I am a protester. Recently I got off my butt, hopped on a plane and participated in a protest march. I hadn’t done anything like that since 1971 when I took a break from college classwork, and with others, disrupted Vice President Spiro Agnew’s speech outside the Utah state capitol building. We were protesting the Vietnam War back then.
My latest protest took place on Good Friday, again in Salt Lake City. This time, I was protesting the LDS (Mormon) church’s policy regarding one-on-one interviews with youth. In addition to the potential danger of sexual harassment and abuse when a young person meets alone with someone in authority, often in these interviews, the church leader asks the youth probing questions of a sexual nature in an effort to determine the youth’s worthiness and adherence to Mormonism’s strict standards. Some have criticized the marchers for criticizing the church, but, as my wife says, most of my fellow marchers, like me, were not bitter toward the church, we only want to make the church better. The Boy Scouts and other churches have made significant changes in the ways they protect their youth against sexual predators; it’s time for the Mormon Church to do the same. And it would protect the church leader against unfounded claims of sexual abuse as well.
Was the march successful? Depending on who did the counting, there were anywhere from 800 to 2200 marchers. We marched while carrying signs from the Salt Lake City and County Building to the LDS Church’s headquarters, where we delivered books to church leaders containing over 500 stories of both physical and emotional abuse and shame behind closed doors with a church leader. Isn’t one story one too many? Because of the march (although they would probably not admit it), the church issued a new policy allowing the option of having another adult in the interview room with the youth and church leader. The policy also admonished all church leaders to take any claim of sexual abuse seriously, as more often than not, allegations of such abuse are based on fact. We didn’t get everything we wanted, but it was a baby step in the right direction.
But I didn’t want this entire post to be just about one-on-one church interviews. What surprised me most about the march was how good I felt afterward. I had stood up for something I believed in, and worked toward making actual change happen. One of my fellow marchers had brought their children to participate and told us how excited their kids were to come. “Sort of like Martin Luther King,” was the response of one of the children, which made me think of this scene from Selma:[i]
Not too long ago on this blog, I wrote another post about protesting (see https://lifelessonsthroughfilm.com/2017/10/14/take-a-knee/). That post focused on some things each of us could do to bring about change for the better. I dedicate this post to real-life heroes who were willing to give (and often gave) their lives for something they believed in, as illustrated in three of my all-time favorite fact-based movies. As you watch these clips, I hope you feel that same rush of adrenaline I feel every time I watch these movies, and that same rush I felt during the march for the children.
William Wallace lived in the late 1200s and became one of the leaders of Scotland during the Wars of Scottish Independence. In 1305, he was captured, handed over to King Edward I of England, and hanged and quartered for treason. In response to the treason charges, as a lover and fighter for freedom, Wallace said, “I could not be a traitor to Edward, for I was never his subject.” Here is one of my favorite scenes from Braveheart:[ii]
The 54th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment was the first all – African-American regiment to fight for the Union in the American Civil War (sadly, all their officers were white). During their training, the Confederates issued a proclamation which directly affected their future, as captured in this scene from Glory:[iii]
During its service, the 54th Massachusetts took part in the Battle of Grimball’s Landing and the more famous Second Battle of Fort Wagner, located just outside of Charleston, South Carolina. These soldiers carried out a frontal assault against the heavily armed fortress. Roughly 40 percent of the regiment were killed, wounded or went missing in that battle.
It is never easy to put your life on the line for something you believe in, but it can be a bit easier when you have like-minded men and women around you who share your cause. But Desmond Doss had no one. As a conscientious objector, he served as a combat medic with an infantry unit during World War II. Doss twice received Bronze Star Medals for his work to save lives in Guam and the Philippines and became the only conscientious objector to win the Medal of Honor for saving 75 men during the Battle of Okinawa. Even though he could have received a military deferment for working in the shipyard at Newport News, Virginia, at the beginning of the war, he enlisted, but under the conditions that he would not have to kill enemy soldiers or even carry a gun. This commitment did not make him the most popular soldier in his unit, as depicted in this scene from Hacksaw Ridge:[iv]
Doss had to go through a military court before being allowed to stay in the army under his conditions as a conscientious objector. During the Battle of Okinawa, he was wounded four times, including fracturing his left arm and receiving 17 pieces of shrapnel throughout his body. Although initially considered a coward by his fellow soldiers for refusing to carry a gun, he ultimately proved he might have been the bravest of them all.
I believe these words of Martin Luther King: “He who passively accepts evil is as much involved with it as he who perpetrates it.” So stand up for something you believe in. And take courage from others who have done the same.
- Production Company: Pathé, Harpo Films, Plan B Entertainment
- Director: Ava DuVernay
- Screenwriter: Paul Webb
- Starring: David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, and Tim Roth
- Release date: January 9, 2015
- Production Company: Icon Entertainment International, Ladd Company
- Director: Mel Gibson
- Screenwriter: Randall Wallace
- Starring: Mel Gibson, Sophie Marceau, Patrick McGoohan
- Release date: May 24, 1995
- Production Company: TriStar Pictures, Freddie Fields Productions
- Director: Edward Zwick
- Screenwriter: Kevin Jarre (based on the book by Lincoln Kirstein)
- Starring: Matthew Broderick, Denzel Washington, Cary Elwes
- Release date: February 16, 1990
[iv] Hacksaw Ridge
- Production Company: Cross Creek Pictures, Demarest Films, Pandemonium
- Director: Mel Gibson
- Screenwriter: Robert Schenkkan and Andrew Knight
- Starring: Andrew Garfield, Sam Worthington, Luke Bracey
- Release date: November 4, 2016