When The Threads of Interdependence Are Torn

Recently, we watched the 2023 movie Killers of the Flower Moon. The movie is set in 1920’s Oklahoma, and the story is based on a series of serial killings of women in the Native American Osage community.

I came away from the movie very unsettled, and it was for something more than just having watched some violent things. I’ve seen other movies where the violence depicted was far greater. I went to bed that night still trying to discern what it was that so rattled my interior. 

It was not until the middle of the next day that I could begin to put words to it. That movie skillfully set me up to experience two things at the very same time. On the one hand, I was watching, scene by scene, systemic racism being used by white people in power (sheriff, doctors, bankers, attorneys, cab drivers, farmers, explosive experts, army veterans, a Catholic priest, entrepreneurs, land speculators, grocers, judges) to systematically remove wealth and self-determination from the Osage people whose land was rich in oil wells. On the other hand, I was hearing and seeing all of the sweet, righteous, decent, calm, orderly, and polite language of southern culture being used as a cover for all of the violence that was going on.

One “small” example. When an Osage woman who owned oil wells (and LOTS of money) went to the bank to make a withdrawal, this happened:

Banker: Name, please.

Osage Woman:  “Mollie, Incompetent, number 254.”

Banker: Yes, ma’am. Thank you. Is your guardian here?

Osage Woman: Yes, my guardian is here. (a white man, usually, assigned to each Osage landowner who had the final right to determine use of land and money owned by the Osage person).

Banker: Thank you, ma’am. Now, why is it that you need this money?

This blending of the sweet, polite language of southern culture as cover for intentional, premeditated violence executed with a sense of entitlement feels to me, in retrospect, like the ripping apart of the interdependent web of existence. I think I’ve always imagined that web as some sort of cosmic weaving. In this cosmic weaving, we continually experience the gifts, the delights and the discoveries of what other beings in the web bring to us and what we have to offer them. We discover repeatedly how tender and strong this web can be for each of us who participate in it. 

Ultimately, Killing of the Flower Moon brought me back to that precious web of interdependence by showing me the horror of what happens when it is disregarded and the easy destruction when sweet language, pretty things, lots of money and power pretend to be righteous. 

It’s worth a viewing. I feel like that for a few hours during and after the movie, I was allowed to feel just a little of what people in oppressed groups endure on a daily basis. And that’s where my words fail, again.

~Bob Patrick

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1 Response to When The Threads of Interdependence Are Torn

  1. Rev. Nancy Palmer Jones says:

    Words fail. Heart breaks painfully … open. Thank you for capturing the bitter pain of this juxtaposition–the surface sweetness, politeness, the suffused destruction and dehumanization. Your experience helps me to once again face into this tear in the web, and recommit to doing my part to help heal it.

    Thank God for artists who reflect these human truths to us in story and image!

    With Love at the center,

    Rev. Nancy

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