MIXED UP

1. It’s Wednesday, December 7, 2016.

2. It’s the 75th anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor in Hawaii. Until September 11, 2001, it was the most fatal attack on American territory by an outside force.

And perhaps this Pearl Harbor Day is a reminder that as horrible and despicable what happened that day was, the bloodiest day in American history remains the Battle of Antietam in Maryland. On that day, more than 3,500 Americans were killed by other Americans.

Which just goes to show that it seems the worst thing that can happen to us is what we do to ourselves. That’s what makes 30 days ago so scary.

3. Movies that you think about five days after you’ve seen them are the best.

Into that category falls “Loving,” a film about the interracial couple whose marriage was held as constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court – thereby ensuring that my marriage and the marriages of many friends and family members are legit as well.

For those not familiar with the case, Loving is actually the family name involved – Richard and Mildred Loving of rural Virginia. He was white, she was black. They grew up in a part of Virginia where the segregation of society in the Jim Crow days wasn’t quite as enforced.

And the point this movie subtly but surely made was that these people were in love. Which is the most important reason to get married.

But the laws of Virginia and several other states barred interracial marriage – what they called “miscegenation” – for the usual reasons of that era. Hatred. Prejudice. Stupidity. Racism. The laws rendered the normal benefits of marriage useless – women couldn’t inherit property from their late mate, and any children of such a union were considered illegitimate.

The Lovings were married in D.C., but were arrested when they returned home to Virginia. Faced with the possibility of imprisonment, they accepted exile in the nation’s capital – a place where two country folks felt out of place.

So they clandestinely lived in Virginia while the American Civil Liberties Union took up their case. After eight years, the Supreme Court unanimously ruled in their favor.

That’s the recap. The acting, the camera work, the pacing of the film are impeccable. Having seen the HBO documentary about the Lovings, the resemblance of the cast to the real people and the use of their actual words give this film its enormous power.

4. What also gives the film enormous power, inadvertently, is the time of its release.

I tend to notice interracial couples. I think of them, no matter what the combination, as kindred spirits – people who overlooked, ignored or just didn’t even think about the fact that the person they love is of a wholly different race.

In the 30-plus years since we became – as my daughter puts it – a Chitalian family, the number of mixed-race couples has grown sharply. You notice that especially in places where there are a lot of tourists – Times Square, Walt Disney World, the Mall in Washington.

What has made me smile, up to now, is the idea that America is becoming even more of a melting pot than it’s traditionally been. We are combining cultures and ways of life, and the results should be greater tolerance, awesome art and funky interesting food.

And I guess I thought that other Americans were accepting this idea, maybe even embracing it.

But then again, maybe not.

You watch “Loving” as it depicts the Virginia sheriff and judge as the racists they are, and casts them as the villains that you believe they are.

And then you think about the election and what’s happened in the 29 days since, and you wonder whether there’s been a backlash brewing all this time.

That the people who want to make America great again see the “again” part as the time when everybody knew their place. The time before Obergefell v. Hodges, which gave same-sex couples the right to marry. And the time before Loving v. Virginia.

To those people, the sheriff and the judge were upholding standards and defending the American way. To those people, mixed-race couples are a threat, not a virtue. To those people, tolerance is weakness, mixture dilutes what they know.

5. My wife and I have been fortunate – to a point.

We don’t encounter a lot of overt prejudice. Our friends have remained our friends, our families have shown their love throughout our entire marriage.

But – and my kids made me more aware of this – this isn’t true with everyone. The people in the community where we live have always seemed wary of us. And there have been times when I sensed that people were treating us differently because we were a Caucasian-Asian couple.

I have to think, though, that prejudice is far worse for couples in which one partner is African-American – just because African-Americans encounter enormous prejudice even without a white person at their side.

I’ve been hoping this has been changing. That the fact that the people of the United States chose a mixed-race President twice showed that acceptance had arrived.

Maybe it hasn’t. Maybe this change in our demographics has overwhelmed people who fear all the other changes in their lives, such as technology.

And maybe that fear that they are living in a world that embraces mixing things up may have led them to the worst possible decision – the chance to stop it in its tracks with a demagogue in the White House.

6. I highly recommend “Loving.”

It’s a wonderful movie. It’s a reminder that love is the ultimate power, and that true love is standing there and taking the awful with the good next to someone you can’t be without. 

What hangs in the balance is whether the film is a light into the American future or a reminder about what some of us want to go back to.

I’m on the side of the Lovings.

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