“We Both Have Families”

For those who fancy context clues, you might have put together that I love movies. Woe is he who encounters me on a week when I haven’t had my big screen fix (Ridgeway Four doesn’t count despite its impressive indie line-up, since they don’t serve nachos). One of my recent faves is “Dawn of the Planet of the Apes,” the much-anticipated and critically acclaimed sequel to 2011’s “Rise of the Planet of the Apes.” I’d be remiss not to shout out the 1968 version with Charlton Heston, since no copy would ever exist without the original. But for present purposes, let’s just see what last year’s “Dawn” foretells.

With a recent history of horror and mayhem still haunting the living memories of most (see the prequel, “Rise”), “Dawn” is the story of two very different communities that for years have lived both together and apart. They’re right next door, but worlds away. They haven’t been at war, but they haven’t exactly been at peace either. They merely coexist: separate but equal, at least in theory if not in reality. As fate would have it, wanderers from each camp happen to cross paths one day. Both groups are caught off guard, both startled, unprepared. Neither camp is equipped with much relevant or useful information about the other. Instead, this sudden, real-life, flesh-and-blood encounter only conjures all the rumors, assumptions, legends, myths, and negative images from the past that have been plastered all over TV screens and newsstands ever since.

After an unsustainable moment or two of frozen, ill-fated paralysis, the standoff collapses under its own weight, when an arguably hasty bullet snaps the tension in the air. Camps retreat to their corners and tend to their wounds, where mostly well-meaning albeit self-serving prognosticators push their own prescriptions for what must happen next. Some say attack. Others say wait. Others say do nothing. Others say negotiate. What to do? What to do indeed…

Over the objections of a more militant wing, leaders from Camp X approach Camp Y and make a gesture of reconciliation. A fragile calm is restored, on the condition that the two camps avoid each other indefinitely. But of course, in a finite space, no two camps can ever avoid each other indefinitely.

Camp Y eventually needs something from Camp X. So Camp Y ventures onto X territory, technically breaching the tenuous peace accord. With a little open-mindedness and a lot of patience, they work together, slowly chipping away at the walls between them. Then one member of Camp Y does something COMPLETELY idiotic, destroying whatever trust had only just begun to build. Now the gulf between them is even greater than before.

But then, it’s Camp X that needs something from Camp Y. Somehow, they find themselves reluctantly cooperating again. And once again, the walls of fear appear to be weakening. But I’ll be damned, f*cking lo and behold: someone from Camp X does something COMPLETELY idiotic, driving a wedge between the two groups that this time threatens to ignite an all-out war.

This is exactly what’s happening in Ferguson, Missouri. And if we’re not careful, we’ll wake up to find it happening all across the United States. No, I’m not silly enough to think that Hollywood has all the answers. And yes, I realize Ferguson ain’t no film. But there is a degree to which art imitates life, and vice versa.

At one point in the movie, a member of Camp Y says about the other side, “They’re animals!” (That now brings to mind the police officer who called the Ferguson protesters “f*cking animals.”) Elsewhere in the movie, a Camp X agitator randomly shoots two members of Camp Y, whose only apparent offense was their affiliation with Camp Y (not unlike the shootings that took place in Ferguson yesterday). One step forward, two steps back. A few rogue agents, a host of innocents blamed, and untold progress instantly undone. And on and on, and on and on and on. But another interesting line from the movie is this one: “We both have families. You want to protect yours. I want to protect mine. It’s our only chance for peace.”

So, how will this “war” finally end? Stay tuned for the third installment of the “Planet of the Apes” film series…

And just in case (I certainly hope not, but just in case) there’s anyone out there who might think it indelicate of me to equate protesters to apes, remember: (1) I’m not the one who assumed that was the analogy being made, and (2) you’re missing the whole point. It doesn’t really matter which camp is which, does it?

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