by Elias Blum
I’ve just seen the film ‘Selma’. It’s an excellent film and I thoroughly recommend it, although it is not an easy film to watch.
It addresses the issue of a claim for constitutional rights, which is to be pressed through a non-violent demonstration that mounts a great moral challenge to an unjust established order, and which is understood through a theological framework of sacrifice and resurrection. So it might take a while for me process it and to work through some of the issues it raises for my thought and my work.
When I checked my facebook after I got home from the cinema, I saw two things that instantly struck me as relevant. The first was a photo of a victim of violence directed against a young Palestinian man in Israel – an image that looked, for all the world, exactly like the images of beaten black men in Alabama. (It also brought to mind images of students kettled by the police in London during the Occupy and Students Fees marches). The second was a cartoon about voter suppression, which is still happening in many places around the world.
So my immediate reflection is this: one cannot sit back and look at Selma simply as a historical film, as if those things terrible did not continue to happen today. It is very much a film about current realities. The struggle between justice and injustice, right and wrong, dignity and abuse, righteousness and power goes on, and on.
And yet, this is not a cause for hopelessness. Victories are still possible. Progress can still be achieved. Often it seems to get worse before better, but things can and do get better: to take one pertinent example, in 1964 black people in Alabama could not vote; in 2008 they voted overwhelmingly for a black President. So we should be neither discouraged nor complacent, but keep on working and praying for justice, freedom and dignity whenever, and wherever, these things are absent.