My documentary binge continues. I was actually wrong–the series about castles in England was called Secrets of Great British Castles, and the presenter is a very attractive Brit named Dan Jones. The first episode was Dover; the second The Tower of London. The third episode was Warwick Castle, but I decided to skip that one. I’ll go back to the show eventually, but I wasn’t really in the mood to watch about Warwick Castle, so I went back to the documentary category on Netflix while waiting for Paul to get home (I wrote a lot yesterday) and found one called Shenandoah.
It was incredible, and I can’t get it out of my mind.
The documentary is about the death of an illegal immigrant from Mexico in the small town of Shenandoah Valley, Pennsylvania; a coal mining town which is dying a slow economic death. The town was made up of families descended primarily from European immigrants: Irish, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish–but has also seen a recent influx of Mexican immigrants. Luis Ramirez was attacked and beaten by four stars of the high school football team (again, yet another town whose identity is wrapped up entirely in its high school football team) and later died of his injuries. Two of the four boys pled guilty and agreed to testify against their friends; an all-white jury in the town shockingly (sarcasm) found them all not guilty on every charge other than simple assault. The federal government then stepped in and charged the boys under federal hate crime statutes, along with four local cops accused of hindering the FBI investigation and conspiracy to cover up the crime. All six were convicted.
What was disturbing, for me, was the horrific racism exhibited by the townspeople during the investigations, and how they saw the original verdict as a triumph for “white America”; the horrific xenophobia and the blaming of Mexicans for all their troubles. I am glad some of these people are now on film; some day they will be as embarrassed, hopefully, by their behavior and conduct preserved for all time as the racists during the integration struggle in the south. Chanting “USA!” in response to the death of a Latino at the hands of four white teenagers? Calling them good boys?
Despicable, really. And for the record, these are the white working class voters of ‘real America’, of ‘small town America’, that are held up as paragons of everything that our country supposedly is at its best.
Not all of them, of course. The documentary showed several points of view that also showed there were people who aren’t racist and were appalled by what was going on in their town. The young boy who was involved and pled guilty initially, Brian Scully, was kicked off the football team and the documentary actually traces his growth as a person, and how the horror of that night and what he was involved in changed him. He actually found some salvation and solace from, of all things, musical theater; joining the cast of a school production of Into the Woods (which, ironically, opened the night before he had to testify against his friends in the initial trial).
It’s an incredibly powerful documentary that I recommend everyone watch; it’s on Netflix.
I also watched Ghosts of Ole Miss, which was about the integration of the campus in 1962 by James Chambers and the campus wide riot that resulted, with the students attacking the National Guard and the National Guard having to fight back, resulting in the US Military having to come to the campus to put down the riot and finish the integration process. The documentary also talked about the 1962 undefeated Ole Miss football team, which held the university together and gave the students something to be proud of after the Battle of Ole Miss; yet at the football games the students were all waving Confederate flags and their mascot was still Johnny Reb, and…
Both documentaries have given me a lot to think about, and even some ideas about things to write; which means both films did their jobs.
Today I am going to write some more (the goal is five thousand words; I achieved that yesterday but I don’t know if I can do it a second day in a row but you never know!) and continue reading Elizabeth Little’s Dear Daughter around doing some chores. I don’t have to leave the house again until Monday when I go back to work (sob), so there’s that. I also got another deep good night’s sleep last night, so….can’t complain!
And now back to the spice mines.
Here’s a hunk for today: