One thing we Unitarian Universalists love to do is to view controversial films. I recently saw the movie, Zero Dark Thirty. Kathryn Bigelow, the first female director to win the Academy Award, directed the film. On the surface, it was about a CIA analyst who doggedly pursued all leads in the search for Osama bin Laden. Her colleagues continually were astonished and rebuffed her on account of her “female” atypical behavior. She was strong willed, interpersonally aggressive and single-minded. The film concluded with a reenactment of the actual killing of Osama Bin Laden. Many critics extolled the movie for its amazing cinematography and the stellar acting. But the film raised much social and political criticism; from the left with the judgment that the Bigelow supports torture in the pursuit of extracting information and from the right which had accused the White House of manipulating it as propaganda to cast president in a heroic light to win votes in the last election.
But Unitarian Universalists tend to see life through a kaleidoscope, a continually shifting and complex pattern of encounters and events that admit a gamut of perspectives, all united by our commitment to love and respect and interdependency. For Zero Dark Thirty, our values invite us to look beyond the horrific torture scenes, the behind the scenes political machinations, and the inhuman depiction of the assassination of Bin Laden to the moral injury of the protagonists, the trauma to their innate sense of conscience that CIA analysts, agents and special op soldiers experience. No one is happy in the film, just momentarily relieved and just as momentarily aware of one’s own inhumanity.
Bigelow has crafted a remarkable film, one that does not shy away from the despair of ambiguity. She is not asking us to emulate the actions of the characters, but to be conscious of their torn values and the consequences of revenge and retribution on the health of their souls.