Thursday, June 07, 2007

Everybody Get Together

One of my favorite movies is "The Mission" with Jeremy Irons and Robert DeNiro.

It is the story of a group of missionaries who establish the titular "Mission" in the Jungles of Paraguay, among the Guarani people.

A notorious Portuguese mercenary and slave-trader, Rodrigo Mendoza, kills his brother early in the film, and feels near-suicidal remorse, and is starving himself in an asylum. He is met there by a Spanish Jesuit priest, Father Gabriel.

Gabriel offers a dubious Mendoza a chance to redeem himself: he must travel with the missionaries up the river to their nascent mission in the jungle, and must drag a heavy bundle containing the armor and weapons he used in his life as a mercenary. There is a scene where one of the missionaries, out of pity, cuts the rope by which Mendoza is dragging his burden, but Mendoza retrieves his bundle, re-ties the rope to it.

Some time later, they finally meet the Guarani, in a scene of remarkable tension. The missionaries exchange joyous greetings with the Guarani, who then see, and recognize, the feared man who has killed and enslaved many of them. Mendoza lies exhausted among them, overwhelmed with weariness, emptied of all pride, prostrate on the ground.

The Guarani go to him, fear mixed with confusion, and some of them have knives. Mendoza looks up at the Guarani leader pitifully, harmless and exhausted. The Guarani leader pauses a moment, looks at the rope attached to the bundle of armor and weapons, and then cuts the rope and pitches the bundle down a high cliff and into the river.

Mendoza feels the burden of the armor lifted, something changes in his expression...and suddenly he's overwhelmed with emotion, crying and laughing at the same time. Father Gabriel goes to him and hugs him, and the Guarani crowd around, and are holding his hands as he weeps, and Mendoza is flooded with humble gratitude and love.

It's a powerful scene.

But this diary is not about the Guarani of 300 years ago; It is about America, today.

There are people in our ghettos and 'hoods who have not had a chance to comfort many of their brothers and sisters in the suburbs in their loneliness and desolation, nor to share their own pain at the violence the plagues their communities. They have not had the chance to share their incredible stories, stories of resilience and hope.

Sometimes the greatest gift you can give someone is to allow them to give to you.

There are people in the poorer parts of our cities, and who have much, so much, to share with their more affluent brothers and sisters.

I would like to see the day when people from the richer parts of this country and the people from the poorer parts realize their common brother- and sister-hood; I imagine warm embraces, with tears - of sorrow for our long separation, and of joy that the gulf has been bridged.

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