This year, after a wonderful Thanksgiving dinner with friends and family, the next day I decided to rest and watch a movie. I chose the movie 42, about Jackie Robinson. Several times during the movie I found myself not only in tears, but actually sobbing; what Oprah referred to as the “ugly cry.” Spontaneously, I bawled, especially during scenes where Jackie was supported by others having been signed by the Montreal Royals and later the Dodgers.
My extreme emotional response to this movie reminded me of when I watched The Butler. It showed a more extensive historic view of the United States during difficult times. Both these movies, I realized, stirred up some childhood memories. Never before had I understood I experienced a slight PTSD response (post traumatic stress disorder) from being raised with a father who was racist.
Don’t get me wrong, I adored my dad. He and I were close, he was my main nurturer, and I loved him deeply. He was of German heritage, born in the 30’s in Emmitsburg, Maryland. As a young man he spent a lot of time in Baltimore. It was a different time then and he was a product of his culture. He was not only prejudice about African Americans; he was prejudice about many cultures.
When I was growing up, just like now, I was very sensitive. Being an “old soul,” even then, I was aware of all of humanity being “One.” I understood all humans were equal, living together in one world. I saw the injustice of how some people were treated and how they did not have the rights they deserved. I understood we were all related to each other and affected each other. I look back now and see my awareness was foreign to most of my family and my peers.
One day, when my father was in his late 60’s, I went to visit him. He looked at me and just spurted out, “I’m racist.” With a surprised and curious look, I took a moment and then responded, “Dad, did you just learn a new word?” With a big grin on his face, he said “yes!” I had known he was racist for many years and it appeared he just found the group, the tribe, to which he belonged.
Today, we are all the ages we have ever been. Every experience we have had is active within us, and we can look through the eyes of all the ages we have been. Having watched these two movies, The Butler and 42, I realized the power that movies have to heal the past. Many people had the opportunity to heal whatever came up for them through this powerful media experience.
Being a mental health counselor, I have spent many years clearing my past and becoming healthier in the present. I am so grateful to have found this buried wound and the subsequent healing. Whatever your brand of politics and how you feel Obama is doing at running our great country, today I am grateful we have an African American president. I wish my dad were alive to experience this historical event. It might have been a healing for him too!