La La Land and The Slaves Who Drank to Forget

Meryl Streep bared her soul while excoriating Donald Trump at the Golden Globes Sunday, January 8th when she received a lifetime achievement award. La La Land, the musical film starring Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling won seven Golden Globes that night, the most of any film in the history of the Golden Globes.

Streep represents why I came to L.A.: to make a difference, to tell stories that convey something, to find meaning in my work. I soon found out that anyone who’s making art is funding it themselves. Art is poverty. La La Land is business: massive, gorgeous, fun, and thin.

But even as Streep nearly wept for the country from her place on stage, The Globes, as all awards shows, speak for themselves.  Hollywood values entertainment more than truth. La La Land, a love letter to L.A. celebrates, as the L.A. Times observed, “the one thing Hollywood loves, itself.”  Hollywood blusters and preens. It spends sums of money that rival the GDP of most countries on films about nothing. It’s a business that serves, quite self-consciously, as an opioid to the masses, which the masses consume with vigor.

And on the sixth day the slave drank to forget

Slave owners gave their slaves one day off a week. On that day the owner supplied the slave all the alcohol he wanted. In this way, the owner correctly concluded, the slave imprisoned himself. If a slave didn’t have time to think about his plight, he might not develop the imagination to escape it.

I always think about the slave owner and the slave whenever I see billboards advertising movies like La La Land. Inoculate the masses so they don’t develop the imagination to demand movies that feature real life heroes, people who truly inspire the working class to believe in themselves and take back the houses, jobs, and savings they’ve lost. Manchester By The Sea stars a troubled Casey Affleck who’s lost everything. I loved this film. It won one award: Best Actor.

Andy Cohen, architect of the Housewive’s franchise and arguably the father of reality television, told the New York Times he didn’t make people want what he produced, he just gave them what they wanted before they knew they wanted it. He predicted Donald Trump’s win. He understood what Donald Trump knows, entertain the people and they enslave themselves to your programming.

Deep Talk and Shallow Tales

A large portion of the country feels movies and journalism are connected. They feel both enterprises engage in a dance to hypnotize and deceive the country. And that’s not not true. Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen are on tour right now. A mere 330 bucks gets you front and center for,  “AC2: An Intimate Evening with Anderson Cooper & Andy Cohen—Deep Talk and Shallow Tales.” What’s more, when news anchors, like Cooper, get paid tens of millions a year, they’re no longer journalists. They’ve sold their souls to the same gods who employ men like Cohen.

I see a different connection between Hollywood and journalism: both have the opportunity to tell the truth, one with facts, one with art.

Journalism began as a way to reveal to voters what politicians did behind closed doors. It’s why politicians hate them and work tirelessly to turn the population against them. Beware of the politicians who rail against journalists the loudest. They’ve got the most to hide. Republicans have been campaigning since Nixon to get the population to turn on journalists. They’ve won. And here we are, with a president who promises to undo journalism itself.

No one is listening. People barely care. They’d rather not think. Because if they did they’d have to turn off The Real Housewives to read things, understand that not all politicians lie, facts are not biased, and there are journalists, Senators, and brave Congressmen and women who want to lead this country, who have a vision to restore it. But they can do nothing without us. They cannot stand against the tidal wave of corruption, naked power, and obscene wealth sitting in highest seats of power. We are facing the final blow to democracy, rule by oligarchy. And we just voted our favorite reality TV star into office.

God Put Trump In And Obama Out

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Like many, this election divided my home. Now I work to untangle love from Trump’s ascendence. 

I’ve been silenced by the results of this election, paralyzed, unable to find words, shocked that my mother voted for Trump. “God has put Trump in and Obama is out!” She said to my younger brother. Even if voting for him meant voting against the health of her eldest who survives  on disability checks and voting against her daughter’s safety, to say the least of it. Never mind all the rest of his atrocities. I’m keeping this close to home.

I feel his election heavy on my body, on my skin. His body is an affront to the office he holds. His skin is a revulsion. The words that come from his foul mouth poison everything, including my relationship with my mother.  I’ll never forgive her for being taken in by the greatest con man of the century.

As I write this I know she could read it. I try not to write about my family. I did that once. Words. Once you put them out there, you can no longer control them, or what you mean to say. Family can’t hear your truth, particularly because it isn’t their’s. And I respect that. Yet, here I go. I will write a thing I shouldn’t. And for that, I’m sorry. But I’m in pain. I can’t write another word, until I write these.

