Thursday, December 24, 2015

TRUMBO: Fear Should Not Trump our Rights

I had to do a second take when I first saw the movie title on a marquee. With Donald Trump running for President I first thought that this movie was about him. The film is called Trumbo, not Trump, but I think Donald Trump needs to see this movie. As well as anyone else who feels recent terrorist threats should cause us to set aside our First Amendment rights.

This movie, directed by Jay Roach, is about what happens when a group of people in power let fear grip and rule at the expense of our human rights. It happened in America back in 1947, when Dalton Trumbo, played brilliantly by Bryan Cranston, and a number of other Hollywood screenwriters and artists were blacklisted and put in jail for their political beliefs. Those jailed were registered as members of the U.S. Communist party. This was a time in history, called the Cold War, when America stopped seeing the U.S. Communist party as an economic system or a legitimate political affiliation, and instead saw it as a symbol of the Soviet Union and a threat to our way of life.

As I watched this film, I couldn’t help but think of what our country is going through right now regarding the Syrian refugees and pray that we don’t go down that path of fear. I can understand people being afraid, sometimes I, too, feel afraid. Yet fear should never trump our American rights, and this film helps to remind us of this truth.

Some of our Republican candidates are operating strictly from fear. Trump wants to ban all Muslims from our country and deport the ones already living here. Bush and Cruz want to only let in ‘Christian’ refugees. Huckabee wants to put the refugees in ‘encampments.’ I guess he’s forgotten about what we did to the Japanese during WWII.

The film Trumbo is different than our current situation in that the people affected were not refugees, but U.S. citizens, and yet if we aren’t careful we could find ourselves ‘blacklisting’ the Muslims that live right here in our country; who knows, maybe some of them are even screenwriters.

After Trumbo got out of jail he lost his house, and was forced to downgrade and move his family. None of the major studios in Hollywood would hire him. However, he managed to find ways to write screenplays as a ghost writer. His films Roman Holiday, with Ian McLellan Hunter as the front writer, and The Brave Ones, written under Trumbo’s pseudonym Robert Rich, even won Best Picture awards. Trumbo had to watch the Award shows from the TV in his living room without being able to claim or take credit for the prize he so deserved.

The blacklist began to turn around in 1960 when director Otto Preminger (Christian Berkel) announced he would credit Trumbo for his film Exodus, and Kirk Douglas (Dean O’Gorman) hired Trumbo to write Spartacus and put his name on the script. However, it was the action of a President that totally sealed the deal of ending the blacklist debacle. President J.F.K’s crossing the American Legion picket lines to see Spartacus sent a message to the country that this time of persecution was finally over.

Trumbo is a film that reminds us of the freedoms for which our country stands, and how careful we must be to hold on to those, even in a time of fear and uncertainty. It also shows us how powerful the actions of a President can be in moving a country forward. It is definitely a movie that some of our Presidential candidates need to see, and soon!