- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 19, 2015


Hollywood turned its spotlight on America’s “birth defect” with 2014’s Best Film winner “12 Years a Slave.” At the Oscars this Sunday, I’m inclined to suspect it will not do the same with “Selma.”

Hollywood celebrities are — in a broad brush way — anti-war. But they always have been suckers for war movies.

That by no means suggests “American Sniper” is going to grab the gold-plated Oscar statuette as the best of the best. It’s just that “American Sniper” is American-made, through and through.

It’s also a product of Clint Eastwood, whose Hollywood career in acting and storytelling is as legendary as any role John Wayne embodied and any script Steven Spielberg has plopped into theaters.

“Selma” won’t win because it demonizes Lyndon Baines Johnson, a Democratic hero by today’s liberal standards.

I’m not a spoiler, so I refuse to give you the details. Just go see the film for yourself. It’ll surely be around beyond Sunday.

A fitting precursor to “Selma” is “12 Years a Slave,” which revealed not only the Underground Railroad but also the Underground Slave Trade along what is now the National Mall and Smithsonian pathways.

The former is regularly discussed during the month of February, Black History Month. The history of the Underground Slave Trade in the nation’s capital, the nation’s South, and the original 13 colonies? Not so much.

Besides, there is no dancing or singing or making merry like Christmas in “Selma.”

And it’s a “made in America” film, for sure.

It’s got Martin Luther King. Played by Brit David Oyetokunbo Oyelowo.

It’s got LBJ. Played by Brit Tom Wilkinson.

It’s got Alabama Gov. George “Segregation now, segregation tomorrow, segregation forever” Wallace. Played by Brit Tim Roth.

It’s got Coretta Scott King. Played by Brit Carmen Ejogo. (Whose acting I first adored in “Lackawanna Blues” in 2005.)

It’s got Coretta confronting Martin about his adulterous relations.

It’s got King confronting LBJ about civil rights legislation.

It’s got LBJ confronting King about strategy.

It’s got LBJ confronting Wallace.

It’s got now-Congressman John Lewis and others marching on “Bloody Sunday” across the Edmund Pettus Bridge.

It’s got re-enactments of Jim Crow minions whacking the heads and debilitating the bodies of three or four generations of folks.

It’s also got cross-sections of clergy joining the ranks of black Americans who mostly had been fighting solo.

So, it has a war theme, too.

But it’s an American war, a war of our own making.

There’s no battle on foreign shores or in foreign lands.

There’s no battle waged against the axis of evil, Hitler and Nazis, illegal immigration, global terrorism, Islam or the like.

The battle theme in “Selma” is an internal struggle — the struggle over how best to heal “America’s birth defect.”

Here’s how former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice explained it in 2008 to The Washington Times:

“‘Black Americans were a founding population,’ she said. ‘Africans and Europeans came here and founded this country together — Europeans by choice and Africans in chains. That’s not a very pretty reality of our founding.’

“As a result, Miss Rice told editors and reporters at The Washington Times, ‘descendants of slaves did not get much of a head start, and I think you continue to see some of the effects of that.

“‘That particular birth defect makes it hard for us to confront it, hard for us to talk about it, and hard for us to realize that it has continuing relevance for who we are today,’ she said.”

That’s chiefly why the other American-made film, “American Sniper,” will be victorious Sunday night.

Hollywood loves storytelling, especially when the storytellers — actors, writers and directors — are red-blooded Americans.

Thank goodness I won’t have to watch the Oscars and can turn to being Washington-centric by binge-watching the current season of “Scandal.”

Deborah Simmons can be reached at dsimmons@washingtontimes.com.

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