Testing Detest — the inexplicable foe-to-friend metamorphosis

Friendship beds vary. A friendship may develop in a variety of ways and for various reasons, reaching different intensities. Some come subdued and ever so slowly, others are sudden shivering manifestations. While some are a smooth sail, others are tested and challenged for survival through time and situation. Generally, they all arise out of mutual attraction, except for those which may be qualified as highly unlikely.

Out of highly unlikely friendships, the one which develops in prison between Derek and Lamont comes to mind. The crime drama “American History X” (1998), written by David McKenna and directed by Tony Kaye, is the story of the young white supremasists Danny Vinyard (Edward Furlong) and his brother, Derek (Edward Norton). During his time in prison, Derek works hand in hand with Lamont (Guy Torry), and they become friends. In a sea of most turbulent circumstances, a genuine connection surfaced, bringing honest smiles of joy to Derek’s lips, as Lamont shared his philosophy of life.

Prejudgement, experiences, convictions, past hatred and even past loves, everything gains a new relativity when, faced with the naked human existence, two souls get the opportunity to open to each other, find similarities, and even the respect, or love that brings about the determination to protect.

A newer example of unlikely friendships happens in the 2018 film “Green Book”, between Don Shirley and his driver, Tony “Lip” Vallelonga. The encounter takes place out of pure practical need. Shirley needs a driver, and protection, while Tony needs a job.

What is the substance of those bridges built between two individuals who, though under very unlikely circumstances, become friends? What builds the bridges which appear impossible in allowing interaction between two individuals, especially when under extreme racial tension? How real, how deep is the interpersonal barrier leading to detest? How real, how pure are such sentiments that lead to the manifestation of detest, dislike, classicism, or racism? If the substance of division is mere arrogance, is arrogance not just based on the need to protect the insecure self, rather than a concrete mindset against another? 

How real is Tony’s disgust in touching glasses that have been on the lips of negroes, while allowing his soul to be touched by the spiritual layers that inspire him when he listens to Aretha Franklin, Chubby Checker and Little Richard? The Green Book portrayal made me doubt the true existence of racism. Tony appears to be under the spell of social and familiar surroundings, dictating that he must clearly show aversion towards blacks. All the while he is being mesmerized by the deep and light world that caresses him with sometimes soothing, other times energizing strokes, and his body sways or rocks, all because he finds black music to be magnificent — all the while he refuses to display any humane sentiment towards blacks around him.

Is there a grain of existential essence wishing or waiting to be activated which allows the individual to pursue togetherness with others, well and far beyond the crystallization of differences? Where is such grain to be found? In the heart? In the mind?

In conversation?

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