Thursday, September 16, 2010
If Not Us, Then Who? Machete in a positive light!
"Machete is messy, violent, shallow, and tasteless -- and that's precisely the point of one of the summer's most cartoonishly enjoyable films."
This, from rotten tomatoes, a website that compiles reviews and gives scores to movies based on the percentage of negative to positive reviews. So far, the gore fest, directed by Spy Kids creator Robert Rodriguez, is getting above average scores. This quote is only half of the story.
As anyone who knows me already understands I can find something to gripe about in even the most benign situations,and something to inspire in some of the most interesting of places, I really tend to see both sides of every coin and if you talk to me long enough, you are likely to be confused, which is where I live most of the time. Life is a paradox. Too much religion tends to turn people into nazis and roses grow best when surrounded with crap. The world is filled with things that are that should not be. As Solomon put it, he gives us beauty for ashes.
So, against what's left of my better judgment, I went to see this film the other day. Not that I put up a heavy protest. It is more my artistic sensibilities that were straining against the idea than my personal moral code. Make of that what you will. Anyway, I was invited by our missions pastor, so I figured, what the heck.
There was more blood shed in the first five minutes than world wars 1 and 2 combined. And it only got more interesting as the film progressed. Rogriguez is known for his over-the-top, take-no-prisoners style and if that's what you're looking for, you would not be disappointed, but that is not why I am writing about this film. As the story unfolds it is a typical revenge driven, male macho, ultimate justice fantasy. Machete wades through “bad guys” like a lawnmower through six inch grass. But, there is more to it than that.
Anyone who has ever read Rodriguez's film making book, “Rebel Without a Crew” about how he made his first feature, knows there is more to this guy than what meets the eye. First of all, he is making the movies he saw as a kid, for a new generation, granted that list does not seem to include Mary Poppins, The Apple Dumpling Gang, or Herby Goes Bananas, but that's what he's doing.
Sometimes it is easy to judge someone elses actions in light of our own prejudice, or upbringing. As the old saying goes, “Didn't your mother ever tell you...?” For instance, I worked with a guy who grew up in the back room of a strip club. He's a christian now and works in outreach to people in that lifestyle, but, because of his background, good or bad, I bet he is not nearly as distracted as I would be, were I to follow him to the places he goes, which neither I, nor my wife, think is God's plan for me.
Back to Rodriguez. In his book there were several moments when he would say that things just worked out for him. Anyone who has ever had any dealings with the Holy Spirit would immediately sense God's call and hand on this guy, while he may, or may not, be paying attention.
Anyway, in this film , the first scene features Machete and a second, unnamed federale about to bust into a Mexican slum to rescue a girl being held hostage by garden variety scum bags, his partner says, “Why this girl, why does it matter? We don't have to do this, you know?” (I know this because it was conveniently subtitled in English) Machete's reply was incredible: “If not us, then who?” Followed of course by loving interactions with his fellow man that lead to copious amounts of blood being spilt and an emergency room bill that I cannot even begin to fathom. I actually thought during the scene, wow am I old.
If not us, then who? Wow, talk about a wake up call. Forget the rest of the movie, although in my opinion there was probably more political commentary in that piece than anyone will ever give it credit for, not saying I agree with all of it, but it makes you think. But forget all of that and let's talk about this phrase.
I grow weary of the oppressive nature of our society. While I know that every generation feels, to some degree, that the changes the yahoos after them make are bad. But, I think we are experiencing more than that. We are in a place right now where it is acceptable to commit, or go along with, all kinds of atrocities, big and small, because, “I just work here” or “I don't make the rules” or “That's company policy”.
We treat people poorly. We don't pay out on insurance they were told (Or should I say sold?) would take care of them, never mind the details. We take from those who can least afford through excessive late fees and surcharges and overdraft protection. We refuse the customer refunds. We threaten, bully and otherwise harass well meaning, law abiding citizens in the name of doing our jobs. Our police seem to have taken to beating people in the streets (which I relaize may be justified at times) We take taxes from each other to take care of problems, then turn around and ask for more, cause it wasn't enough. With no account of where the first money went. Never mind that we have already taken more than anyone can afford.
In case you hadn't noticed I use the word we to describe these crimes, because that is how it works. We want the government to be “of the people, by the people and for the people” when we are holding “their” feet to the fire, but what about us? We have gone along with every bad idea with hardly a whimper. Have you ever read Proverbs or studied Jesus sermons? There is a lot of “woe” coming unto people who oppress the poor and take what isn't theirs.
Back to Machete. I want that attitude! I want to say, when I see injustice or a neighbor in need, “If not us, then who?” In fact, Disciple, I know you are reading this, I asked Disciple (The missions pastor who invited me to see this film) on Sunday to give me the Spanish phrase for this, which he said, but I had to look it up.
This phrase should come out of our mouths on a regular basis. You see, the system we live under only works when every citizen is willing to be accountable, not only for his own actions, but for holding his leader's accountable too. And while I think we should vote, understand that evil companionship corrupts good morals. That means that we send good people to Washington and they send them back to us broken and remolded, unless we hold them accountable.
This is true in our churches too. How many of you have ever wondered how much should be spent on that new building, sound system or what ever, when there are so many needs to be met? A friend of mine, Boe Parrish, is pastor of a unique congregation, if you can even call him that. Mr. Parrish has determined to spend the money that comes in on better things than a fat salary for himself. Daybreak Community church works with a volunteer staff and is striving to make a difference with every penny that comes in. He put it like this, “I just figured out that the traditional model of ministry was too expensive” he went on to break it down to the cost of every soul won. I have never thought of it like that, but it makes you think.
I am not proposing a specific solution, nor am I attacking anyone. I am challenging each of you to look around, the next time you see a problem and look for a solution, no matter how small. Instead of writing letters to complain about what they are doing wrong, try praising leaders for what they do right, or support something instead of opposing something. Try the “whatever things are good, whatever things are pure, noble of good report...” method that Paul suggested., but mostly just be willing to get involved. Be willing, metaphorically speaking, to pick up your machete and wade through some bad guys!
si no nosotros, ¿entonces quién? (feel free to correct this, it was from an online translator)
If not us, then who? LLS