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Iron Jawed Angels

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Sunday was pretty boring.  I went to work.  Then I came home and talked to my boss on the phone for half an hour.  So, let’s talk about movies instead.

A majority of what Hollywood puts out is crap.  A majority of what’s on TV is crap.  But every now and then, certain forces conspire to tell a story that should have already been known by everybody in America.  Recently, I watched the HBO movie, Iron Jawed Angels.  Anjelica Houston won a Golden Globe for her portrayal of suffragist Carrie Catt in this 2004 film.  It stars Hilary Swank as Alice Paul, an unwavering force behind the women’s suffrage movement in the early 20th century.

According to the film, Paul and her friend Lucy Burns founded the National Women’s Party to lobby congress directly for a constitutional amendment allowing women the vote.  When they continued to picket the White House after the US declared war against Germany in World War I, the women were arrested, sentenced to the workhouse, and beaten.  Through these women’s relentless determination, I now have the right to vote, something that I often take for granted but will now covet with great pride.

I didn’t love everything about this film.  I’m usually a bit put off by period films that incorporate modern music.  It doesn’t work for me.  It makes me feel disjointed.  There’s also a bathtub scene that’s a bit silly, in my opinion.  But regardless of stylistic choices that didn’t suit my taste, I still think this is a film that everyone should see.  I think it’s a tragedy that Alice Paul isn’t a celebrated historical figure along the lines of Martin Luther King Jr.  The courage and determination that she and her fellow suffragists displayed was remarkable.  I hate to think that it is only because they are women that they are not more widely known.

Start with this film, then go to your library and read up on the women’s suffrage movement.  Then make sure that you vote in the upcoming election because that is a right of all citizens, regardless of sex, thanks to women like Alice Paul, who risked their lives so that we could have a voice in our government.

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Remember Remember

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It’s Guy Fawkes day.  I can’t for the life of me ever seem to actually remember why he tried to blow up Parliament.  Most everything I know about this holiday I learned from V for Vendetta, which I doubt is a rich source of historical accuracy.  But I’ve been seeing Mr. Fawkes’s pointy beard everywhere these days.  Apparently he’s become the mascot for OWS or something.  I’m so behind on the news.  You’d think I’d get my TV working or something, but I really have no interest.

Let me say, I’m not a fan of blowing up buildings, even if they’re unoccupied.  The number of times I’ve seen Fight Club doesn’t change the fact that I don’t condone real life violence.  I am hugely in favor of people using their voice, however.  Outsiders are often puzzled and disapproving of the amount of bickering that seems to go on in our culture.  They get a skewed view of America from their media because they only hear the people with the loudest voices, a lot of whom appear on Fox News.  Yet, even though it’s annoying, I believe there’s something special about our freedom of speech that allows people to say even the craziest of things.  Whatever you believe, you have the right to tell people about it whether others agree with you or not.

This freedom, though, gives us a much greater responsibility to educate ourselves and think before we react.  This is a responsibility I feel too many people neglect.  Anybody can say anything they want, but that doesn’t mean you should believe them.  This is the most important lesson I tried to teach my students.  Evaluate what you hear in the media.  Search for biases.  Analyze the validity.  A lesson I fear so many people have forgotten.

See, now I’m just rambling again.

So, on this bonfire day, I will eat treacle toffee, watch a great film with an elf and a swan, and be grateful for my freedom.  There are still too many people around the world living under tyrannical rule.  The Arab spring proved that humanity’s urge for freedom from oppression cannot be denied.  There are a lot of things that are seriously messed up in this country.  Greed and irresponsibility are rampant.  And yet, essentially, I am free and happy.  So set something on fire tonight, and remember remember the fifth of November because really, what else is there to do?