When I read Ted’s blog on Monday, I was immediately reminded of an old movie that I’ve always loved. A Walk In the Clouds, with Keanu Reeves, Giancarlo Giannini, Aitana Sanchez-Gijón, and Anthony Quinn.
In it, Paul Sutton, played by Reeves, returns from the war, hopeful to find his place in life alongside his bride of four years whom he barely knows. She sends him out to make money, selling chocolates. Along the way, he encounters Victoria Aragon who is making her way home, pregnant and unwed, to face the thunderous force of her father who will not be pleased with her state. Sutton agrees to pretend to be her husband for a day, and then leave her in the middle of the night, so that she doesn’t have to face the wrath of her prideful, difficult father.
Of course, their ruse doesn’t go as planned. Don Pedro, the grandfather, played by Anthony Quinn, seems to immediately see through the ruse, but in spite of that, begins to play matchmaker between his granddaughter and Sutton. He contrives many ways to keep Sutton from leaving while love blooms between the couple.
I won’t spoil the rest of the movie for you, if you haven’t seen it. It is cinematography at one of its finer moments and simply a feast for the eyes as the backdrop is a beautiful Napa Valley Vineyard. The analogies between the grapevines and vines of family are rich and poignant. And there are plenty of laughs as well as gut-wrenching moments.
The reason I chose the movie was for this particular line that came to mind with Ted’s blog. Victoria’s very prideful father says to Sutton, “Just because I talk with an accent, doesn’t mean I think with an accent.” And even later he makes this bombastic statement, “My daughter can trace her roots back 400 years to the best families in Mexico and you’re telling me she’s married a man with no past, or worse, a man with no past, and no future?”
Ted was right on Monday, “None of us cries with an accent, bleeds with an accent, helps with an accent, kisses with an accent, laughs with an accent, or makes love with an accent. We are all humans.” And, yet, all of us, I would venture to guess, have discovered, at some point or another, some prejudice that we harbor within ourselves. Many times, it takes us by surprise when we see it in a new light that brings it out of the shadows in which it feeds.
So, how do these discriminations work their way into our thought processes in the first place? In the nature vs. nurture argument it would, of course, come from our updbringing. And while I do see that as at least one avenue, I do believe there is more to it than simply aping the beliefs of our parents. In fact, I would say that there are at least two other contributing factors to those prejudices we often find within ourselves, much to our surprise.
Contributing Factors to Secret Prejudices
- A Willingness to Remain Blind to the Truth. I’ve heard this line so many times before, “But, we’ve always done it this way.” That line isn’t just about a reluctance to change a process, a system, or a way of doing things. It’s a line we often feed ourselves when we are reluctant to change within. “Well, if it was good enough for my daddy, then it’s good enough for me.” But the truth is, life isn’t about staying the same. We should be about self-actualization, growth, and learning. That, however, involves self-examination, which, then, when we are honest, leads to admission of guilt, and a need to apologize for our prejudice.
Unfortunately, apologies don’t come naturally to us. We learn at young ages the lie that apologizing is a sign of weakness. We also come to understand, wrongly in my opinion, that as long as we make it up to the person, they will know that we were sorry. We don’t have to say anything.
How richer, though, how much stronger would our relationships be if we learned the art of apologizing? It’s worth considering as our prejudices come to light for us.
- We Think Good Intentions Justify Our Actions and Beliefs. But as we’ve all heard it said, “The road to Hell is paved with good intentions.” In other words, even the best, well-meaning intentions can still cause great harm when exercised wrongly.
In A Walk in the Clouds, the stern father, who continuously lashes out at his family and at Sutton, has good intentions. He loves his family. He even says at one point in the movie, the entire vineyard, and all the work he does, he does for his family. Nevertheless, his good intentions lead him down the wrong path to prejudice and destruction.
It is only when he almost loses everything that the scales fall from his eyes so that he sees his wrongs. And what a beautiful and blessed moment that is for us to watch. It can be that way for us in real life as well, when we remain open to the possibility that perhaps we don’t know everything. When we can admit that old ways aren’t always right ways, or that our good intentions don’t justify our actions, then we open ourselves to new possibilities, new friendships, new wonders.
What Happens When we Overcome Our Prejudices
The people of this planet are all beautiful, each with so much to give. It is their diversity of colors, beliefs, and practices that the Master Weaver, God himself, uses to create a tapestry that transcends this world. The more we see this, the bigger, the brighter, and more interesting our journey through this life becomes. So give love to all, live loved and live large.