Wednesday, November 14, 2007

If Art Reflects Life

I Just Watched a Disturbing Movie!

I try to avoid politics at POI--at least until both parties officially choose their candidate, and I have a dog in the fight. I've found that it stirs up too many arguments between the friends who gather here to read my meager musings, but a few hours ago I saw the creepiest movie re-run on TV and the actress in it bears a striking resemblance to a younger Hillary Clinton on her best “make over” day.

I’m not sure why I kept seeing this resemblance because this was not a political film.

The movie began with a background story about a husband who takes sexual advantage of unsuspecting women, and when four or five of them file complaints to the authorities, the wife of the cheating, lecherous man seeks revenge on the women her husband victimized—the movie focuses on one family in particular who at first is completely fooled by this woman’s smile and charm. They welcome her into their home as a nanny and sing her praises to their friends. [These next two photos are both from 1992.]

What they don’t know is that this woman is not who she claims to be. She is completely manipulating their perception of reality. For instance, she stages events and even re-writes personal history to make herself look good. This lady creates problems that don't exist and then pretends to solve them—e.g. she secretly puts an earring in the baby's mouth so she can heroically take it out. She also plants false evidence to harm a black character who has earned the family's trust...and then acts surprised when it surfaces. She pretends to help organize a party but it's all a selfish sham, a backdrop for what she thinks will be her crowning moment.
As she spins her web of deceit, it becomes obvious to the viewer (but not those closest to the woman) that this fiendish fraud will stop at nothing to get what she wants! No matter what else she destroys in the process.
The woman schemes to undermine the role of the wife and mother, and pretends to care for the children while scamming the man of the house. By the end of the movie, deception, lies, and even murder have nearly destroyed the family that was happy before this smiling female wolf-in-sheeps- clothing arrived. Not until it’s nearly too late does the family see through the never-fading smile and sweet talk of this conniving, pathological interloper whose campaign of terror on the home plummets in poetic justice with some help from the family's black friend. (A moment that bodes well for Obama... if art reflects life.)

It’s a super creepy story—very unsettling! Have you seen the movie? It’s called The Hand that Rocks the Cradle (borrowing from the poetic maxim "The hand that rocks the cradle is the hand that rules the world.") The lead role is played all too well by Rebecca DeMornay, who could someday be cast as Hillary Clinton if they ever adapted this film into a movie about her 2008 campaign.

All DeMornay would have to do is shift the ruthless ambition to "rock the cradle" to the second part of the old saying. The title could be The Hand that Rules the World... or better yet...Hillary Rocks! The more I watched the movie, the scarier the similarities became.
Like I said, I steer clear of politics here at POI. This is not a political film at all. It's an eye-opening tale of character, motives, manipulation, and the hazards of misplaced trust.
[See Trailer here. If that won't open here are some video images from the movie (sorry they're not in English) and a short one here. Here are some video images of Senator Clinton for visual comparison. Avoid NYC Fireman next time, Adapt to friendly audiences, Try to talk tough, pretend your husband left a clean rug in the Oval Office, and Try to lighten up. [More about that cackle here and here.] If you need some more images to make the visual comparison, here are some longer clips about Hollywood connections of a different sort: Part 1 and Part 2. If you choose to rent this movie, get the edited-for-TV version, otherwise it may be flagged for objectionable language.
The question Dems are settling for is: Can she win? The questions all other voters may ask eventually include these: Based on 35 years of documented public and private behavior, do the facts match the face? Will the caring, smiling nanny that shows up on the White House porch be trustworthy when no one is looking or when someone gets in her way? Which part of "Clinton Déjà vu" will air when these re-runs begin?]

