of blond haired, blue eyed basketball players being shot in L.A. the Marines would already be there. The “Protestant work ethic” has at least one blind spot: poor people. Somewhere in our collective subconscious is the thought that folks living in modern day ghettos deserve the life they live for not getting up and getting a good enough job. And we’re not that worried about the fact their schools suck so bad, or their roads aren’t repaired, or that the buses don’t run on time. It’s scary and its dangerous. The callousness is haunting.
I’m sure all of this gets to me because I must somewhere believe these things, and if anything close to the story of Gran Torino has EVER happened to anyone in this country; it shatters them to bits. What are we to do when violence is the only answer? The American dogma is to stay put, put up the good fight; work hard and buy your way out of the mess. How is that really a solution?
there I go again, de-humanizing the Other. Whose sin is greater, the thugs downtown or the society that looks the other way?