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I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free: On Rise Of The Planet Of The Apes And The Help



There is…a myth about America to which we are clinging which has nothing to do with the lives we lead…this collision between one’s image of oneself and what one actually is is always very painful and there are two things you can do about it, you can meet the collision head-on and try and become what you really are or you can retreat and try to remain what you thought you were, which is a fantasy, in which you will certainly perish.

-James Baldwin, (Nobody Knows My Name, 1961)


You know something very bizarre is going on in Hollywood when the movie “Rise of Planet of the Apes” tells more about the black experience in America than “The Help.”

I went to see Rise of the Planet of the Apes because it’s summer, the time for escapist movies, and right now there is a lot I want to escape from. I’m tired of hearing about the Tea Party and debt ceilings; Christine O’Donnell, pampered and indulged by Fox News, just walked off Piers Morgan’s talk show because he had the nerve to ask her as a politician about her views on gay marriage and Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell: the Bush insanity is making a comeback. I go back and forth between being outraged and disappointed with Obama and feeling genuinely sorry for him. Having not run for president as a black person, he can’t play the “discrimination” card against John Boehner & Co. now when he needs it most. (Whether he has the most powerful position in the world or works at McDonald’s, Obama’s black in America, which means he has to deal with at least one racist white person at his job.)

An hour into Rise of the Planet of the Apes, and on the verge of tears, I felt questions of politics and race more present than ever, and thought, “What the hell is going on in this movie?” So much for escapism.

One thing that was definitely going on was the beauty of Andy Serkis’ peformance as the chimpanzee Caesar. (Regrettably, it is almost impossible to discuss the film without giving away some plot details.) Caesar’s mother is killed after she goes on a destructive rampage in the laboratory where she has been used for drug testing. It is later discovered that she was trying to protect the baby no one knew she had. Caesar, as he is later named, has absorbed traces of the drug given to his mother to reverse the effects of Alzheimer’s. The drug, it is soon discovered, also has the effect of increasing mental ability. When the research is terminated, all the chimps are put down, but one of the scientists, Will Rodman, played by James Franco, sneaks Caesar home from the lab and raises him. Caesar goes from an adorable baby to a soulful, intelligent adult. When, during a misunderstanding, Caesar attacks a neighbor fighting with Will’s father, he is sent to a court-ordered sanctuary and forced to stay there, separated from everyone he knows and loves. It becomes clear that the sanctuary is a brutal place, and the apes there reflect long-term oppression and neglect: rage, depression, sickness, in-fighting, hysteria, and heartbreak. Rodman is forced to leave Caesar, and is tricked into thinking the sanctuary is a safe place. The apes are kept in dark, damp cages out of sight, where they are treated cruelly, taunted by a white overseer.

So many things are happening in these scenes: the primates in their cages and the attempts to the communicate through the bars despite their differences (Caesar befriends a circus orangutan), recalls enslaved Africans trying to communicate with each other whilst speaking different languages during the Middle Passage. At one point, Caesar has a hose turned on him as punishment for rebelling, recalling images of brutality from the civil rights movement. The man who runs the Sanctuary tells Rodman to make sure to call before he comes, meaning he wants time to prepare for his visit and hide the signs of abuse. Rise of the Planet of the Apes then becomes a movie about those thrown away in our society, about institutional care for the mentally ill, or elder care when patients are left to waste, only to be “cleaned up” for their families on visiting days. In the yard, when all the apes are briefly allowed to leave their cages, Caesar is forced to defend himself from another inmate. The viewer experiences the horror of being incarcerated, of having to survive within the prison system. Because there is no condescension in Serkis’ performance, nor in the writing or directing, the scenes have the power to overwhelm one emotionally. When the apes orchestrate their break from the “sanctuary” there is a soulful look between Caesar and the orangutan, a deep, mature, knowing exchange that made me want to sit up and shout, “Now that was definitely a black look!”

At one point in the movie, when the testing of the drug is reinstated, a new chimp named Koba is brought in, who has clearly been through hell. His face alone can move one to tears, or terror. I loved the movie at this point for showing us that face, because every black person in America has at least one family member with a face like that, whether we admit it or not. It’s the cousin in prison, or the relative driven mad by racism or poverty. It’s the face of an angry slave, a face that has been whipped and tortured. It’s a dangerous face, a face that you keep incarcerated, or your boot pressed down against, because if that face ever gets up, it’s going to have something for your ass. (There’s no face like this, by the way, in The Help.)

