Oscar-Winning Films that Address Racism

By Kathy Winings

Three very different films released in 2018 address racism from unique perspectives. Two are based on real events and the third is an adaptation of a James Baldwin novel. Each film also won at least one Oscar at February’s Academy Awards.

Set in the early 1970s, “If Beale Street Could Talk” is a quintessential Baldwin story about poverty, race, family, and love. The film is directed by Barry Jenkins, director of the 2017 Best Picture Oscar winner, “Moonlight.” Regina King received the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her strong portrayal of the mother of the story’s young heroine, Tish.

Tish (KiKi Layne) and Fonny (Stephen James) are a young black couple living in Harlem who fall in love and find themselves expecting their first baby. But Baldwin’s complex story doesn’t end there. At a time when a young couple awaiting their first child should be excited and anxiously preparing for the birth, the realities of one’s identity mars that anticipation.

As fate would have it, Fonny is wrongly arrested for the alleged rape of a young Puerto Rican woman. A white policeman known for his racist attitudes makes the arrest. While Fonny is lingering in jail awaiting trial, Tish, her mother and sister try to fight for Fonny’s freedom but it is an uphill battle. For one, the Puerto Rican woman who was brutally raped is not to be found. Second, the one witness, a young African American who can verify that Fonny was nowhere near where the scene of the rape, is also arrested on questionable charges. As a result, Fonny remains in prison while hoping for a quick resolution of his case — a fairly standard experience for black men in Harlem of that time.

Baldwin was gifted in portraying the challenges of the American working class black family struggling to survive, economically and emotionally, recognizing how tenuous life could be when you were black and fighting a system bent on ensuring you did not succeed. It is clear that fighting racism and racist attitudes is an uphill battle for Tish and Fonny. Young black men knew if they were arrested for crimes they did not commit, they could linger in prison for years with some even dying there at worst or learning destructive lifestyles at best. The longer Fonny is incarcerated, the more he begins to accept the inevitable. Tish, though, is relentless.

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Mother and Child Reunion

By Thomas Schuhmann

Mother and Child Reunion” is my favorite song by Paul Simon.

My grandmother’s maiden name was also Simon. Her parents owned a restaurant in Veitshöchheim, near Wuerzburg, which has a public park with lakes and waterworks, filled with hundreds of allegorical sandstone sculptures, an enchanted place for a child to roam about. My grandmother took me there when she visited her sister.

I loved to feed the fish in the pond of the Hofgarten which were majestic carp swimming lazily about in the sunshine. In the middle of the pond was a statue of a winged horse. The carps and Pegasus, the quietness of the place, the Main river nearby, the swans: it gave me a feeling what the “mother and child reunion” could be about.

I had become a follower of my grandmother and accompanied her to our church named “The Holy Family” where she prayed the rosary in October and where she attended Mother Mary again in the month of May for devotions. I listened to the old women whispering the rosary, murmuring the holy words, in a room with a side altar. Mother Mary’s statue stood there, immaculate, holding a rosary, candles burning in front of her, the smell of wax. I read much later that the Irish poet Seamus Heaney went through a similar experience, the Catholic experience, just as Bruce Springsteen did.

The lower Franconian version of Catholicism was a religion of sadness, of somber words, mysterious details, the value of suffering was constantly stressed, the confession, the holy communion, the church songs stemming mostly from the baroque era. I developed my first Top Ten by waiting for certain songs to appear again and again each Sunday. My favorite was “O Lamb of God, innocent”:

O Lamb of God, most stainless!
Who on the Cross didst languish,
Patient through all Thy sorrows.
Though mocked amid Thine anguish;
Our sins Thou bearest for us,
Else had despair reigned o’er us:
Have mercy upon us, O Jesu!
Grant us Thy peace today, O Jesu!

The King of the world, despised! I couldn’t get this paradox into my head, but singing it made these words become one with my soul and filled me with the longing to follow the misunderstood, rejected, lonely person of Jesus Christ.

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Aquarian Angst: Woodstock at 50

By David Eaton

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Woodstock music festival.

