Friday, March 23, 2012

A Cinematic Irony

The other night, we sat down to watch what Kirk thought was 'Wrath of Khan' ("Ricardo Montalban gets so mad! It's so great!") but instead, he had inadvertently chosen, 'My Name Is Khan", a Bollywood drama. Quite a difference.

It tells the story of Rizwan Khan, an Indian Muslim man with Asburger's Syndrome. He comes to the US and marries Mandira, an unspeakably beautiful Hindu hairdresser. Life is lovely until 9/11, then prejudice sets in. The family's surname causes Mandira's son, Sam, to be fatally victimized and Mandira blames her husband's surname for his death.

In a blind rage, she kicks him out. Rather innocently, he asks, "When should I return?" She screams that he should not return until she tells everyone, including the President of the United States, that his name is Khan and he is not a terrorist. He sets off to do just that.

Other than enduring some painfully exaggerated American stereotypes (including a big, black woman named "Mama Jenny" and a parade of mean, white guys in full redneck mode (in San Francisco, no less) and the notable exclusion of blonde woman) we enjoyed the film and appreciated the story it had to tell.

But I note it here because of two connections it has to recent events:

Speaking Openly to Our Elected OfficialsThe U.S. Supreme Court will soon hear arguments in a case involving the arrest of a Colorado man who was thrown in jail after telling Vice President Cheney in 2006 that the Bush administration's policies in Iraq were "disgusting." Though he had only tapped the VP on the shoulder, he was put in handcuffs (in front of his 10-year-old son) 10 minutes later and taken to jail. His wife had to bail him out and the district attorney opted not to press charges...because he hadn't done anything except express his views to an elected official.

Khan faced a similar challenge when he tried to approach the President. And while one is a dramatization of a socially-challenged individual and the other is a real life incident, I couldn't help but compare them. Yes, I understand the safety of these people is the job of the secret service, so why do they disagree on what happened? And why was this man not arrested immediately?

Hate Crimes in France
That morning, I listened as NPR described the horrific scene in Toulouse, France, a lovely town I've actually visited. A extremist Muslim killed four people at a school. One scene described how he grabbed a little girl's hair, put a gun straight to her head and pulled the trigger without remorse. He's dead now but we know now he was allegedly avenging the deaths of Palestinian children and trying to incite more hatred.)

Despite their differences, leaders of Muslim and Jewish communities organized a march together, said one, "It only makes sense if we do it together." Said another, "The gunman clearly is trying to make us hate one another. It will not work." 

All this stuff was roiling around in my head while watching these heartfelt (and somewhat cheesey) film. Funny how life issues can gel into a theme sometimes. 

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