My husband and I went to see this movie last night. Funny..it didn't occur to me until after the movie that the timing was rather poignant. Yesterday was the 50th anniversary of MLK's March on Washington.
The Butler was one of the most powerful movies I have seen in a very long time. When we left the movie, I did something I have never once done after a movie in my entire adult life. I cried. I mean..I actually cried. Not because the movie had a sad ending ( it really doesn't)...but because as much as I thought I understood the events leading up to the civil rights era...I didn't know anything. As much as I thought I understood the struggle African Americans have endured in this country for hundreds of years...I didn't know anything. As much as I thought I understood the sacrifices..and the shame..and the dehumanization of African American...I didn't know anything.
My tears and emotion surprised me. It took me a little while to try and figure out what I was feeling. Sadness..for sure...but it was more than that. It was something so much worse than that. For the first time in my life I felt a sense of shame towards the country I love so much. I grew up understanding the racist tendencies shared by many of my own relatives. I heard the "N word" many times as a child. I knew the history..saw the grainy news footage..heard the speeches..but never really understood the sense of complete dehumanization, shame and fear that most African Americans felt at the hands of so called "God loving Americans".
I love my country. I am not sure where to put this feeling of shame..or how to deal with the fact that people could be so cruel to others.. still are in come cases.I am not sure how to reconcile it with my love and pride for America.
Later this morning, I will attend Mass with my family, including my baby niece. I will take comfort in how far we've grown as a country even as I feel the sadness, outrage and shame of our history. I will let the feelings of love and acceptance, hope and forgiveness wash over me and pray for the pain and struggles of the past, present and future...and when I look down at my almost 3 year old little niece as she opens her "music book" to sing along with the choir..I will feel a profound sense of hope.