Revolution #147, November 16, 2008
A Rant (Not a Movie Review) on:
Miracle at St. Anna, the Spike Lee Movie—
A Slap Down to Those Who Would Rise Up
For anyone who witnesses and feels the heartbreaking history and the continuing cruelty of present day oppression of Black people in this country; for anyone whose blood boils with the anger and determination to wipe away such exploitation and oppression; for anyone who is striving and working for a world where people enter into social relations on the basis of emancipating all humanity—Spike Lee’s World War 2 movie, Miracle at St. Anna is an insult, a slap in the face, and a slap down. From the opening titles which are done in a cascade of crosses to the closing credits with a full-chorale rendition of “He’s got the whole world in His hands” playing in the background, the movie preaches ad nauseam that the answer to the oppression of Black people is faith in god, and that religion transcends differences among people throughout the world. The message from Spike Lee is get down on your knees, Black people; submit yourself to the Christianity bound up with your enslavement in this country; and hope for...for what!? The most obscurantist superstitious beliefs of the Italian peasants are upheld, and then these same dark age beliefs come out of the mouth of one of the Black soldiers—and are upheld! The one Black soldier who admits that he doesn’t believe in god and also dares to ask “Why are we here? This is not our war,” is portrayed as an opportunist and a sleazeball. Shame on you, Spike Lee!
The movie’s exposures of white supremacy and the constant racism that Black soldiers endured in the military at the time of World War 2 only serve to lay the basis for the movie’s none-too-subtle message that fundamentally what Black people need to do in the face of oppression is pray—it even shows an entire company of Black soldiers on their knees praying before going into battle. It seems that there’s no end to getting to one’s knees in this movie. To sit through this movie and see such mental slavishness being upheld and promoted in scene after scene was as excruciating as it was infuriating.
It is especially significant that this movie is coming from Spike Lee, who in his better moments has stood on the side of the Black masses (most recently with the movie When the Levees Broke about Katrina). Following the closing credits of Miracle at St. Anna are the words that end all of his movies: “A Spike Lee Joint,” but now with a cross underneath; then the stamp “40 Acres and a Mule” and the words, “By Any Means Necessary”—but this time followed by the tolling of church bells. Give us a break!! Spike Lee, who once seemed to uphold the radical and rebellious tradition represented by Malcolm X., has now enlisted in the tradition of “submit to your oppression/prove to the ‘Man’ that you are not dangerous,” championed by such bootlickers as Booker T. Washington and Bill Cosby. In one sense this movie felt like a campaign ad for Obama, made to reassure “white folk”: Don’t worry, us “black folk” ain’t going to get “uppity” no more. Outrageous!!
As the recent special issue of Revolution entitled “The Oppression of Black People, the Crimes of This System and the Revolution We Need” so forcefully put it, “It’s time to get rid of this poisonous nonsense about ‘God will provide’ and ‘Thank you Jesus’ or ‘God willing’—time to quit saying ‘I’m blessed,’ look reality in the eye, and recognize instead: ‘We’re oppressed!’ And then set about joining together in the here and now to do something about it.”
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