Thursday, December 30, 2010

Francesca should have opened that door!

(What follows is a movie review I wrote on in 2002 concerning the film adaptation of Robert James Waller's book, "The Bridges of Madison County". My review was named one of the top seven for the movie out of hundreds some years later. -- DGH)


I viewed Hollywood's adaptation of Robert James Waller's "The Bridges of Madison County" last evening. I had seen the film initially some years ago and regarded it as much ado about nothing for the most part at that time.

But I was struck in this new viewing more than before by the universality of Francesca Johnson's dilemma. Perhaps maturation and recent life experiences have generated a heightened understanding and awareness on my part.

Robert Kinkaid possessed a few of the qualities that have both inspired and dogged me during my middle years.

He was a rootless writer and photographer, as well as a keen and cynical observer of the human condition. Kinkaid had been far and done much. He had seen and experienced multiple facets of life and love and possessed limitless anecdotal knowledge of the world. He offered much to Francesca in terms of sensitivity, understanding, appreciation of beauty and companionship that she would never find on an Iowa farm.

But Kinkaid lacked Middle America's major indicators of success and worthiness--roots sunk deeply in one geographic location, a home and real estate, and most importantly, a traditional Cleaver family mind set.

Francesca reluctantly opted for the Cleaver family syndrome, choosing security and safety over fascination, inspiration and love. She lived out her years with a boring Iowa pig farmer, remaining a lonely and empty woman with nothing but tattered memories of her brief encounter with Kinkaid.

Had I been writing the screenplay, I would have had her fling open that truck door and dash through the rain storm to head west with Robert Kinkaid.

For better or worse, that's the impulsive sort of decision that has governed my life more often than not.

But such actions and those who take them do not comfort the psyche of Middle America's puritanical heartland.

Though they know better from their own experiences and those of others, the majority of Americans--middle class protestant ones especially--prefer to keep their heads safely in the sand about life and the human condition, pretending still in a little house on the prairie dream world that probably never was--one that most certainly doesn't exist now.

All is well in this delusional world of make believe--one that's filled with Little League games, soccer moms, church suppers and PTO meetings. Marriage and family are still the rocks of civilization and the ostriches are "saved" and bound for Heaven. Their president, George W. Bush, is a worthy man with a commission from their God to root out homosexuality, abortion and Islam.

In my opinion, such as they dwell in the outer limits of utter darkness, living and dying without a clue about the past, the present, or the future. They're not living--they're merely existing in a state of perpetual denial, awaiting the flat line and the rude awakening that will likely follow.

Thoreau wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation. What is termed resignation is confirmed desperation."

Francesca Johnson completed her life journey in this condition of quiet desperation. I think that's a damned shame. I wanted more for her. I wanted her to go with Robert Kinkaid and seek a few years of happiness and joy while they each had the time and opportunity.

D. Grant Haynes

Monday, December 13, 2010

The Sheeple

The people have spoken, goddamn them. -- Mo Udall

Chapter 2

This brief section in which I decry the apparent collective stupidity of the American electorate in giving George W. Bush fresh mandates to continue his madness at home and in the Middle East in 2002 and again in 2004 is the one segment above all others that my fainter-hearted friends have advised me against including in this volume. “You will only alienate readers and cause them to close your book by publishing such ire and rancor”, I have been advised. Perhaps so in some cases, though I hope not. But I do not seek to win a popularity contest anyway.

No record of the Bush administration-induced anguish that has dominated my thinking and emotions for the last six years would be complete without an honest expression of what I felt at moments of greatest despair and disgust during these terrible years. I am not dishonest enough to omit these statements. Or, alternatively, I am foolhearty enough to include them.

Americans could have rebuffed Bush in the 2002 mid-term elections, but they didn’t. This was inexplicable and unforgivable, I thought. My statements at the time reflected those sentiments.

And after the presidential election of 2004 when blindered Americans had voted Bush into office still again, thereby expanding his mandate to drag our nation ever deeper into the worst domestic and international malaise since the Great Depression, at least, I was, frankly, livid.

At that point Bush had established an indisputable track record of lies and double dealing about Iraq.

At that point he had expanded his unrelenting plutocratic attack on the middle class of America with more tax breaks for the wealthy, diminution of welfare funding, and relaxation of environmental laws to favor his fat cat contributors from the energy and other sectors.

Nothing had gone well since his appointment as president in December 2000, but here we were four years later facing four more years of the hell he had already put us through.

This, because Americans had not displayed enough collective intelligence to kick the bums out in the 2004 election. Rather, too many Americans were still crouching in dark corners expecting the Bush administration to protect them from “terrists” from without when, in truth, Bush and his cabal were the worst terrorist in America and in the world at the time. Or so I felt and wrote.

The tide is finally turning in the spring of 2007. Bush has few friends on either side of the congressional aisle and the most lethargic American couch potatoes are willing, finally, to listen to criticism of their president.

The corporate media whores are even finding a voice and daring to speak out after years of cutting Bush slack and presenting White House press releases as the gospel.

But it’s too little and it’s too late. The darkness from which our nation and the world must recover in the post-Bush years will linger for decades. It did not have to be so.


Excesses of blind patriotism annoying, dangerous

November 17, 2001

Dear Post-911 Flag-Waving Fellow Americans:

After reading your newspapers--after listening to your corporate media's propagandistic version of the so-called "War Against Terrorism" now under way in Afghanistan--after seeing your flag-decked SUVs with the Pisces emblems on the one side and National Rifle Association stickers on the other--after enduring this national adrenalin rush daily for the past two months--I have concluded that you are, by and large, a shallow, callous, insular, naively manipulable and infinitely self-righteous lot.

You are dangerously intoxicated at this time with a virulent strain of myopic ethnocentrism approaching Third Reich fanaticism--one that is most unattractive to the quiet minority here who can't in good conscience join your sloganeered, bumper-stickered, anthem-singing, flag-flapping, Arab-hating hysteria.

You are riding the crest of a wave of blind arrogance, egocentric hedonism and aggressive nationalism that cannot last--one that will inevitably lead to a cataclysmic fall in time.

I do not know how these things will evolve. I am no prophet or seer. But of this I am reasonably certain. You will be--you must be--humbled. Karmic laws are inexorable, inescapable and universal. America is ripe for a humbling as the 21st Century begins.

I do not wish this to be the case. I live here, as have my forebears for at least six generations. I have children and grandchildren who will suffer when the collapse occurs. But I see this national adjustment as inevitable.

You as a people are not better than--you do not deserve more of everything than--any other group on the planet.

You do not possess an inherent right to abuse--to show utter disregard for--other human cultures and groups, as well as every other species with which you share this tiny blue orb.

You do not possess an inherent right to destroy the very Earth that has nurtured you with your outsized contribution to global pollution--one that will bring catastrophic climate changes and sea level alterations within the present century.

You are not so very special and unique as you may imagine, flag-waving Americans. Deity has not singled you out for preferential treatment and predestined dominance. You are merely the current bully on the block--an ephemeral thing at best. Bullies come and go.

In the longer view of history, you will go the way of other civilizations that became overly extended, overly aggressive, overly confident, overly materialistic, and overtly abusive toward all that did not embrace unflinchingly their narrowly defined interests and values.

I have thought often during recent days of Thomas Jefferson's remark regarding the institution of slavery--a gathering storm in his time.

He said, "... I tremble for my country when I reflect that God is just."

Indeed, I tremble today for my country because I know my fellows are on a course that cannot end well.