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Vivian Norris Headshot

The Killer Inside Me As a Metaphor for America

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Texas. 1959. Oilfield boom town. A gentlemanly good ole boy cop is also a serial killer. He is a sadist, and women love him (sort of like an investment banker). Perhaps the most telling line in the film comes from Lou Ford the killer himself, when he asks his fellow cop who has witnessed scars left from months of abuse on the buttocks of murdered young women. Lou asks the cop why the women would keep seeing him if he was physically harming them? The silence is the answer. The women seem to enjoy the abuse, and in the case of the town whore, ask for it. There is something naively suicidal in their behavior, placing their love and their lives in the hands of their killer. Even the fiancée who writes him a letter telling him she hopes he heals himself, ends up a victim of her own attraction to the killer inside the man she loves.

What fascinated me was how this brilliant film (based on the book by Jim Thompson) with one of the best soundtracks I have heard in a long time, resonates with what has been going on in America these past years... and frighteningly where we are headed if we don't act. We make great music, but it is accompanying a ship going down. Film spoiler alert here, but the messed-up, abused as a child, pedophile, murdering cop not only kills everyone he loves and everything of value, but blows himself, all the good men of the town (who are still alive) and his family home up in the process at the end of the film. The seemingly peaceful small town where everyone eats pie and the local oil baron tries to control things, has not only tapped into the black gold which will make West Texas rich, but also has created a kind of subconscious killer which will pollute and destroy everything around it. And the killer in their midst, disguised as a man who is trusted by many, especially women, gets away with it for decades. Until the outsider Northerner union organizer man of the people, figures it out. Until the outsider cop who has not been corrupted calls his bluff. Yet the killer is protected by the union organizer, protected by the oil baron, and fools the good cops until the last scene in the film. Why? Because he can. Because he is presentable and wears a badge of authority. Because shining light on the abuse means things have to change and change can be hard and the various players and their game plans are deeply entrenched, be it labor, oil profits, or small town hypocrisy. And, most of all, because the killer inside this small-town boy is also the killer inside of all of us.

We need to take out the killer in us and transform that negative energy bringing down the US into something creative and positive that binds us together and builds us back into a strong healthy country.

America is like a child who has been abused and yet loves its abuser. People are voting against their own interests, to the point that their loved ones are dying and they are killing themselves and their children's futures are being destroyed. Those who are speaking up and trying to do something are also ending up as victims. Why? Because they love America. And like a child who, before the abuse begins, has every chance of turning out to be a healthy, happy responsible citizen, America too was once that innocent child which had all the opportunities and possibilities to be the best it could be. But like an abused child, they call out for the parent who abused them, don't want to testify against them, they "love" them.

We ended up (by voting or vote stealing) with leaders who abused our good will and tore apart our country. Sometimes I wonder if those who voted for Bush&co were abused by their parents and are somehow brainwashed into admiring messed up idiots. Scarier still, they see themselves and even identify with the ignorant evil.

Some people go to therapy and try to heal and forgive. Some people become angry and act out. Very few people channel that anger into positive actions. Too few.

We are angry as a country. We are fearful. Anger and fear turned inward becomes depression and suicidal urges come to the surface. If you numb it all with Prozac and overeating and nonstop diversions and television you end up with, well, what we have... an obese, uneducated, inert, abused shell of what we used to be. Most suicides would actually prefer to be killing someone else, usually those very people who harmed them in the first place. But in our case, we are still claiming to love America. But we have to rebuild and uncover the real America which still exists under the years and years of abuse and neglect. America is not this narcissistic unhealthy country. America is better than that and will be again.

We are at a crucial moment today as we can either choose to be healed and constructively express our anger, thus healing and moving forward and evolving, or we can turn into our abusers, and carry on the endless cycle of abusing others. Like the bankers who have stolen from us, and the top secret clearance folks at the Pentagon who were downloading child porn or the Vatican which protects abusers and allows them to continue to hurt children, America has not only protected but placed abusers in positions of power, in some cases, people want to become just like them! The "Greed is good" line from "Wall Street" was meant to be critical not supportive of behavior on Wall Street! Yet young men congratulated Oliver Stone, wanting to be like Gordon Gekko! They were happy to become narcissistic abusers.

Unlike the killer in the Michael Winterbottom film, we do not have to blow up the whole house where the abuse occurred. Call it exorcism, call it purging, call it redemption, healing, asking for forgiveness and bestowing forgiveness, call it whatever you want, but America needs some positive catharsis (and a good therapist that doesn't cost a fortune).

I believe Obama was the beginning of that positive catharsis. And I believe America will indeed become a healthy place for all of us again. But we have to take the power back and make sure that those who have abused us and our country never have power again. The good thing about America is, we are still healthy enough to have recognized the Hope Obama represented and we still desire that healthiness on a very deep level. America does not have to be West Texas in 1959. Bush is gone. We can go after the abusers and shut them down. And I believe we will. There are more of Us than Them.