I recently watched the movie "Crash" for about the fourth time, and have been trying to analyze why it fascinates me so. I don't think it has much to do with the thematic opening and closing scenes, both of which portray the thought that residents of LA are so hardened by urban life that they crash into each other just to feel alive and connected. While there may be truth in that, a different truth stands out for me: the intermingling of shadow and light that defines each human being, whether "good" or "bad." In fact, those terms are turned completely on their head as the movie unfolds: the racist cop who sexually abuses a black woman subsequently risks his life to save the same woman from a flaming car wreck, while his partner who finds such racist behavior so morally repugnant he will no longer ride with a racist later guns down an unarmed black man and burns a car to destroy the evidence.
Race and prejudice are central themes throughout the movie: a Persian shopkeeper distrustful of a Hispanic locksmith; a white woman fearful of young black men; etc. What the movie shows so well is how groundless many such prejudices are: each person is just trying to find their own way. Even the black gangbangers seen in the movie are humanized: one as a young poet carrying a St, Christopher talisman, the other as a repentant victimizer who frees a vanload of Chinese slaves.
It all reminds me of something I've been trying to understand and incorporate from the book "Make Friends With Your Shadow:" "Making friends with your shadow helps facilitate your acceptance of yourself as a less-than-perfect human being. We have a dark side; we are not all light. Of course I am a decent person, but I am sometimes a louse. Of course I am generous, but I am also greedy. The more I love, the more I can hate. I sacrifice, but I am selfish. I trust, but I also doubt. I am honest, but I can be a crook. I am naive, but I am cunning. I succeed and I fail. I create and I destroy. I am angelic and I am demonic. I am faithful and I am a traitor." (William A. Miller, Augsburg Press)
Ultimately I think it is true, as Walt Whitman writes, "I am many." But for someone who comes from a background of black-and-white "right-thinking persons," this is a difficult truth to embrace.