Flashing back to that “summer of love,” I’m reminded of two iconic before-and-after photos: one depicting a sea of humanity reveling in the music of their idols on Max Yasgur’s farm in upstate New York, the other revealing the horrible mess of mud and refuse left behind.

Juxtaposed, these two images are emblematic of a generation that grew up on rock and roll, loved to get high, party hard, and indulge in “free love,” often with reckless abandon. Living the Bohemian lifestyle of carefree license, unfettered by “traditional values,” became the fantasy of an entire generation — and music was at the vortex of that counterculture revolution.

The Woodstock generation waxed poetic about peace, love and universal brotherhood, and music was deemed a leading force ushering in a utopian era in which greed, selfishness and all manner of “plastic” values would be expunged. John Lennon and Yoko Ono implored us to “give peace a chance.” The hopes and dreams of an Aquarian Age, a time when “love would steer the stars,” and “we’ll study war no more” would become a reality — or so we thought.

Our love of music became a quasi-religion. “Make love, not war” was our credo, sex and drugs our sacraments, and rock ‘n roll was the music that accompanied the liturgy. In spite of our New Age optimism about making the planet a better place for our children and “getting back to the garden,” the spirit of rebellion and defiance was pervasive, and the music of the era reflected that rebelliousness.

In retrospect, Woodstock may have been more of a moment rather than a movement. As that “after” photo might suggest, the Woodstock generation has been rather messy in the ensuing decades with regard to love, life and its pursuit of happiness.

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Deep History

By Ronald Brown

“Deep history” is the deeply-rooted impulse that drives a nation, shapes the identities of peoples, and determines its present activities and future goals.

For many nations, some mythical past shaped this impulse while for new nations it is still being created. Here, I apply “deep history” to mean those primal characteristics of a people that defy the tumult of the centuries, remain immutable to individual leadership, and determine the destiny of a people.

This theory slowly evolved during my five years of university study in Jerusalem (1971-76), many visits thereafter, and most recently, my trip to the Holy Land last August.

Examples of deep history

The challenges of nationalism, socialism, communism, and Western-style separation of church and state have done little to undermine the fundamental and deeply-rooted Muslim belief that the goal of the religion is to create an Islamic state. The current global crusade to defeat so-called “Islamist ideology” is fated to failure. Muslim dedication to an Islamic state is as deeply-rooted in the faith and resistant to the vicissitudes of history as the resurrection of Jesus is in Christianity.

Western colonial expansion into North Africa, the Middle East, and Southeast Asia, the 1924 abolition of the caliphate, and 1948 Jewish occupation of Palestine resulted in a rebirth of Islamic deep history. The Muslim Brotherhood, ISIS and al-Qaida rejected Western nationalism, socialism, communism, secularism, and separation of church and state to reunite the shattered body of the Islamic umma and restore the caliphate.

China likewise is permeated with the idea that the Confucian social, economic and political order is universally applicable, and that its destiny is to spread this model worldwide. Even during the “Century of Humiliation,” when it was at the mercy of Western imperial powers, China remained firm in the belief of its divine destiny.

Political scientist Francis Fukuyama greeted the fall of Soviet Marxism in his 1992 book, The End of History and the Last Man. The Soviet Empire would finally join the rest of the planet in embracing parliamentary democracy, capitalism, and the rule of law. But by 2000, Russian deep history reared its head from the rubble of the collapsed Soviet Empire and Vladimir Putin resumed Russia’s imperial march as the Third Rome.

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“Welcome to Marwen”: The Remaking of a Life

By Kathy Winings

In April 2000, just across the Hudson River from UTS’s Barrytown campus, a terrible assault took place outside a bar in Kingston, New York, an historic city that served as New York’s first capital.

Mark Hogancamp, an artist and showroom designer, was beaten almost to death by five young men using just their fists and feet. While drinking, Hogancamp had let slip that in the privacy of his own home, he was a cross-dresser. Taking exception to that, the thugs waited outside the bar and attacked him.

Suffering extensive brain damage, Hogancamp spent over 40 days in the hospital, including nine in a coma, healing and relearning how to walk, talk, eat, and trying to live a normal life.

