#McFarlandUSA makes me pine for the America we once were and apparently we still are in the hearts of many of those we too often look away.
The review could be written today about how you will find the script, acting, casting or cinematography but I will let others write that review. You will find them everywhere I suppose as this was the rare theatrical experience in which the audience in suburban Dallas applauded.
I prefer to tell you of the profound experience I had in my heart while this story unfolded.
It is the true story of a man, (Kevin Costner character) who is coaching football in a typical Midwestern town. Where most kids are good but all too often blind to what they have.
He and his family are blind as well but in a way that most of us are. While we work hard and have our significant problems we fight the good fight and try to do our best while muttering under our breath "what is wrong with people today?"
We are the "good guys". Or so we believe, until an experience opens us up to see that we too, even with the best intentions, are just living on the surface of what it really means to live a full and good life.
The Costner character, ironically in real life named Coach "White", loses his job due to a temper flare and misunderstanding. Because of this, he cannot find a job coaching anywhere but a place in Southern California called McFarland.
It is a small, dusty and very poor migrant workers town. Understandably, he and his family do not want to be there and are indeed fish out of water. All of us can relate.
He is no longer in "America" or has he just arrived for the first time?
I know this sadly, may be controversial to some but I believe that McFarland is just as American as Bedford Falls and while the characters do not look like Jimmy Stewart that is the point.
I am changing as an American and I believe it is a good thing. I am searching for a deeper meaning as I more and more reject the marketing and packages of our country.
All of the trappings, flags, fireworks and soaring anthems have long grown faded at best and have at times become empty at worst.
America isn't a place, or a banner. It isn't a policy, political party, a president or our men in uniform.
It is the smallest of things.
It is merely an idea.
The revolutionary idea that a man can live free and pursue the feelings of his heart to become all that he can be.
No promises, but no man made obstacles either.
But lately, I am not even sure that this is the root of the American promise.
McFarland touched me not just in the turn around in lives and dreams, but it made me realize the stock of the soup is perhaps the love of God, family and your fellow man.
While I didn't recognize the food, traditions or language, I did recognize the families. I did remember the people and the neighbors.
I pined for the community. I long for the neighbors that truly count on one another.
This kind of community comes from strife that is not complained about nor merely endured but strife that is shared and made lighter and brighter because "we are all in it together".
Unlike our current American understanding, strife is not work. As real work hasn't been seen by most of us in a generation. Out of work comes not strife but rather character.
Strife more and more has become the UnAmerican mindset that things will never get better. It has become a reason for alienation, excuses and turmoil. But, when strife is viewed correctly and when borne together we begin to see the truth of the American idea.
Community comes from the sharing one another's burdens and holding fast to the traditions that were originally instituted to remind us of our duty and blessings to and from God and family. Out of those two blessings comes our country. Without them, we are nothing.
We are a nation divided. In some parts of the country, all walks, income, races and faiths this is growing and in others it is passing unnoticed and unmourned.
As I drove home with my family to our upper class suburban neighborhood I said to them, "McFarland is more of my idea of America than this is."
Too many of us look for a Walt Disney company America, one where the houses are perfect and if the real birds don't sing, we will have the sound piped in.
America isn't Main Street USA. It is any street where the people are good, hard working and filled with those who celebrate the traditions of family and friends. Places where we come together to bear each other burdens and will stand shoulder to shoulder to make tomorrow a better place for our children.
My wife agreed. My children still too young to truly understand, just agreed they would like to live there.
Because too many times now, we have become nothing more than a collection of parties, policies and political debates, I feel compelled to remind those who wish to make this about immigration that I am for deeply committed LEGAL immigration. Without laws that are equally enforced we become the country that they have worked so hard to flee. But, beyond the political nonsense that is getting us nowhere, let McFarland wash over you and ask the deeper questions.
What is America in the first place?
What made us great?
Where are we headed?
Am I part of the problem or solution?
What and who am I not seeing?
McFarland gently allows the self aware to ask, Who do you want as neighbors? People behind a nice manicured lawn who look like you that you rarely see, or those who would give you everything they have and welcome you as one of the family?
I gladly accept the chicken and would be the first to welcome the next family with my gift of a chicken.
I know the reality is more dangerous than the movie presents, but if I had to choose which America to live in, to wager which one would survive, I would place my bet on the hearts and the families from the little dusty town of McFarland the real life 21st century Bedford Falls.