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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

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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)

 

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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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Comer Announces Public Hearing After Hunter Biden Closed Door Testimony

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House Oversight Committee Chairman Jim Comer announced he will hold a public hearing with Hunter Biden after the president’s son testified behind closed doors for most of Wednesday.

“I think this was a great deposition for us, it proved several bits of our evidence, that we’ve been conducting throughout this investigation, but there are also some contradictory statements that I think need further review,” Comer told reporters Wednesday afternoon.

“So this impeachment inquiry will now go to the next phase, which will be a public hearing. And that’s something that I think everyone in the media has been asking a lot of questions about. Something that I know that Mr. Biden and his attorney both demanded, just as I said, when we said we were going to do the deposition first, we will have a public hearing next.”

It’s unclear what other witnesses Chairman Comer and Chairman Jordan will present.

Comer claimed that parts of Hunter Biden’s testimony contradicted some of their previous witness’ testimony, although he refused to elaborate.

READ MORE: Court Denies Trump Request to Pause $454M Bond Requirement Amid His Cash Liquidity Claim

Hunter Biden stated in the opening remarks he released publicly Wednesday morning that Chairman Comer and Judiciary Chairman Jim Jordan had built their “entire partisan house of cards on lies told by the likes of Gal Luft, Tony Bobulinski, Alexander Smirnov, and Jason Galanis.”

“Luft, who is a fugitive, has been indicted for his lies and other crimes; Smirnov, who has made you dupes in carrying out a Russian disinformation campaign waged against my father, has been indicted for his lies; Bobulinski, who has been exposed for the many false statements he has made, and Galanis, who is serving 14 years in prison for fraud.”

Politico described Hunter Biden’s opening statement as “blistering.”

“I am here today,” the President’s son began, “to provide the Committees with the one uncontestable fact that should end the false premise of this inquiry: I did not involve my father in my business. Not while I was a practicing lawyer, not in my investments or transactions domestic or international, not as a board member, and not as an artist. Never.”

Watch Comer below or at this link.

READ MORE: Trump Swore Under Oath He Had $400 Million in Cash – Now He’s Telling a Court a Different Story

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Court Denies Trump Request to Pause $454M Bond Requirement Amid His Cash Liquidity Claim

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A New York appeals court has denied Donald Trump’s request to issue a stay on the state Supreme Court’s ruling ordering the ex-president to pay $454 million in the civil business fraud case brought by Attorney General Letitia James. Trump had offered to post a bond of $100 million as he appeals the ruling, as he suggested he did not have sufficient liquid assets – namely, cash – to post the full amount required.

The judge did, however, pause a portion of the ruling barring Trump from operating a business in New York, and also paused the portion of the ruling barring him from obtaining a loan from a bank registered in the State of New York.

“It’s a mixed bag for Trump, and the former president GAINS some ability, in an interim ruling, to continue his business activities and loan-seeking. But the most crucial request, a stay of enforcement of the $450M+ judgment, has been rejected,” reports Just Security’s Adam Klasfeld.

Unless he can obtain a loan or other financing, Trump, as he admitted in his legal filing, may have to sell some of his assets, likely real estate, to come up with enough cash to satisfy the judgment.

The court “also denied Trump’s request to delay his obligation to post $454 million until his appeal of the civil fraud verdict is over,” CNN adds.

RELATED: Trump Swore Under Oath He Had $400 Million in Cash – Now He’s Telling a Court a Different Story

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Trump Swore Under Oath He Had $400 Million in Cash – Now He’s Telling a Court a Different Story

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Attorneys for Donald Trump are arguing the ex-president and self-professed billionaire should not have to post a bond of $454 million as he appeals the New York State Supreme Court’s ruling holding him liable for civil business fraud. Instead, Trump is offering a bond of $100 million.

But as legal experts are pointing out, under oath, Trump stated he had $400 million in liquid assets. And his attorney, Alina Habba, when asked last week if he could come up with $350 million, said on-camera, “Yes, I mean, he does, of course he has money, you know, he’s a billionaire. We know that.”

Former federal and state prosecutor Ron Filipkowski, now the editor-in-chief of MeidasTouch.com, responded to Habba’s remarks, saying: “As we now know, this was also a lie.”

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“Trump says he doesn’t have the cash that both he and Habba told everyone he had, and that ‘properties would have to be sold’ to come up with the money,” Filipkowski adds.

He sums up the situation: “Trump under oath in his deposition: I’m worth at least $10 billion, I have over $3 billion in tangible assets, I have $400 million in cash. Trump to appellate court: I can come up with $100 million and I need more time to sell stuff to come up with the rest.”

Indeed, The New York Times reported earlier this month, “Mr. Trump claimed under oath last year that he was sitting on more than $400 million in cash.”

New York Attorney General Letitia James was quick to urge the court to deny Trump’s offer of $100 million, or, as Just Security’s Adam Klasfeld reports, “to deny Trump’s application to pause enforcement of the judgment pending appeal, including the disgorgement, monitoring, and loan prohibition.”

“Defendants all but concede that Mr. Trump has insufficient liquid assets to satisfy the judgment amount; defendants would need ‘to raise capital’ to do so,” James writes, as Klasfeld notes.

READ MORE: ‘Conspiring With Putin’: Democratic Congressman Brings the Hammer Down on Jim Jordan

Klasfeld points to this section of Trump’s motion that reads: “In the absence of a stay on the terms herein outlined, properties would likely need to be sold to raise capital under exigent circumstances, and there would be no way to recover any property sold following a successful appeal and no means to recover the resulting financial losses from the Attorney General.”

In other words, Trump’s attorneys are saying he would have to sell assets, or properties, at less than market value, and should he win his appeal, he would have no means to be compensated for the difference in value.

“Trump has less than 30 days to post the money to prevent the New York attorney general’s office from taking steps to execute the judgment, including potentially move to seize properties,” CNN adds. “It is not yet clear how he plans to cover the payment.”

Watch the video above or at this link.

Image via Shutterstock

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