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2000-11-21 - 12:46:28

Lest we forget

My sister and I went to see Men of Honor tonight.

That picture won out with us because she hasn't been to a movie all semester, I've only seen Meet The Parents in that time, and it was starting at a time that gave us sufficient time to get to the theater, but would not keep us out late either.

Besides, you can't go wrong with a couple of Academy Award winners in Robert DeNiro and Cuba Gooding Jr., nor with a military movie.

I love movies like this -- it is a true story -- because they make you remember. Actually, for those of us born after the fall of Saigon, they provide an opportunity to learn.

(Quick synopsis: Gooding plays a black man in the 50s/60s trying to make it as a Navy diver; DeNiro is in charge of the diving school.)

DeNiro does what he can to discourage Gooding, often referring to the young seaman as "cookie," though much stronger epithets are heard throughout the film. At one point, and I forget the specifics now, there was a small monologue by DeNiro or another character in which the term is used several times. There was a hint of humor in it; that is, in the time frame of American thinking and the beliefs of the white people in the movie, it could get a chuckle.

I wasn't laughing though. I saw it as a reminder of just how recent America's segregated past still is. Of how there are still people alive today -- many of them old, sure, but alive nonetheless -- who said those things, used those terms, and believed it at the time. And perhaps they still do.

That's why we need the movies, and television, and books and music: To remind us. History books can tell us, but with many students, the impact of the lesson is forgotten once the test is turned in. The media of popular culture has a greater, lasting message. We need these films as much for their historical, learning value as we do for their entertainment.

Sure, the poignant films are outdone by the high-budget action/adventure blockbusters and gratuitous sex beats out historical messages, but at least they're there.

Where would we be in another 10 years without Schindler's List?

We need to be reminded of the bad things about humanity, America, ourselves, no matter how horrible it is to hear it. If we aren't, before long there will not be anyone left to remind us, and that's the scary part.

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