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As a film director I have always stayed away from “political” projects and decided long ago I was only interested in human stories. When the opportunity arose to put together a short film, the idea of Cowboys and Indians: The Great Diversion seemed like a chance to take those stereotypical character types and turn them upside down. The thing that gets lost in all of this - and what is probably most important - is that these are human stories, that these are real people.
Over the last month I have spent a lot of time talking to people I don't know and I have come to realize that people are willing to believe anything that flashes across a television set. Maybe some of those people will see truth in our project, because as my co-writer Thomas Hurt explains in the article below, we all have our own "Franks".
When the Child’s Game Becomes Real
By Thomas Hurt, Co-Writer, Cowboys and Indians: The Great Diversion
The day that Cowboys and Indians: The Great Diversion first published to the web I had reported to my company’s second corporate sales office where I was greeted by Frank. Frank, the company’s resident Tea Partier had an extra bounce in his step. The day before had been Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally. “Five hundred thousand people!” he started “Did you see it? It was amazing!” As my eyes glazed over, I fantasized of leaping ten feet in the air, landing on Frank’s chest, pinning him on the ground and spending the next few days explaining to him that the original tea party was not about higher taxes, but corporate welfare to the East India Company.
Having strong beliefs that run counter to corporate hegemony, while spending the majority of one’s time and energy advancing the corporate agenda can cause some stressful dissonance. I see Frank about every two months and each time I prepare myself to endure a run down of all the conservative talking points of the day. When I met Frank four years ago he would try to engage me in politics. Not wishing to become unemployed I feigned ignorance, referencing the fact that I did not own a television. Today, Frank declares those sound bites as if they are his own, no longer prefacing with “Did you hear Rush today?” Thus began my now standard reply to all of Frank’s folly:”Really?”
Now Frank was gushing at the beauty of Beck’s rally, admitting he had cried twice. “Really?” I replied.
Two things have evolved out of these meetings and accompanying patronizing lectures over the last three years. First I realized I may never tire of the fantasy of punching Frank in the face when he precedes his arguments with “I’m not saying it’s because he’s black, but...” The Second is that I realize I care about Frank. He is in his late 50’s, educated and has been in my industry for decades. He is a good family man who just happens to be…wrong.
Cowboys and Indians: The Great Diversion may appear at first glance as an attack on the Tea Party, or pro-immigration propaganda. It is neither. The point the film makes is that these hot button issues arise only when it suits some political need, are a contrivance: Devices that use small, irrelevant differences to divide and distract the people who would otherwise unite under their much more germane and consequential common interests, such as fair paying jobs.
A few days before filming began I was driving behind a lifted pick-up truck and on the back window was a sticker of the “watch out for people” sign, which depicts a family running across the freeway and is posted to alert drivers in border areas, except this sign had been altered to include a pick-up truck on the verge of running over the family. If you are familiar with the original sign you know that the last member of the family, in the link of hands fleeing across the freeway, is a child. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. My initial thought was to run the sick idiot off the road, beat him bloody, pull down his pants and castrate him, thus putting an end to the spread of this hateful disease, but then I thought of Frank. This was somebody’s Frank. This guy is scared. He has likely seen friends and family lose their jobs. He lives with the constant burden of his job going away.
The argument over lost jobs is what amazes me most about the hatred of illegal immigrants. The hiring of an illegal is really just an extension of the free market philosophy. Isn’t that really what the point is? What difference does it make if the guy taking my job is here or in Mexico? That is the question and it is the only question. How will we control the corporation? How will we resist the “Southern Strategy” that only seeks to divide us, the transnational behemoths astroturfing and media-blitzing, throwing vast fortunes at handpicked candidates and talk show hosts? How do I stop from punching Mr. Pickup Truck in the face?
The cries from the right that the country is becoming something radically different from what it was are negated by the fact that it already is. Big business is making record profits as unemployment continues to climb. The trend will continue with our government as an accomplice in the wake of the Citizen’s United Case, which will allow corporations, including transnational corporations to spend limitless amounts of money in American elections. Recently I read an article that said it is no longer beneficial to offshore jobs to India, because the wages have fallen so drastically in the United States. So, perhaps the fears of the Tea Party that this country will soon look like a communist one aren’t so far off, but let’s be clear who’s taking us there.
As my day with Frank was finally winding down he asked if I was going to watch to the debate between Barbara Boxer and Carly Fiorina. I reminded him that I didn’t have a television. Cowboys and Indians: The Great Diversion had started to receive hits online and I realized that if he knew of my involvement he’d probably want to punch me in the face. Something I came to realize, but lacked the courage to declare, and the stamina to argue with characters like Mr. Pickup Truck and Frank is: It isn’t sustainable. I co-wrote this film because the entire country accepting a paradigm of massive profits in the short term regardless of all else is not sustainable. I asked if Fiorina was the one who had outsourced jobs over at Hewlett Packard and what he thought about that.
“I don’t give a shit!” he said “I’m a complete free trader!”
I asked him if he remembered when we visited our customer Bill last year, who had been complaining about the unfair competition from Mexico and I told him that I had felt guilty for buying anything from Mexico after that meeting. “Bill’s an idiot!” he said “If he was smart he’d move his operation to Mexico too!”
“I hope he doesn’t” I said.
“Why?” Frank asked with genuine curiosity.
“Because if he does, who will we sell our goods to?”
Frank looked down and the wheels began to turn, but I could tell he didn’t know.
“It’s complicated…” he said.