I regularly pick up random movies from the public library. Most of the time I don’t read what they’re about, I like the surprise of what my subconscious has chosen for me. One movie I watched won the Best Movie at the Academy Awards in 1947. The move is “A Gentleman’s Agreement”. As it turned out, this movie is about a subject that is very close to my heart. “The Freedom of Spiritual Expression.”
The story is centred around a journalist (Gregory Peck) and a series of articles he has been asked to write on anti-Semitism. From the movie I can see that this was a big problem in the US at the time. In order to really understand the problem he presents himself as a Jew and as a result really gets an appreciation of how deep the problem is.
As a little blond girl who was Christian and of Northern European decent, growing up in Australia in the 60’s & 70’s, I never had the firsthand experience of what racial or religious prejudice was about. As I grew, I never understood it. In the 60’s in Australia, prejudice was against the Southern European immigrants, the Italians, Greeks, Czechs, all of who were my school playmates. Wog was a word that was affectionately thrown around, like the word Dag in the school ground, unaware that others used it as a derogatory word.
My Christian upbringing in a church of a very small denomination, with a strange name, was largely misunderstood. It gave me an appreciation that everyone doesn’t think the same and that we are all entitled to believe and practice our Spirituality as we wish. The vaguest thought that someone should be looked down on or thought in anyway, not of equal value because they think or believe different horrified me.
After all, I don’t believe the way anyone else does. I have my own thoughts and ideas, just like everyone else. And why someone should be mistreated or looked down on because they come from somewhere different. My Grandfather had a funny accent and came from a country that practically no-one had ever heard of when I was growing up. So, really couldn’t I have just as easily been a victim of such narrow minded thinking, just as some of my ancestors before me had.
I would like that think that a lot has changed since 1947 and the need for such a movie with such a strong message is not needed. As I thought about it I knew that the message is still very powerful today. Once again, we find the world facing religious intolerance on a large scale. Regardless of whom the target current is these prejudices in the world need to be abolished, both religious and racial.
The turning point in the movie is very poignant for today. In a conversation between the journalist fiancé and his best friend who is Jewish, she tells him she had always be abhorrent at the words and actions of anti-Semitism and the series of articles was actually her idea. The Jewish friend then challenged her on it. What action did she take? She just kept silent when people told jokes at the expense of Jewish people. She didn’t stand up and tell them she didn’t agree with what they said or the actions they took. She stood by quietly. If she truly had these beliefs that all people are equal and all people deserve to be honoured and respected, she had to take a stand. She had to stand up and be counted on.
It is time now for us all to stand up for what we believe; for our own beliefs and the rights of others to believe as they choose. This is a time for us to stand together and share a message of love and acceptance of all.