Yesterday, I wrote on the importance of love. Following that train of thought, it is only logical to arrive at the conclusion that hate is unimportant, in the sense that it is senseless; there’s no point to it. I’m not just talking about forgiving and forgetting those who wrong us, but also about the bigger issues, such as the prejudices and cruel assumptions that at times can plague society and thereby cripple the brotherhood of man.
Tonight, I watched the film “American History X,” starring Edward Norton and Edward Furlong, and directed by Tony Kaye. It tells the story of a reformed neo-Nazi who does his best to keep his younger brother from making his mistakes. It is incredibly powerful and moving, and offers up an important lesson that at one point or another, we all lose sight of. If it were up to me, everyone would see this film. While the language is obscene and some scenes are clearly disturbing, it is never gratuitous or manufactured. The film is genuine and authentic, and that is where the power lies. The characters are identifiable and thoroughly developed so there is an emotional investment, regardless of an audience’s personal politics. Released in 1998, I did not note any antiquated aspects. The film most definitely holds up some fourteen years later and is still, in my opinion, incredibly poignant and relevant. The film exhibits art at its best; beautiful and educational. The cinematography is perfectly juxtaposed against the story, which is penned remarkably well so that a lesson is learned without anything being too preachy or pretentious. This film is honestly one in a million and were it not rated R, I believe a solid until on tolerance would couple the film with readings of Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison and Night by Elie Wiesel. Honestly, if it were up to me, everyone would view this film at least once. Love is the greatest gift we have and the strongest bond we can form amongst ourselves. Anything that would belittle or try to destroy that compassion and companionship, such as hate, has no place in our lives. I understand that sentiment is easier said than executed and may, unfortunately, be idealistic for the environment in which we live. That does not mean that the sentiment is any less accurate and should not still be strived for daily.
PROMPT: A woman whose husband is killed during a tour of duty overseas decides to turn her home into a boarding house.
PIECE: Diane sat on the edge of her bed, breathing slowly. She allowed her lungs to fill and she felt the expansion in her chest. Then, she deflated her lungs and felt her whole body kind of relax and smooth. Her high-heeled shoes rested firmly upon the wooden floor of the bedroom with strong ankles that did not cave one way or the other. Her knees came together not only because she was wearing a dress, but because she was terribly knock-kneed. Her hands, which had finally stopped shaking about a month ago, rested on her lap in a professional and detached kind of way, calmly folded. Her back was ramrod straight and she was mindful to keep her shoulders lowered from her ears so that the vultures named anxiety and grief would have nowhere to perch; at least not for today.
Beside Diane was the expertly and lovingly folded American flag she had been handed at her husband’s funeral by a white gloved Marine. She had been unable to without it since the funeral. It had been a year since and as the flag became a near constant companion, the bedroom had become a stranger. She had not slept in the bedroom since Nathan had left for Afghanistan and had abandoned it for good when she learned Nathan was never coming home. Like a ghost, she had traversed the halls of the home silent and numb. The house was quiet and empty in a way that was rather unsettling. For three hundred and sixty five days, Diane ate a small breakfast and small dinner at the counter in the kitchen. The time in between was filled with a blaring television that she looked through rather than watched, prostrated upon the couch. It was no way to live, but she couldn’t bear to leave the last space Nathan had occupied. His life insurance allowed her to keep the home and live comfortably, but her father was already discussing the time when the money would run out, which it would eventually because she hadn’t been to work in a year and she had no intentions of returning.
As comforting – or rather, as familiar as it was to wallow in her grief, Diane knew it could not be a permanent state of being. Nathan wouldn’t be pleased and if she were allowed to keep on living, it had to be for a reason. Her broken heart hadn’t killed her yet, and as long as the organ continued to beat, she had to continue on. Thus, she came to the decision she would turn the home she had shared with Nathan into a boarding house. The silence she despised would be filled by happy travelers and their families. Life would bustle through the halls once more. She would be able tp keep her mind occupied and her hands busy with the upkeep on the place, just as the necessary renovations to the home had done. Diane also realized she could hang Nathan’s picture and his medals near the front door, prompting the patrons to ask questions and allowing Diane to contribute to keeping her husband’s memory alive. Everything was prepared and today, she was set to recieve her very first customers.
There was just the matter of the flag. She turned her sorrowful, but gradually lightening, eyes to it. When Diane left the house, the flag traveled with her, in the passenger seat of her car. She had spent a solid three months cradling it like an infant. Her father-in-law had mentioned something about letting go and moving on and to appease him and all those worried about her, she stopped carrying it around. But wherever she was, so it was. But she couldn’t have that now, couldn’t be seen carrying it from one room to the other, clutching to it like a drowning victim would a life preserver. People would find it sad and creepy, and no one would want to stay there. Diane had decided it was time to deal with the flag. She had debated buying a case and placing it beside Nathan’s picture near the entrance, but thought such a shrine might be a little too morbid and bring the war too close for comfort to her wearied travelers. Besides, Diane wanted to feel its cloth beneath her fingers whenever she wanted, as it reminded her of the way it felt to smooth Nathan’s uniform before he left the house. It had to be discreet yet easily accessible.
She was going to leave it in the closet of the master bedroom but as she couldn’t stand to be in the room and was thereby renting it out, such an option was not logical. Diane was going to place it somewhere in her bedroom but she feared she’d never leave the room, that she’d be prone to slipping back into her fugue state, simply sitting and stroking the flag, doing no more than wasting away. Diane liked the tactile features of having the flag in the home, but it was time to move on.
Today, before the first boarders arrived, she would drive the flag over to Nathan’s mother and father.