Thursday, July 28, 2005

Happy Endings Hangover

The best scene in Happy Endings, the new Don Roos movie, has stuck with me for days now. It plays on loop in my head. So as to not throw spoilers around I'll be vague. In this scene a pregnant woman meets with a counsellor regarding a scheduled abortion. She is certain she's getting one. To both parties it begins as a formality. But the counsellor happens to be dealing with her own issues and has an uncharacteristic response to the younger woman's nonchalance. A semi-heated discussion over the upcoming abortion occurs in which both players seem shaken, annoyed, challenged, and emotionally fatigued afterwards. It's a teensy bit schematic as lynchpin scenes go but it's very well written and exquisitely performed by both actors.

You would never see this level of soul searching, uncertainty, and pain regarding ones own beliefs in a film made by those leaning to the right of the political spectrum. The nuances of thought just aren't there. It's this absolutism, this blind adherence to belief systems, that makes the conservative-minded impossible for me to trust.

But the alternative, relativism, is a double edge sword for smarter people. When you're capable of seeing things from numerous perspectives, or when you're prone to questioning your own motives and beliefs... it can cause you a lot of pain. You may end up a better and stronger person for having gone through the fire. You can make truly difficult choices without checking in with an authority figure. Unfortunately you can also end up an ineffective self-doubting wreck.

So, to me, this scene is all about how Democrats deal with their own politics and an excellent snapshot of why they're often ineffective when confronted with the unifying zeal of lock-stepping Republicans. If diversity of thought and freedom for all law-abiding citizens is your ideal... you will face many more challenges in defining and promoting your agenda than those who do not value diversity and true freedom. You're a better person but you'll have more pain in your life ;) That's just the way it is.

I love this scene.



I should add that I don't mean this to sound absolutist itself -i.e. "conservatives are stupid" or some such nonsense.

But these are general observations about the difference in the way different political affiliations seem to process their thoughts on the difficult divisive subjects such as gay rights / abortion / capital punishment / war / etc...

democrats seem to continual turn them over and bicker amongst themselves and view them from a wide variety of angles. And republicans tend to speak and act in absolutes. "this is wrong" as if the only logic is the self-affirming restatement of previous held beliefs

adam k. said...

Yeah, this current "political entropy" trend happening is quite disheartening.

When you said "ineffective self-doubting wreck", I immediately thought of Woody Allen. He's like the poster child for relativists.

Really, the Democrats need to find someone who can talk tough and appeal to people's base sensibilities and not get lost in the relativism, while still remaining true to difficult progressive ideals. Someone like... oh, I don't know... Howard Dean. At least he's chairman now.

I think that's what the "moving to the center" stuff is about. The true center should be tough, effective, non-wishy washy progressivism, which I think is where liberal-hearted Democrats TRY to position themselves, but then in doing so, they somehow end up, by virtue of "the system", non-fundamentalist, hawkish corporate whores.

I only hope Hillary, the so-called Great Hope of the party, finds her way to the "good center" and avoids the hawkish corporate whoredom with which she's been flirting recently.

And I wish more people'd use the word "progressive" instead of the word "liberal", cause it's much harder to spin "progressive" into something negative.
Imagine someone on Fox News spouting, "it's the PROGRESSIVES' fault... they want all this PROGRESS to happen! Those bleeding-heart progressives." It wouldn't fly.

adam k. said...

*Just to clarify, I wasn't dissing Woody or calling him "ineffective" as a filmmaker. It's just your typical Woody Allen character is, you know, kind of an ineffective, self-doubting wreck. But he makes those qualities mighty endearing.

Anonymous said...

"The Circular Firing Squad" definitely needs to rally behind whomever the party supports at the end of the day, though. I hate those "hold my nose and check the box" people who criticize Kerry/Hillary/etc. Even if you hate them, just think who you'd prefer to be picking the next Supreme Court Justice.