Fortunately for him, Hogancamp awoke with no memory of the attack — but he also lost memory of his past life. It meant he had to find a way to deal with his constant anger and depression — all of which resulted from his traumatic brain injury. Thus was born the tiny village of Marwencol.

Built out of plywood scraps and other materials he found lying around, Hogancamp created an imaginary Belgian village and populated it with Barbie dolls and World War II action figures. Daily life was built around World War II narratives that he created, featuring the women as a band of heroes led by one American solider — Captain Hogie — going head to head with five Nazi soldiers in these different scenarios.

Marwencol became Hogancamp’s therapy on a daily basis. It also became a way for him to find a new career. As he played out his stories through posing the dolls in Marwencol, Hogancamp began to photograph them, ultimately coming to the public’s attention and establishing his career through gallery exhibitions that showcased his unique photographs.

This is the background story for director Robert Zemeckis’ new film, “Welcome to Marwen,” starring Steve Carell as Hogancamp and Leslie Mann as his neighbor, Nicol, who becomes his good friend as well as the inspiration for one of his female soldiers in Marwencol.

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Unificationist Reflections on ‘Bohemian Rhapsody’

By Laurent Ladouce

Bohemian Rhapsody” — the all-time highest-grossing music biographical film in just two months since release, a huge success in Korea, and a 2019 Oscar nominee for Best Picture — has prompted me as a Unificationist to reflect on the life of singer-songwriter Freddie Mercury (1946-91).

Directed by Bryan Singer, the movie focuses on a critical period of Mercury’s life, 1970-85 (portrayed on screen by Rami Malek). We watch movies with various glasses, and among Unificationists, each of us may see “Bohemian Rhapsody” very differently.

Rather than comment in the light of the Principle, I focus in this review on a few themes from the biopic to shed light on several aspects of our teaching.

The film, for example, depicts an artist imitating the three blessings, then trying to separate from his antichrist demons. In a sense, “Bohemian Rhapsody” features Adam, Eve and the Archangel in a garden. Their behavior is quite reminiscent of our teaching on the Fall, but reveals other dimensions of sexual disorder than the typical kind of adultery. The movie helps us understand what kingship and a coronation entail.

This film also causes us to reflect on notions such as symbol, image and substance. It helps us understand the path to becoming a false idol, to becoming an iconic figure, and leaves the door open to the path of substantializing true love.

Creation, fall and redemption of an idol

“Bohemian Rhapsody” depicts the growth and ascension of one of the greatest voices in rock music (the Rock God, according to Britain’s OnePoll), and how the stage persona of Freddie Mercury was created gradually, mostly by himself, so that he became idolized by millions. In this ascent, Mercury was driven by the power of an absolute narcissism, which brought him to the summit.

We then see his spiritual and physical fall, and descent into hell. The narcissistic idol is transformed into a puppet driven into hell by sexual passion, until a ridiculous man is disguised as a king enjoying evil joy in the kingdom of loneliness.

The film ends with the consequences of his physical fall and early steps toward what can be seen as a form of human redemption. The person who has suffered so much because of sin begins the suffering course of redeeming his mistakes.

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Religions that Thrive and Religions that Die

By Ronald Brown

Jacques Marion is one of those first generation Unificationists who, he told me, “dropped everything” when he met Reverend Moon and set off to spread the teachings and vision of Unificationism to the world.

He described his years as a missionary in Russia and Africa and the enthusiastic welcome the movement is receiving there. He concluded that it was in times of turmoil and trouble that people are most open to new and often radical solutions. Russia and Africa were in such states when he was there and largely remain so until today.

My conversation with Jacques and other Unificationist missionaries evoked major questions regarding how religions take root, thrive or die.

Why did Buddhism thrive in China, Korea, Japan, and South Asia, while it all but disappeared in its Indian homeland? Why did the Russians adopt Greek and not Roman Christianity, or even Judaism, Islam, or Buddhism as their national religion? Why is Evangelical Christianity sweeping the USA while mainline Christian churches are at best lingering?

In Paris this past summer, I decided to explore how Catholicism became and remains the dominant religion of France. My experience there led me to reflect on how Unificationism might fare in Africa.