On one of the promotional posters I saw, an ape is holding up his fist, Black Panther Party-style, and the tagline reads, “Evolution Becomes Revolution.” Could it be that when Hollywood finally decides to tell the truth about black lives, it’s Rise of the Planet of the Apes? And, if so, how fucking shady is that? Perhaps no one would come to see a bunch of black people rioting and throwing metal spears at police cars (spears made from the broken fence of the local zoo where the primates liberate others from captivity), but they’ll watch these apes. And with one very cruel exception, the apes are surprisingly non-violent. They kick ass, but only when they feel they have to: and there are many instances where the film could have poured on the sadism, but the apes make their point, and let the people go. They don’t want revenge for revenge’s sake, but self-determination.

(One person they don’t let go, however, is the greedy, unscrupulous black man who finances and runs the lab. David Oyelowo may have the singular distinction of being the longest-surviving black man in a horror film. I wasn’t sure what to make of his casting, but it does provide an interesting curly-cue, having the evil capitalist in the movie be black. (Shades of Condi Rice?) As more blacks seem to be craving a piece of the corporate, capitalist pie without apology, or scruples, Rise of the Planet of the Apes may be making the point that to the oppressed and the poor, the distinction between whites and blacks in power may not be so distinct anymore.)

I came out of Rise of the Planet of the Apes feeling larger and beautiful, which isn’t easy for a black man to admit, because the last thing you want anyone to compare you to, or to compare yourself to in a racist society, is an ape. I am aware that a white writer might seriously hesitate to write a piece comparing Caesar to a black man. But the real truth of the movie is an emotional one, transcending race and categorization. Rise of the Planet of the Apes could have been done in the “blaxploitation” tradition, a revenge fantasy for the oppressed, but it goes deeper than that. It speaks to anyone who has been brutalized, but even more significantly, underestimated. And if you’ve ever been raped, or bashed, or bullied, or called a faggot for being gay, or “caged” by being made “other”, you know what it means to want to escape from the cruelty of being unvalued, to find your own sense of self-definition and power.

When Rodman is reunited with Caesar in the forest and offers to bring him home, Caesar, who is now smart enough to talk, says, “Caesar is home” with the resonance and power of James Earl Jones. He starts out the child of a kidnapped mother that he never really knew (a mother captured by black hands in the movie’s preamble, referencing African tribes’ participation in the slave trade), and through intelligence and skill survives the prison his oppressors put him in. Creating a liberation experience from his incarceration (Nelson Mandela), he finds his courage and independence and becomes a leader.

Nina Simone sings, “I wish I knew how it would feel to be free. I wish I could break all the chains binding me.” It feels utterly bizarre to suggest people of color see Rise of the Planet of the Apes because of its healing power, but I will say that when Caesar’s black hand opens his cage for the first time, you feel the potential to be released from your own, and you rejoice.

Please continue to Part II.

Max Gordon is a writer and activist. He has been published in the anthologies Inside Separate Worlds: Life Stories of Young Blacks, Jews and Latinos (University of Michigan Press, 1991), Go the Way Your Blood Beats: An Anthology of African-American Lesbian and Gay Fiction (Henry Holt, 1996) and Mixed Messages: An Anthology of Literature to Benefit Hospice and Cancer Causes. His work has also appeared on openDemocracy, Democratic Underground and Truthout, in Z Magazine, Gay Times, Sapience, and other progressive on-line and print magazines in the U.S. and internationally.

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Bill Barr Slams Trump: DOJ Not ‘Conducting a Witch Hunt’ – ‘He Jerked Them Around’ – ‘No Excuse for What He Did’



Bill Barr, once Donald Trump‘s favorite attorney general and the one who was seen as his “faithful protector and personal henchman” for his “willingness to enable Trump’s darkest impulses,” came out swinging against his former boss Tuesday, refuting his “witch hunt” claims, and saying the ex-president “jerked” DOJ around over hundreds of classified and top secret documents he refused to return.