Since I do not want to dwell on politics at POI, I will instead post relevant updates for those who may find them of interest:
Update #1: 11-25-07. This article from a few weeks after this post seems to confirm some of the concerns above and in the comments below.""I think it's going to come down to: Do you really want Bill Clinton back in the White House?" said Donna Brazile, who ran Democrat Al Gore's 2000 presidential campaign."
Update #2: 11-26-07. Hillary makes little girl cry in a New Hampshire diner. "Don't let her take me, Mommy." The kid must have seen the movie! (Just kidding. I made up what the 4-year-old said, but the incident actually happened.)
Update #3: 11-28-07. This is what I'm talking about--it's re-run city! This article asserts that Hillary's run is all about Bill's "legacy." "Ladies and gentlemen," Clinton told 400 Iowans at the start of his three-city swing, "I have had a great couple of days out working for Hillary." In the next 10 minutes, he used the word "I" a total of 94 times and mentioned "Hillary" just seven times in an address that was as much about his legacy as it was about his wife's candidacy. Meanwhile some say CNN allowed Hillary to "plant" one of her supporters and co-chairmen into tonight's debate. Personally, I think this reflects far more on CNN than on the candidate who no doubt cackled about it.
Update #4: 11-29-07. Peggy Noonan says at the bottom of this piece: "The second part of the inevitability problem is that once you seem no longer inevitable--once the polls stop rising or start to fall, once that air is out of the balloon and the thing that made everyone fall in line is gone--well, what do you do? If the main argument of your candidacy is you're inevitable and suddenly you're evitable, where does that leave you? .... What does Mrs. Clinton do when she's feeling angry? What has she done in the past? Goodness, this won't be pretty."
Update #5: 12-10-07. "The concerns about Clinton, 60, a New York senator, are that she is devious, calculating and, fairly or not, a divisive figure in American politics. Those are a lot tougher to overcome. It was revealing, too, when Hart pushed them to envision these senators as leaders of the country or, as he put it, their ``boss.'' Obama, they say, would be inspirational, motivating, charismatic and compassionate. After praising Clinton's experience and intelligence, they say she would be demanding, difficult, maybe even a little scary."
Update #6: This article explains Hillary's Glass House. "Let's take a trip down memory lane, to revisit a sampling of why so many of us came to think that Hillary's first instinct when in an embarrassing spot is to lie."
Update #7: Hillary took a beating in Iowa and seems to be unraveling in New Hampshire. [Update on update... she ended up squeaking out a slim victory there.]
Update #8: 2-8-08 In this article Peggy Noonan compares Hillary to Glen Close in Fatal Attraction. Ouch! But I think the comparison to the film above is even more perfect as metaphors go.
Update #9: 2-13-08 If this is indeed a melt-down for the Clinton campaign, here is an inside explanation of which heads will roll and in what order. "...arrogance ... is the key to understanding all that has gone wrong for the Clinton campaign. Such arrogance led directly to the idea that Clinton could simply project an air of inevitability and be assured her party’s nomination. If she wins—as she very well might—it will be in spite of her original approach. As one former Clinton staffer put it to me last spring: “There was an assumption that if you were a major donor and wanted to be an ambassador, go to state dinners with the queen—unless you were an outright fool, you were going to go with Hillary, whether you liked her or not..."
Update #10: 2-14-08 In this radio interview [On WMAL-AM, Chris] Plante asked about Sen. Clinton's reaction to the comments Shuster made about Chelsea being "pimped out" by the campaign….”
Said Clinton, slowly, "I think it was inappropriate for him... to refer my daughter ….in the way he did." He went on, "Hillary never complains when people say things about her or me. But when he involved my daughter, she complained, and I think it was the right thing to do….She just stuck up for her daughter, and for girls everywhere, and women everywhere, and it’s about time somebody did ...."

