Sunday, July 26, 2015

Monkey Business

I recently watched Planet of the Apes, the 1968 version starring Charlton Heston. Somehow over the years, I had missed it, so decided it was about time. Parts of it seemed dated, and the acting was spotty, but, all in all, a good movie with some interesting messages. The idea that what we're doing to each other and the planet may cause us to devolve seems still relevant. There were amusing moments too, and one, in particular, made me laugh out loud.

Heston's character, Taylor, is an astronaut who travels 700 years into the future and crashes on this land run by apes who, seeing humans as a sub-species, imprison and enslave them. He, unlike the other humans, can talk. (I did wonder why he never questioned the fact that they speak English when he thinks they are from some other place in the universe, but I'll leave that question for another day). When he is put on trial before three orangutans who will decide his fate, he tries to tell them the truth of who he is and where he has been, but is immediately silenced because humans have no rights here. When he tries to speak the truth, we see a shot of the three orangutan judges, one with his hands over his eyes, one with his hands over his ears, one with his hands over his mouth--the classic "See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil."

I was reminded of this funny but telling scene this morning when I saw conservative personality Laura Ingraham's posting of a crowd cheering Donald Trump as he told a Telemundo reporter, "You're finished," when he pursued questioning him about his comments about Mexicans. Then I recalled hearing yesterday that Trump had refused press credentials to reporters from the Des Moines Register after they had printed a critical editorial about him. Now, the fact that candidates are in conflict with the press is nothing new, or even that they try to control access. What worries me is those who see his actions as something to applaud.

I am reminded of those orangutans who are more comfortable remaining ignorant than facing a truth they find uncomfortable. A free press--a truly free press--will, at times, expose us to uncomfortable truths, will make us angry, will cause us to want to turn it off--something I do habitually to Fox News, but, as Thomas Jefferson reminded us, “The only security of all is in a free press." If we are to make intelligent choices about who will lead us for the next four years, it's important that all the news gets out there.