“I think if based on the facts, as the facts come out, I think over time, people will say that this is not a case of the Department of Justice, you know, conducting a ‘witch hunt,'” Barr told CBS News Tuesday, ahead of what many believe is an impending indictment on what experts say could include charges of obstruction of justice and charges under the Espionage Act.

“In fact,” Barr continued, praising his former agency, “they approached this very delicately, with deference to the President, and this would have gotten nowhere had the President just returned the documents.”

Instead, Barr said, Trump “jerked them around for a year and a half. And the question is, did he deceive them? And if there’s evidence of that, I think people will start to see that this says more about Trump than it does the Department of Justice.”

The ex-president who is once again running to retake the Oval Office, Barr says, is “so egotistical that he has this penchant for conducting risky, reckless acts to show that he can sort of get away with it.”

READ MORE: Will Santos Choose Jail? Judge Rules Names of Persons Who Provided His Half-Million Dollar Bond Must Be Made Public

“It’s part of asserting his his, his ego, and he’s done this repeatedly at the expense of all the people who depend on him to conduct the public’s business in an honorable way. And, you know, we saw that with both impeachments, and there’s no excuse for what he did here.”

Referring to what many believe is an impending indictment over the classified documents he removed from the White House and refused to return, Barr added, “I’ve said for a while that I think this is the most dangerous legal risk facing the former president. And if I had to bet I would bet that it’s near.”

He said DOJ would not try to indict “if there’s not enough evidence, but from what I’ve seen, there’s substantial evidence there.”

But true to form, Barr also defended his former boss.

Whether what Trump’s done is “a crime or not remains to be seen,” he said, while refusing to weigh in on whether or not he thinks Trump “deceived” DOJ.

Later in the interview, Barr went full-force on supporting Trump’s claims that the Russia investigation was a hoax.

“I went into the administration halfway through, and I did it at a time where I felt he was being treated unfairly on the Russia gate thing. I thought that was, you know, turned out to be I think a big lie,” Barr said.

“And I felt that he was the duly elected president and he deserved a chance to conduct his administration. And I went in because I thought I could help stabilize things and also have the administration conducted in an appropriate way. And as I felt the idea that the election was stolen was a big lie.”

READ MORE: ‘Isn’t There a Beach in Mexico Waiting for You?’: Cruz Mocked for Claiming Garland Will Indict Trump Over SCOTUS Seat Loss

And despite it all, despite everything that has come out about Trump’s actions and alleged actions, despite the looming indictment – on top of a current indictment – Barr says if Trump is the Republican party’s nominee for president he will still support him.

“I don’t see myself not supporting the Republican candidate,” Barr said.

Taking a swing at President Joe Biden, Barr said neither the current nor the former president are “fit for the office.”

“But if I’m confronted with that choice, I have to go with policy, who’s closest to me on policy,” regardless of who might be convicted of breaking the law, including on our national secrets.

Watch a clip from the interview below or at this link.


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Will Santos Choose Jail? Judge Rules Names of Persons Who Provided His Half-Million Dollar Bond Must Be Made Public



A district magistrate judge Tuesday afternoon ruled the names of the three people who put up the $500,000 bond for U.S. Rep. George Santos (R-NY) must be made public. Santos, under indictment on 13 federal charges including money laundering, wire fraud, theft of public funds, and lying to Congress, has said he would rather go to jail than allow the names to be released to the public.

Santos pleaded not guilty and was released on a $500,000 bond on May 10. He could face up to 20 years in prison if convicted.

Law & Crime News’ Adam Klasfeld reports, “The identities of Rep. George Santos’s bond co-signers must be UNSEALED, a magistrate judge ruled. Santos has a brisk schedule for an appeal.”

Santos has until Friday at noon to appeal, or the documents and bond will be unsealed.

READ MORE: ‘Isn’t There a Beach in Mexico Waiting for You?’: Cruz Mocked for Claiming Garland Will Indict Trump Over SCOTUS Seat Loss

The embattled New York Republican Congressman’s legal team has argued “the three people who helped provide Santos’ bond ‘are likely to suffer great distress, may lose their jobs, and God forbid, may suffer physical injury,'” CBS News reported Monday evening.

“There is little doubt that the suretors will suffer some unnecessary form of retaliation if their identities and employment are revealed,” the motion also says.

“My client would rather surrender to pretrial detainment than subject these suretors to what will inevitably come,” Santos’ attorney said in the filing.

