1989 was a good year for movies, though I was 12 years old at the time and more interested in baseball cards than great film. This summer we wiill celebrate the 20th anniversary of Spike Lee’s Do The Right Thing and do the same for Michael Moore’s Roger and Me.
When comparing then and now, Spike Lee had this to say:
In 1989, you still had affordable housing in New York City,” he told us. Then his outlook became more positive. “The racial polarization you had, when this film was made, is not in the New York City I know today.
The biggest difference between ’89 and ’09 though is the politics. The economy sucked in ’89 and it really sucks in ’09. Both times, the economy had been wrecked by years of supply-side economics. Though Jesse Jackson had run a transcendent presidential campaign in ’84 and ’88, the nation overwhelmingly voted for Reagan and Bush I. Remarkably enough, a young Chicago lawyer/former community organizer named Barack Obama and another young Chicago laywer, Michelle Robinson, went on their first date that summer of 1989. They saw Do The Right Thing.
Here in the summer of 2009, I am constantly reminded by the Martin Luther King qoute that “the moral arc of the universe is long but it bends towards justice.” It took way too long and it isn’t quite dead, but the “southern strategy” of winning elections by exploiting and inflaming white racism is mostly over.
And maybe it goes all the way back to Radio Raheem and Do The Right Thing. Radio Raheem preaches a message of peace–or atleast blares it on his radio and shows it off in his knuckle rings, “…Hate K.O.ed by Love.”
Let me tell you the story of “Right Hand, Left Hand.” It’s a tale of good and evil. Hate: It was with this hand that Cane iced his brother. Love: These five fingers, they go straight to the soul of man. The right hand: the hand of love. The story of life is this: Static. One hand is always fighting the other hand; and the left hand is kicking much ass. I mean, it looks like the right hand, Love, is finished. But, hold on, stop the presses, the right hand is coming back. Yeah, he got the left hand on the ropes, now, that’s right. Ooh, it’s the devastating right and Hate is hurt, he’s down. Left-Hand Hate K.O.ed by Love.