“American Crime” – Studies in Character

I love a good character study, whether enjoyed through reading a good book or a watching a dramatic presentation.charac quote.jpg

Nothing says “humanity” better than witnessing exposed human foibles and a character’s visually-recorded self-delusion.

It’s the mirror we all stare into but seldom realize who we see because we are so busy watching ourselves acting in different bodies with strange faces that sometimes appeal to or repel us.

This comes as no surprise to anyone who watches it, but our present television offering is the black hole of attention consumption. It sucks away our hours, our days, and our lives. We watch renditions of LIFE rather than actually living it.

And in return, television media gives us…….um,……I mean besides all the blatant money-grubbing advertising, …it basically gives us little other than being an insomniac’s last refuge or a 50-inch, rectangular pacifier.

I wouldn’t even call most viewing options “entertainment” as much as I would call it varied flavors of escapism—escapism geared to your favorite obsession or fear.

So when I, in my own escapist foray, ran across a really good dramatic series based mainly on character study utilizing creative character dissection, I took notice.american crime

I’ve trolled the Netflix options many times. Some series are so-so, some hard to get past the first 4 minutes, and some were fairly interesting. But if you are really into character studies, I would suggest the series called “American Crime.”

It’s certainly not what I expected it to be, and gladly so. The main actors are some of the best, and are well-known in their own rights, but combined together in this unusual format and artistic renditions of “life as it actually is, not as we project it to be” they are superb mirrors of human self-deception, self-destruction, and self/family annihilation.

And that is the ironic title’s claim: “American Crime” – it explores the cultural/societal/legal crimes we commit daily on ourselves, our families, muslim women.jpgand our communities.

Why on earth would that be interesting or entertaining to watch?

Because it is so revelatory in each unveiling episode. You relate to the de-masking of the characters—their proposed aspirations, their genuine woundedness, and seas 2.jpgtheir hidden weaknesses. Through each of their depictions, you see how easy it is to slide away just a little from your own integrity and end up in a complex situation with the sudden choice of now facing the evolved problem head on, or trying to bury it deeper in even greater deception coupled with harsher future consequences. (Hint: they all go for the latter one.)

What I liked most about the two season series other than showing the same actors in alternate character universes, was that there really were no clear good guys—no clear child protectbad guys depicted in the show. There were no easily distinguished heroes and no pure villains, although some were implied and assumed until proven not to be.

In each season’s dramatic character exposition, there were only flawed people like you and me, making one or two choices that led to violent repercussions and forever tainted lives because of their simple acts of greed, lust, loneliness or self-loathing.character are you

The most prevalent theme I took from both seasons was that all of us need love and acceptance, openness and understanding. But without those necessities, we live shallow, deceptive, and destructive lives that eventually implode.

It isn’t that our lives are fated to be that way—it’s that we choose our fates because of those unmet needs.

And that is the biggest crime.

The OPEN Mind

Limitation is so unnecessary.

open.jpgWhen we focus so tightly on a single issue or a single viewpoint, we limit ourselves and our outcomes.

You don’t need to do just “one thing” in your life when you can do many things. You needn’t “specialize” in a certain subject or a course of study unless you feel that “one thing” is the single guiding force of your life. Specialists in nature are often a rare, isolated species, and are the ones most prone to extinction because they limit their food sources.

While there are advantages to a tight mental focus, there are disadvantages to limiting your frame of reference so severely that you exclude other possibilities. When you zero in so tightly on a concept or even an ideology, you restrict any other explanation from penetrating your mind set.einstein quote.png

I don’t mean to be the judgmental finger-pointer here but in today’s world, being able to keep your mind OPEN to a problem’s solutions is an attribute, not a detriment.

Not only are we, the residents of this world we all share, still ignorant to the answers to all the world’s problems; we aren’t even aware of the best questions to ask pertaining to those problems.

That might sound critical of what is presently occurring in the world’s greatest problem spots, but world problem-solving depends on increasing your base knowledge of the issues, not restricting it; and single-point perspectives with limited options only create the same scenarios we’re trying to dig ourselves out from now.

Case in point: If you ever have the opportunity to go through Mediation Training please mediationtake it. Mediation is where a mediator helps two or more parties define their key problem issues; then she helps them to successfully resolve their problems in a mutually beneficial manner.  That training will help you realize how difficult it is to help two very different viewpoints find and accept common ground to build a better future outcome based on mutually beneficial goals.toddlers.jpg

It’s a lot like getting toddlers to share a slurpy even if they have two straws.

What you usually encounter in Mediation is that combatants are often like the two primary political parties mid-election year mayhem: There is the standard stalemate caused by “my way or the highway” thinking or the “you are so WRONG how could you ever be that stupid” viewpoint expressed by one or both participants in the mediation.

Emotion rules the disagreements, not rational thinking.

common groundBut the mediator’s goal is to find common ground between the two deadlocked camps, which means that if you are the mediator you have to dig deeper into each combatant’s wants/don’t wants to find out what the REAL issues are behind their immovable stances.

You’d be surprised what deeper wounds and hidden agendas are revealed in this process.

Sometimes the disagreement has nothing to do with the subject in question. The acrimony between the two camps is often pure, raw woundedness raging on whatever ground it can find to take its stand.  Those are tough situations to resolve amicably. A good mediator (not the same thing as a negotiator) earns every dollar s/he makes.

And the single most difficult task at hand for any mediator is to encourage the participants to come to the table with an OPEN mind—a mind willing to consider an option not previously proposed.

An OPEN mind recognizes that the “highway” is meant for two-way travel, and being “wrong” is often just a shift in perspective to being considered “not so wrong.”backyard.jpg

Common ground is the single unifier most sought by a good mediator. Once that is established then a mutually beneficial outcome can be defined for both parties. And once the emotional aspects of the arguments have dissipated, the warring parties are more willing to consider rational solutions to the dilemma.

But the key component to any problem resolution is that all participants must somehow achieve and maintain an OPEN mind state that is willing to simply consider ALL possibilities.kids.jpg

As dedicated as we are to our own viewpoints, stubbornness and intractability are less productive outside the nursery-school playground.