SLICES OF LIFE
A Society Comfortable in its Own Skin
Rita Papazian
Norwalk-Citizen News
  10/31/2008



This past week, I went to the movies and saw "Rachel Getting Married." I saw this movie a week before we go to the polls to elect the next president of the United States, who just may be this country's first African-American president.
Somehow I could not get that movie out of my head this week as I continued to watch the news shows giving updates about Sarah Palin's $150,000 RNC-sponsored wardrobe. As I watched the news and read newspaper endorsements of Obama, including Anchorage, Alaska's daily newspaper, I began to see a strong connection between "Rachel" and Obama.

Movie critic Roger Ebert expressed it best in his glowing Four-Star review: " how our multicultural society is growing comfortable with itself."

On the surface "Rachel Getting Married" is about a young woman, Kym, played by Anne Hatheway, who has battled a 10-year drug addiction, and is given a weekend pass from her rehab facility to attend her sister Rachel's wedding at their country home in Connecticut. The movie was filmed in Stamford. The movie's main plot focuses on the often trying dynamics among family members. All families can relate to this.

However, the plot is set within the broad context of a pending multi-racial marriage that takes place on the grounds of the family homestead. At the wedding there is vibrant music, joyful dance and striking colors of dress as these multicultural family members, extended family and friends gather for this joyful occasion.
No doubt first-time film writer Jenny Lumet draws from her own multicultural background. Her maternal grandparents were singer Lena Horne and jazz legend Louis Jordan Jones. Her paternal grandparents were Baruch and Eugenia Lumet, an actor-director and an actress. Her father is director Sidney Lumet and her mother is Gail Lumet Buckley, a writer. The multicultural richness of Jenny Lumet's background, both in race and in culture is evident throughout this very sensuous movie whose story line weaves around a tragic family accident that is finally dealt with a gesture of forgiveness and acceptance as the movie ends.

While "Rachel Getting Married" deals with a drug addict family member returning to her family for her sister's wedding, we, as moviegoers, come away with the joyful celebration not only of a marriage, but also of many cultures coming together to celebrate joy.

This brings me to Tuesday's election, which I can't wait to be over. I am anticipating a celebration of this country's first African-American president, who was raised by his white mother and his white grandparents. We often tend to forget that Obama is half-white.

I can't wait for this country to embrace this man for who he is, what he stands for and what he can accomplish for this country. President George Bush's former Secretary of State Colin Powell recently endorsed Obama. In explaining his endorsement, Powell expressed his disappointment with John McCain's divisive and race-baiting campaign. For example, at a recent rally in a senior citizen lady, with back to camera, told McCain she was nervous because Obama was "An Arab."

"No" she was wrong, said McCain, shaking his head sideways. "Obama was a decent man."

What does that tell you about McCain and his campaign? Is he saying Arabs are not decent people?

In explaining his endorsement, Powell said the GOP focus on William Ayers and Obama's religious affiliations was damaging America's image abroad.

"Those kinds of images going out on al Jazeera are killing us around the world," he said. "And we have got to say to the world, it doesn't make any difference who you are or what you are; if you're an American you're an American. And this business of, for example of a congresswoman from Minnesota going around saying let's examine all congressmen to see who is pro America or not pro America, we have got to stop this kind of nonsense and pull ourselves together and remember that our great strength is in our unity and diversity. That really was driving me."

Indeed. Unity and diversity seem to be driving the 100,000 people who come out to an Obama rally, which brings back memories of JFK. For many of us of a certain age, we do see a strong resemblance between Obama and Kennedy in the enthusiasm, dreams and hopes for this country that we feel with an Obama administration. As with Kennedy, Senator Obama has captured the feelings of the young people of America and is reaching out in a more diverse, inclusive way across our society."

That's the "unity and diversity" that Powell was talking about. And that's the "unity and diversity" so evident in "Rachel Getting Married."

Throughout his campaign, Obama has tried to rise above the issue of race in this presidential campaign. Yet, race is still an issue in this country as evidenced last week by the white McCain volunteer who made up a story that she was attacked by a black man who noticed she had a McCain sticker on her car. She even claimed he carved the letter B on her face. Authorities got the first clue that this woman may not be telling the truth when they observed the letter B was backwards, a telling sign that she was looking into a mirror to carve the letter herself.

I wish today we could look into a mirror and foretell the future with a new president, but in the meantime, we just sit in anticipation of that world that Martin Luther King fought so vigorously for with dignity, hope and inspiration.

What would King think if he were here to vote Tuesday?

Rita Papazian is a freelance writer who has written extensively about Norwalk. She can be reached at ritapap@comcast.net .

 

Copyright 2008 Rita Papazian All rights reserved.