The following guest post was written by senior politics major Casey Daggett.
For as long as I can remember, I have loved stories. No small amount of my childhood was spent surrounded by piles of books borrowed from the local library. As I grew up, that love developed into an equal affection for film. Film is just as transformative, just as powerful a medium, as what we consider to be traditional narrative, and I’ve found it is often through film that I find myself moved, inspired and touched.
Last month, I spent two consecutive Sunday afternoons at the movie theatre in Camp Hill, first to see Selma and then The Imitation Game. Both were nothing short of masterful; each beautifully and poignantly portrayed their respective protagonists as well as the challenges and cultural nuances of their settings. As both ended, the last image on the screen was a title card explaining the fates of MLK Jr. and Alan Turing. Shortly after the events of Selma, MLK Jr. was assassinated, and less than a year after beginning hormone treatments, Alan Turing committed suicide.
After the end of both films, just as the lights began to rise, I heard someone behind me sigh wistfully, “What a shame.”
It is, of course, a shame. It is nothing short of a tragedy.
In both cases, the lives of two brave, brilliant men were ended far too early as a result of systematic injustice. For Turing, a government that actively dehumanized homosexuals and worked to ‘cure’ them through either jail or hormone imbalances; for King a government that for far too long had ignored the plight of its own citizens and turned a blind eye to rampant discrimination.
This led me to consider how many ‘shames’ I will sit down to watch in a theatre thirty or forty years from now. How many instances of injustice that now only warrant perhaps a sad sigh or casual interest will one day appear upon a movie screen and result in the disbelief of an audience? How was such a thing allowed to continue, to endure? Where was the outcry, the rage? Where was the justice?
This is the primary reason why I chose to study politics and why I believe my discipline, contrary to the opinions of many, is critically important. Politics is a study of constitutions, ideologies, and electoral systems, certainly, but the beating heart of the study examines how communities choose to live together and, most importantly, how those within can be given the best possible life. Political activism, an understanding of the nuances of difficult and often uncomfortable issues, works to combat these ‘shames’ and to see injustice defeated.
Viewing both Selma and The Imitation Game reminded me of the necessity of what I study, of the call not only to recognize injustice but to end it through political activism. It is a challenge, absolutely, and one that requires no small amount of determination and strength, but it is unquestionably deserving of the effort. Years down the road, when we’ve a free Sunday afternoon to spend at the movies, let’s work to see as few of these ‘shames’ as possible up on the big screen.