Once my mother’s love flowed like a river. Now I feel her strain to give it. I rejected faith. She took that personally. Not long ago she told me God comes before her children. “I know,” I said, but didn’t tell her I’ve always known. It’s one of the reasons I rejected faith. A God who asks a mother to put him before her children is a petty god.

Words. Once you put them out there, you can no longer control them, or what you mean to say.

During a recent visit she said, “You never read the Bible, never studied it as I have. If you had, you’d still believe!”   I didn’t argue it. What was the point? There were so many factors, a myriad of reasons, losses, and gains that led me to this place, a space so far away from her.

I do not condemn faith. Instead, I have great respect for it, when it brings joy, instead of pain and boundless love instead of fear. In short, when it is consistent throughout one’s life.  My mother’s vote for Trump telegraphed, in an instant, the crisis between us. She either believes Trump is a Christian or doesn’t care to really know. How do you vote for a man whose life demonstrates complete disdain for your values, see his win as an appointment from God, but struggle to love your only daughter because she what, no longer calls herself a Christian?

I have great respect for faith, when it brings joy, instead of pain and love, instead of fear.

After our argument, I didn’t sleep all night. Our fight raged in my head. As dawn broke I decided in order to save our relationship, I’d have to swallow my pride and say what needed saying. I descended the stairs from my room and entered her bright yellow kitchen. It sparkled with newness. I found it ironic and depressing. Nevertheless, it was idyllic. My mother’s home is the All American Dream replete with the American flag waving out front. It creeps me out a little.

As my mother prepared breakfast, I put my hand on her shoulder and told her I loved her. No matter our disagreements, I’d never look down on her or her beliefs. She turned, her face contorted in pain as she tried to smile. She’s a terrible liar. Maybe I’m paranoid, but I think she thought I was lying. Was I? No. There’s a half truth there, but here’s the whole of it, my achilles heel has always been that there’s never been another god but she. I’d say anything to bridge the gap between us.

But could I mean it?

I value knowledge above most things. Yet, she raised me to believe that when Eve ate from the tree of knowledge she seduced Adam to eat of it. Then God cast them both out of the garden. Knowledge is associated with the dark arts, alchemy, and witchcraft. While I’m no witch by any means, my education inspired me to pull on the threads of faith and it unraveled. I live outside the garden and strain to see her beyond the vines where she prays she’ll see me bow to God in her lifetime. I long to feel close to her again, like when she held me and played with my hair in childhood, like when we shopped in thrift stores in high school, like when we talked almost everyday in college. I feel the space between us when we talk. Wide gaps stretch out in our sentences punctuated by broken stories as we pick our way through minefields. Tell this story, but not that. Share this anecdote, be careful to leave out that detail.

My achilles heel has always been that there’s never been another god but she.

So  yes, I’m angry that she voted for Trump from her white-picket fence home safe in the suburbs where she’ll never have to feel the effects of his lies.  That said, I get that her  vote is not some grand symbol of her failure to love me. But it is an expression of her lack of interest in facts. It is this that creates a divide between us that can’t be bridged. Yet, what of it? Does that mean love is not possible? What if it’s not she who struggles to love me? What if it’s that she struggles to express it? Now that we no longer know one another, who can blame her?

I tire of these questions. They circle round and round and I can’t find the end of them. I need to leave this post alone and get on with the rest of my writing. So, I’ll leave you with Desiree’s Baby.

Desiree’s Baby is a  Southern Gothic tale written by Kate Chopin. In it Desiree pens a desperate letter to her mother because her husband no longer loves her. Her mother responds, My own Desiree: Come back to Valmonde; back to your mother who loves you. Come with your child. Instead, Desiree kills herself and her baby. I wonder if daughters don’t always value their mother’s love? Or simply don’t see it as enough?

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My mother is from Georgia. There, mothers love their children with a fierceness I’ve not seen up North. When I read that line, in Desiree’s Baby, I recognized a truth within it. I experienced it when I went to college. My mother grabbed hold of me and cried my name. My father had to pull her away. Other people just went to college, I felt rent from my mother’s bosom.  This last time I saw her, on a trip to Portland the week of the election, she grabbed hold of me on the last day and said, “Come home whenever you want. Come home and stay as long as you need.”