National

John Lewis Tells His Truth About ‘Selma’

Alabama state troopers swing nightsticks to break up the "Bloody Sunday" voting march in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 1965. John Lewis, front right, of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, is put on the ground by a trooper. (Associated Press)
Alabama state troopers swing nightsticks to break up the “Bloody Sunday” voting march in Selma, Ala., on March 7, 1965. John Lewis, front right, of the Student Non-violent Coordinating Committee, is put on the ground by a trooper (Associated Press)

(Los Angeles Times) – The role of art in our society is not to reenact history but to offer an interpretation of human experience as seen through the eyes of the artist. The philosopher Aristotle says it best: “The aim of art is to represent not the outward appearance of things, but their inner significance.”

The movie “Selma” is a work of art. It conveys the inner significance of the ongoing struggle for human dignity in America, a cornerstone of our identity as a nation. It breaks through our too-often bored and uninformed perception of our history, and it confronts us with the real human drama our nation struggled to face 50 years ago.

And “Selma” does more than bring history to life, it enlightens our understanding of our lives today. It proves the efficacy of nonviolent action and civic engagement, especially when government seems unresponsive. With poignant grace, it demonstrates that Occupy, inconvenient protests and die-ins that disturb our daily routine reflect a legacy of resistance that led many to struggle and die for justice, not centuries ago, but in our lifetimes. It reminds us that the day could be approaching when that price will be required again.

But now this movie is being weighed down with a responsibility it cannot possibly bear. It’s portrayal of President Lyndon B. Johnson’s role in the Selma marches has been called into question. And yet one two-hour movie cannot tell all the stories encompassed in three years of history — the true scope of the Selma campaign. It does not portray every element of my story, Bloody Sunday, or even the life of Martin Luther King Jr. We do not demand completeness of other historical dramas, so why is it required of this film?

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