Posts tagged: family
I have a feeling today is a day I will look back on in the future, and realize how badly it is that I may have screwed up.
Please forgive the nature of this post, but it has been a topic which has been weighing heavily on my mind as of late. My thoughts are not completely clear on this topic, but I feel the overwhelming urge to write tonight, and I think I need to get this out.
Mortality has been on my mind a lot as of recently. For those unaware, which is probably most of you, my uncle passed away a couple weeks ago, on March 24th. Which, coincidentally, is my birthday. Nothing like a death to get you thinking of how old you are getting, right?
But, while thoughts of my own mortality are certainly floating around somewhere in the back of my head, it is my parents who most concern me. Last week, I had the massive pleasure of having my parents visit me here in Japan. Honestly, I never thought this was going to happen. I had written it off as something which would simply not happy, because of need for time off, for the cost of it (which was massive), and for the simple fact that they are both getting older. My folks are both in their mid sixties, they are not as young as they used to be.
I am a prolific taker of pictures. Give me a camera, and I am a happy boy. I took more than 1500 pictures this last week, and in the last few nights, I have been looking back over them, trying to sort them out into something resembling order. I took some great photos this time around, some I am tempted to call the best I have taken yet. But, what struck me was not the beauty of photos of the scenery or ancient temples, but those relative few I had of my parents. As I would scroll through them, a smile came to my face with every photo of them I found. Mind you, my Mother does not like being in photos, so I had to sneak about half of the ones I took of her.
These photos, these memories, they are the real treasure of this trip. They are what I shall take away from my time here, being able to share it with the people that I love.
It just bothers me, having my Uncle pass, not only because of his loss, but for the harbinger of the thoughts it has stirred in my head. He was the first of my parents generation to pass away, a man I remember fondly for the entirety of my life, in memories of holidays and events. But deep down, I wonder now when I might have to face the fact that my parents are getting older. My father has diabetes, my mother already had a heart attack. They are not in bad health now… but how can I know that they will stay in good health?
Guilt. I am here, half a world away, living my life teaching school children, not actually pursuing my honest, real goals. Life has a way of changing in the blink of the eye, and I am here, a 15 hour plane ride away from home. This year, I missed the last holiday gatherings that I could have spent with my Uncle. It wasn’t the first time someone had been away for Christmas, so I figured I should be okay, right? My uncle had terminal cancer. He had been sick for years, long since surviving the 6 month window they originally gave him. Last I had saw him, he looked good. He had lost a ton of weight, but he had originally been a big man like my father, so he looked healthy. He was smiling and going about his days normally. And, over the course of two weeks, maybe not even that, everything changed. How could I have known?
I couldn’t have, but it doesn’t change the pain that I feel. Guilt at not being there. Guilt for being half a world away.
That guilt gnaws away at me on quiet nights like this. The knowledge that even if I wanted to be there, I am half a world away.
I know I shouldn’t feel guilty, but I do.
It is my nature to be there.
It is how I am.
by Steven Martin, guest contributor
Fans give the three-fingered salute of District 12. The gesture is one of admiration, meaning thanks or goodbye to one’s beloved. (photo: Doug Kline / © 2012 PopCultureGeek.com)
I was certain I was going to hate it. All of my four kids have been fans of the series of books by Suzanne Collins since before they were cool; therefore when the movie was announced, we all knew the midnight screening on the night of release was a must-do.
But in the run-up to last night’s trip to the IMAX theater, the reviews I read and heard helped confirm my feeling that this would be a disgusting movie: violent, gratuitous in every way, repulsive to my social conscience.
I was wrong. Very, very wrong.
I tend to approach these cultural phenomena with a concern that my comfort level will be jolted. What I should be concerned about is what these phenomena say about our culture, and in the case of The Hunger Games, what it says about the generation that elevated the story to its current status. With an eye to the latter, I drove home early this morning with a deep satisfaction that my kids were smarter than I was at their age, and that their generation understands something mine did not.
First: yes, the movie is violent, and disturbingly so. The story is one about a future world in which a wealthy ruling class dominates a world that it is linked to, but separate from, itself through overwhelming police and military power, and entertainment that both enthralls and intimidates the underclasses. The focus of the story is an annual gladiatorial ritual in which representatives from the “districts” under domination give up children to a tournament of slaughter and death. Yes, this movie is based around images of children killing each other.
It is a valid question to ask: why must we tell stories that constantly elevate the level of violence necessary to grab our attention? Why is it now necessary to portray children killing other children, and children dying by each others’ hands? This is indeed an important question for our society to wrestle with. But more importantly, we should direct our moralizing to the question the film itself seeks to ask: why are we satisfied to be part of a society that finds it necessary to feed upon its young?
Viral successes like The Hunger Games reach mass audiences because they strike a nerve. The audience for the books and the film, the “millennial generation,” is not lost on the message. Our society is held together by a craving for violence. What is, say, middle-school football, after all?
We should ask: is it tolerable for us to send our young boys into a game that breaks legs, destroys knees, causes concussions, and otherwise changes the course of life forever? Of course it is! Not only does the game bring our community together, provide economic opportunities, but for the lucky few, college scholarships and professional opportunities. For the players, they are willing to risk limb and even life for a lottery-styled shot at fame and fortune. For the audience, we are willing to cheer when the fallen player limps off the field, or worse, is carried off to the emergency room, sighing a concern or uttering a prayer for the well-being of the child who may suffer permanently in the name of our entertainment.
The Hunger Games causes us to consider other forms of this structural violence. Not to only pick on the venerable institution of football, the film’s prevailing metaphor can be applied to all kinds of American institutions of empire: soldiers in Iraq or Afghanistan, Treyvon Martin, state-sponsored gambling (the lottery), Wall Street, and so on. Face it: our society is one that eats its young. Through its horrific portrayals of a society that dominates via a tournament in which children kill children, The Hunger Games might well shock us into seeing the way we ourselves do it.
After the movie, my kids wanted to know my reaction. Did I just see it as yet another violent kid-pic? “No,” I said, “I didn’t expect to come here and see a movie about the young Israeli soldiers sent to occupy the West Bank.”
In return I asked if, when they read the books, they saw them as overtly political. “Yes,” my fourteen- and seventeen-year-old kids replied. And while they discussed on the way home the ways the movie changed story details of the books, I went to bed at 3:15am knowing that the major theme was not lost on them.
It gives me hope.
Steven D. Martin is a documentary filmmaker, photographer, and activist. He currently serves as a founder and executive director of the New Evangelical Partnership for the Common Good. You can read more of his thoughts at the Uncommon Voices.
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Today I learned that my Uncle and Cousin are out hunting.
Not all that unusual, except they are hunting bear.
Unusual, but not unheard of.
Except they are in Russia.
My uncle and cousin are in Russia hunting Bear.
They are hunting the Russian Bear.