This strikes me as an interesting comment from the man who was not sticking up for [in this sense] Monica Lewinsky ten years ago. The Lewinsky's "daughter" Mr. Clinton repeatedly took sexual advantage of was about four years YOUNGER than Chelsea is today. Yes, I believe that stained blue dress put "under the rug" in 1998 is why some are still tripping over the thought of Bill in the White House again. America has continued distrust of the Clinton "package deal."
Update #11: 2-21-08: Here's what George Will has to say about Hillary's cries of "unfairness and her repeated claims of 35 years of experience.
" [Cries of 'unfair'] are unpersuasive coming from someone from Illinois or Arkansas whose marriage enabled her to treat New York as her home, and the Senate as an entry-level electoral office (only 12 of today's senators have been elected to no other office) and a steppingstone to the presidency." [As to experience...] Well. She is 60. She left Yale Law School at age 25. Evidently she considers everything she has done since school, from her years at Little Rock's Rose law firm to her good fortune with cattle futures, as presidentially relevant experience.
The president who came to office with the most glittering array of experiences had served 10 years in the House of Representatives, then became minister to Russia, then served 10 years in the Senate, then four years as secretary of state (during a war that enlarged the nation by 33 percent), then was minister to Britain. Then, in 1856, James Buchanan was elected president and in just one term secured a strong claim to the rank as America's worst president. Abraham Lincoln, the inexperienced former one-term congressman, had an easy act to follow."
Update 12: 2-21-08: Here's an explanation of how Hillary ran out of money so fast.
Update 13: 2-22-08: Ouch! This one asks "Why on earth would Democrats want to sign up for a second ride on the Clinton scandal train when they could opt for a clean slate candidate?...I believe there is a whole group of Democrats out there who are secretly enjoying being able to vote against a Clinton... without having to vote for a Republican to do it."
Update 14: 3-20-08: March was a very eventful month. As Hillary lost a dozen primaries in a row to Obama. She fell about 150 delegates behind (before Obama's pastor problems surfaced, but by then it was probably too late). Hillary tried everything to get the Michigan and Florida "disqualified" primaries to count, and on March 19 she traveled to Michigan and gave them an impassioned speech abuot how deeply she believes their votes should count and she should get the delegates (since Obama was not on the ballot). She forgot that she had said this in Iowa last January.
Update 15: 5-12-08 (I kept adding these updates to the old post for six months so as not to prompt political discussion on an on-going basis here at POI.) Here's what Peggy Noonan said about this weekend's events: "Mrs. Clinton spent this week making it clear. In a jaw-dropping interview in USA Today on Thursday, she said, '...Obama's support among working, hard-working Americans, white Americans, is weakening again, and how whites in both states who had not completed college were supporting me."
White Americans? ... If John McCain said, "I got the white vote, baby!" his candidacy would be over. And rising in highest indignation against him would be the old Democratic Party.
To play the race card as Mrs. Clinton has, to highlight and encourage a sense that we are crudely divided as a nation, to make your argument a brute and cynical "the black guy can't win but the white girl can" is -- well, so vulgar, so cynical, so cold, that once again a Clinton is making us turn off the television in case the children walk by....She is trying to take Obama down in a new way, but also within a new context. In the past he was just the competitor. She could say, "All's fair." But now he's the competitor who is going to be the nominee of his party. And she is still trying to do him in. And the party is watching."

Monday, January 15, 2007

High Noon:
Follow Up on "A Better Life"

A previous post on 1-7-07 prompted some interesting comments and questions from Obsession. As that cautionary film's disclaimer says, the radical Muslims are a minority and vastly outnumbered by those who would prefer to live in peace. Unfortunately, we know from 9-11 that terrorists are willing to borrow the freedom they hate in order to make a statement against it. This makes life more difficult for non-militant Muslims who choose to practice their faith in non-Muslim countries.

I'm writing this on Martin Luther King Jr. Monday. This weekend, I've heard many references to King's "I Have a Dream" speech. This is interesting in light of a BBC documentary I watched last week called "The Power Of Nightmares" By Adam Curtis. (It's on Google Video here. It's in 3 one-hour parts but worth the time.) The premise (though perhaps a generalization) is that political leaders have lost the ability to cast dreams and have resorted to leading through fear.

“In a society that believes in nothing, fear becomes the only agenda. While the 20th Century was dominated by a conflict between a free-market right and a Socialist left….at least they believed in something. Whereas, what we are seeing now [post Cold War] is a society that believes in nothing [and is therefore] particularly frightened by people who believe in anything….” (from The Power of Nightmares, Part III)

There is useful information in Curtis' presentation, but I disagree with his premise and many of his conclusions—especially that the fear of global terrorism stems from fear of a misunderstood religion in general. I think it comes more precisely from an understood fear of random death. His treatise (Part I) did, however, help me better understand the long and ironic "prologue" of what some call Jihad and why much of Europe and the Arab world is afraid to speak out against the radicalism behind it.

He also points out that Jihadists who oppose the West (including Westernized Muslim nations) do so because freedom leads to individualism, materialism, and selfish, vulgar living.

In my February 19, 2006 post I said...

"I believe we are on the right side in the War on Terrorism, but this conclusion is not based on our 'goodness' as a nation or our 'fitness' to export freedom [if such were possibe]. Unfortunately, from a moral perspective, it's harder to make a case for democracy's contrast to tyranny if that democracy is linked to moral decay. (e.g. Which is worse: a woman’s choice to be dressed in veils or her willingness to be undressed in vile men's entertainment?)

The cause is indeed complicated by a caricature of Western democracies reveling in unfettered 'freedom' which values the right to have choices more than the responsibility of choosing wisely.... [Curtis would say "there's the rub," and it's why Americans must better model the values promoted at TFFABL.] Freedom itself must be restricted (else why the need for STOP signs?)....That is the cause of the constant tension between freedom and self-governance....Even so, I believe that on our worst day, our system of government—not our moral example—reflects more of our Creator's ideals than tyrannical systems of fear."

I would suggest that the poor moral example set by the West is a result of man's depravity not his freedom. It is my personal belief that the values at the heart of a better life were established by God and cannot be maintained while rejecting Him. The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom for those who understand His gospel, but this understanding cannot be forced upon anyone. That mistake has been made by many religions—including Christianity—through the centuries.

As in the 7th's post, I can't say that either side is fighting "for God," but I will say a better life or a bitter life depends on victory over terrorism because fear of the unknown brings out the worst in mankind.

Iraq is the current focal point of this clash of ideals. The goal is victory not peace. As outsiders, the Coalition cannot hope to settle the ancient civil wars in that region. (We didn't start and cannot finish those.) On the other hand, it must give the new Iraqi government a fighting chance against the insurgents who wish it to fail. Everyone wants the war to be over, but most agree that we cannot simply cut and run.

This war has resembled High Noon from the start. (Rent it and see if you agree.) But the role of sheriff must change to the Iraqi people and its leaders. The insurgents may hate the West, and the Iraqi people do not need to be Westernized, but they must understand the courage of that Western when it comes time for the Coalition Forces to withdraw. For all the obvious reasons outsiders cannot remain indefinitely as the sheriff. Self-government must ultimately be self-maintained. [As seen in this June 2007 update.]
Because the intent of this follow up was to clarify these thoughts--not to initiate or prolong this topic on my blog--I have chosen to close comments on this post for the time being. Thank you.

Sunday, January 7, 2007

A Better Life

This afternoon I was watching the play-offs, and a PSA (public service announcement) came on in the middle of the endless beer commercials. It was like a Hallmark ad, but instead of selling cards, it was selling values. Randy Travis was singing about a truck driver in the middle of nowhere who decides to remain faithful to his wife. See it here. (Scroll down to the frame called "Truck stop" and click on the your media player.)

While you're there, check out some of the other short spots (30-60 seconds long). It's a user-friendly site brimming with inspiration.

The FAQ link of The Foundation for a Better Life (TFFABL) makes it clear that they are "not affiliated with any... religious organizations" yet it clearly espouses a worldview and set of values. I doubt that the dollars behind TFFAL are from atheists trying to fan the divine spark of humanity, but I could be wrong. Perhaps the foundation consists of private members of a very particular religious group trying to appear non-sectarian in order to reach a larger audience and accomplish a "greater good." Either way, overtly leaving God out of the equation makes man sound pretty capable without Him (a la Pelagianism, explained here). Which raises some questions...

Can actions and attitudes be based only on "personal accountability... regardless of religion..."? As important as human accountability is, can it replace accountability to God? Can values survive in the vacuum of subjective thought? The answers to these questions are important, but my intent is not to start a theological debate.

I wish rather to point out that these values are not "religion-neutral" at all. They appeal to us because they are rooted in the truth the Gospel.

Virtually* every value on the TFFABL site springs from Biblical principles and the teachings of Jesus Christ. I'm confident that I could footnote them with a Bible passage (in context). In terms of self-government (salvation is another discussion), they do indeed represent a better life even for those who do not put faith in the source. For that, I like these TV spots.

Question: I've browsed through the Koran. Can Muslims likewise show how the values modeled in the TFFABL TV spots are explicitly taught in the Koran? (I'm not talking about any parts of the Koran taken from the Bible. Since Mohammed and his writings came at least 600 years later. I'm talking more specifically about the words attributed to their "prophet.") I'm just wondering. Look for yourself. If you find similar values there, what is the ratio of such teachings to the numerous calls for jihad and death to those who believe otherwise? It would be encouraging to hear influential non-radical Muslims explain the compatibility of our beliefs in a pluralistic society.

Make no mistake, the war in Iraq is a clash of values. Ironically, it is primarily between the non-geographic strain of radical Islam that would force its "church" on the State and a nation whose "separation of Church and State" has made it forget the source of its high ideals. Only time will tell how well "self government" in Iraq (or here for that matter) can function without a foundation of Judeo-Christian ethics.

I'll not presume to say either side is fighting for God, but I will say that a better life or a bitter life hangs in the balance of victory. If you doubt it, click here, but to fully understand a differing view you may also which to click here.
(TFFABL also have a billboard campaign that includes this reminder from WWII.)
This post generated many thoughtfully expressed questions and comments and agreement from readers, but due to the nature of the internet, I have chosen to close them for the time being. Thank you. T.K.

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