Of all the movies I have recently seen the injustice in Twelve Years A Slave cut me to the core more than any other. By no means does it diminish the horrors of the Holocaust in The Book Thief, the atrocities of war in Lone Survivor, the outrage at babies being sold by nuns out from under their mothers’ noses in Philamena or the utter despair of family brokenness in August: Osage County. But the graphic and emotional portrayal of slavery left me wailing as the credits rolled.
At times I couldn’t even look at the screen. The injustice, the pride, the disparity, the justification, the blind-eye, the violence. the suffering, the pain… too much for words.
If you don’t know the plot, in a nutshell it is the true story of Solomon Northup as told in his autobiography. Northup was a free black man living in New York with his family.
Until one day while in Washington, D.C. he was kidnapped, shipped to Louisiana and sold to a plantation owner as a slave. Under the ownership of several different “masters” he alongside the other slaves endured extreme brutality and unfathomable injustice. Finally Northup confides in a white man speaking out against slavery. This hero-man (played by none other than Brad Pitt) risked his own life to help Northup obtain his freedom papers and ultimately return to his family after twelve long years.
Unable to even process the condoned practice of slavery then and still in our world today, I am grateful in this context for the equal rights our country has now embraced. We kid ourselves, though, if we think our human hearts are any better, changed or different.
The root of slavery was pride, but do we not see how its thorny branches take root in our hearts too?
Is it not that same pride seen in the plantation owners, who thought themselves superior, that wells up in us in various ways?
Welling up when we look down on someone because they are…
- of a different race or geographical location
- have less materially
- a lesser job
- lacking in beauty
- hold different views
- make different educational or parenting choices
It doesn’t matter what it is, it can be anything that causes us to think we are better. Causes us to fill with pride.
Oh, how easy it is to see the evil in the slave masters, without even realizing we are enslaved to sin!
But just as Northup’s paper proclaimed his freedom, we have a Savior who has done that for us. A Savior who suffered the same slave-type slashes across his back before being hung on a tree to his death.
A Savior who bore that weight for sinners so that we could know the love and true freedom only he gives. Hallelujah!
On a side, this concludes my Oscar-based posts just in time for tonight’s Red Carpt event. My vote for Best Picture…
12 Years A Slave.
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