CBS News adds that the House Ethics Committee is also requesting the names of the three people who helped the Congressman make bail be made public.

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‘Isn’t There a Beach in Mexico Waiting for You?’: Cruz Mocked for Claiming Garland Will Indict Trump Over SCOTUS Seat Loss



U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) is being roundly mocked after claiming Attorney General Merrick Garland will indict Donald Trump because he “hates” the ex-president and because he is angry his early 2016 nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court was blocked.

“They hypocrisy is massive,” Sen. Cruz declared on Fox News Monday night. “And mark my words: I believe Merrick Garland will indict Donald Trump. He wants to indict Donald Trump because he hates Donald Trump. He hates him – he’s angry – Merrick Garland is angry that he wasn’t confirmed to the Supreme Court. he wants to indict him.”

Cruz, who has a law degree from Harvard, is wrong on the basic facts, and he’s being widely mocked for it.

As many are pointing out, first, Attorney General Garland appointed Jack Smith as Special Prosecutor. Smith, who was appointed as Acting U.S. Attorney by Donald Trump in 2017, will make the decision on whether or not to present charges to a grand jury. The grand jury, not Garland and not Smith, will make the decision on whether or not to indict Trump.

Also, whether or not Garland has any anger about not being confirmed by the U.S. Senate, that anger would rightly be pointed to then Senate Republican Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who took the unprecedented step of refusing to even allow a committee hearing to consider his nomination.

READ MORE: Jim Jordan Demands Merrick Garland Hand Over Documents Authorizing Special Counsel’s Trump Investigation

McConnell did that in early 2016, even before Trump was the GOP’s presidential nominee. Trump had nothing to do with blocking Garland’s nomination to the U.S. Supreme Court.

“This is dangerous,” warned foreign policy and intelligence expert John Sipher, who spent nearly three decades in the Central Intelligence Agency’s National Clandestine Service. “He knows what he’s doing and he’s risking violence.”

After Cruz’s Fox News appearance, he posted video of his own remarks and baselessly tweeted, “Merrick Garland is the most partisan Attorney General in American history. He has corrupted the DOJ, the FBI, and the machinery of government. And now, out of nothing but a sense of hatred and political retribution, Garland is trying to indict Trump.”

Later, on Tuesday he added, “Merrick Garland has corrupted the Department of Justice and effectively turned it into an arm of the Democratic National Committee. The FBI and DOJ want to protect and insulate Joe Biden and the Biden family’s corruption.”

None of his allegations have any basis in publicly-known fact.

Cruz came under fire in 2021 after advising Trump’s legal team during the ex-president’s second impeachment, even though he would also be a juror – and supposedly impartial – in Trump’s Senate trial. In December of 2020 Cruz told Trump he would “be happy” to argue a proposed Supreme Court lawsuit designed to keep Trump in power despite having lost the election one month earlier.

Author Cliff Schecter labeled Cruz’s claims on Fox News, “Complete horses*t, which is Ted’s brand.”

READ MORE: ‘This Is It, Make No Mistake’: ‘Nihilistic Moron’ Trump Heading for Another Indictment Says George Conway

“But, if true, Garland would be doing more re his SCOTUS rejection than @tedcruz did when Trump called his wife ugly,” he added. “Ted doesn’t get why Garland wouldn’t just make hostage video phone calls for Trump’s campaign.”

Historian and author Kevin M. Kruse: “The line that ‘they’re only indicting Trump for the crimes Trump clearly did because they hate Trump’ is pathetic when it comes from Trump himself, but Jesus Christ, it is twelve kinds of sad when it comes from one of his lickspittles.”

Reporter and award-winning columnist David Lazarus noted, “Republicans keep insisting Trump is being investigated and prosecuted because people in power hate him. That’s one theory. Or Trump is being investigated and prosecuted because he kept breaking the law.”

Lincoln Project co-founder Jennifer Horn, a former New Hampshire Republican State Committee chair, blasted Cruz.

“I’m sure it has nothing to do with classified documents or inciting an insurrection,” she said, referring to the two major portions of Smith’s investigation. And referring to Cruz’s infamous exit during a state-wide crisis when he hightailed out to Cancun, she asked: “Isn’t there a beach in Mexico waiting for you?”

Watch video of Cruz above or at this link.

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