The Thermes de Cluny: The latest in modern technology

In the early centuries after Christ, the Gauls swept out of the forests of northern Europe, eliminating all traces of Roman civilization in front of them. They sacked Rome in 387 B.C. but mighty Rome was not so easily humbled. Rome drove them out and back into their primeval forests. Finally, between 58 and 51 B.C. Julius Caesar conquered the barbaric Gauls and founded the city of Lutetia along the banks of the Seine River among the local Gallic tribe of the Parisii.

Little remains of the Roman town of Lutetia except for the underground ruins of the Roman Northern Baths beneath the ruins of the medieval Monastery of Cluny. Of all that remains of the ancient Roman bathhouse the most impressive and insightful was a massive marble bathtub dating from the 2nd century. According to the sign, the tub was made in Rome and brought to Lutetia to serve the ruling elite in the gigantic domed bathhouse.

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Musical Science: Pythagoras, Einstein and Divine Principle

By David Eaton

From time to time, I’ve been asked if I believe in the concept of a “cosmic chord” or a universal “chord of nature”; Klang, as it’s referred to according to Schenkerian music theory. Is there some Aeolian harmony of the spheres that evokes a secret, metaphysical understanding of the laws that govern physics and music? Imagining that cosmic vibrations exist in the universe has been a part of the mythology surrounding music for eons.

When the late singer-songwriter, Leonard Cohen, wrote his iconic song, “Hallelujah,” he referenced a “secret chord”:

“Now I’ve heard there was a secret chord.
That David played, and it pleased the Lord.”

Could a single chord actually please the Almighty? St. Paul in Romans 1:20 asserts:

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities — his eternal power and divine nature — have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.”

We understand from Divine Principle that the natural world possesses various dual characteristics that maintain their existence and develop by way of harmonious relationships: male/female, stamen/pistil, cation/anion, positive valence/negative valence, for example. Ontologically, the created world reflects the nature of God’s being and essence, and this comports with Paul’s assertion. We can extrapolate that within the Godhead there exists the harmonious union of original masculinity and original femininity, and an original positivity and an original negativity. When examining the theoretical basis of tonal music we find several prominent polar paradigms:

  • Consonant intervals/Dissonant intervals
  • Major modes/Minor modes,
  • Major chords/Minor chords
  • Tonic chord/Dominant chord
  • Primary dominant chords/Secondary dominant chords
  • Tension/Resolution
  • High pitches/Low pitches

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The 21st Century Cities in Global History

By Ronald Brown

Futurists have consistently undervalued the role of the city.  I believe the 21st century megacity will enter human history as an autonomous independent actor and exert a determining influence in world affairs.

Megacities, typically with over ten million population, have constantly increased in size and importance, and today account for 55% of global population. By 2050, this number will increase to 68% according to the UN’s World Urbanization Prospects.

After a brief historical introduction on the changing role of cities, this article describes five characteristics of the 21st century megacity: 1) demographically dynamic, 2) politically autonomous, 3) economically driven, 4) religiously vibrant, and, 5) globally networked.

The changing role of cities

Cities created the great cultures and civilizations of humanity. The rulers of Memphis in Egypt, Ur in Mesopotamia, Xi’an in China, Harappa in India, Athens, Rome, and later Paris, Mexico City, Cuzco, Timbuktu in Africa, London, and New York exploited the surrounding agricultural peoples and natural resources to create kingdoms, empires and states.

These great cities centralized the economies, founded the first writing systems and official languages, wrote law codes, established formal religions, and constructed monumental public buildings. The civilizations these cities created dominated humanity until today.

With the rise of the nation-state, upon the unification of Spain in 1492, the new cities of Madrid, London, Paris, and later New York City, Cairo, Moscow, and Beijing, replaced the cities of old as the creators and disseminators of national and eventually global cultures.

The city continued as the incubator of national cultures until the dawn of the 21st century. In his book, The World Is Flat, Thomas Friedman describes the rise of a world in which globalism is replacing nationalism. Globalism, according to Friedman, is marked by the free and unimpeded flow of people, ideas, capital, cultures, languages, products, raw materials, and religions across once impermeable boarders.

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