The weekend of Sept. 8-10 was ruled by both hurricanes and a bloodthirsty clown. No, I’m not referring to Donald Trump. I’m referring to the film It, a horror film based on the beloved Stephen King novel. Breaking records, It made over $123 million in three days. How? Maybe it’s because in a nation on edge with hurricanes, aggressive immigration reform and a never-ending series of North Korea stories, a film about facing fear was what our nation needed. In the 1980s similar issues were ever-present, but under Ronald Reagan we felt more secure. If our modern president is about building walls, Reagan was about building hope: “We will always remember. We will always be proud. We will always be prepared, so we will always be free.” Those are the words of a leader. Something this country needs more than ever.
My theory about the film It was echoed by the film’s director and writers. The film’s director, Andy Muschietti, said, “I think the best thing that can happen is if people take this as a parable about what it is to live in a culture of fear, and understand that we’re better than that. And we have to stick together against those producers of fear, and stay strong.”
“Everyone needs reassurance that it’s good to be part of a group, and it’s great to come together against division and fear. Fear is used as a tool these days to divide and control and conquer. And hate is a tool. And that’s something Pennywise [from It] does, so that’s something resonating in our society right now.”
Right now President Donald Trump is instilling fear with his proposal to end the Dreamer Act known as DACA. Trump sees 800,000 immigrant children brought by their parents as a threat to our security, and he wants them gone. Where he shows fear, Reagan showed empathy with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986. Reagan knew the enemy wasn’t workers, but the government that tried to overregulate. He once brilliantly stated, “The most terrifying words in the English language are: I’m from the government and I’m here to help.”
After watching Americans react negatively to his anti-DACA rhetoric, Trump started to change his tune: “We’re not looking at citizenship. We’re not looking at amnesty. We’re looking at allowing people to stay here. We’re working with everybody, Republicans, we’re working with Democrats.” What is it you’re looking at, Mr. President?
Eventually, the president showed a little heart: “We’re working on a plan for DACA. People want to see that happen. You have 800,000 young people brought here, no fault of their own, so we’re working on a plan, we will see how it works out. But we are going to get massive border security as part of that, and I think something can happen.” Border security? We all want that. Massive deportation? Ain’t nobody got time for that.
On top of immigration, hurricane turmoil, the anniversary of 9/11 and North Korea continuing to test nuclear capabilities, the past few weeks have been a lot to handle for the American people. Let’s not even get into the price of the latest iPhone. Stress is high, and our politicians aren’t making us feel better.
The key word in that last statement is “us,” though. Americans are resilient people. When pushed up against a wall, we’ve made the right choices and changed the course of human history. We eliminated slavery. We gave women the vote. We kept Seinfeld on the air for almost 10 years. We know how to come together to make this country great. And while we are on edge these days, we will come together. We will rebound. We will use our freedoms for good. Maybe it starts with a little horror film that could.
It’s screenwriter Barbara Muschietti echoes my sentiments: “For almost a year people have been beaten up, in both parties. I don’t know that anybody on either side of the political spectrum is feeling great. As a country, we’ve been pummeled; and suddenly you see these kids who are very much a representation of that, and they fight — with love and togetherness — and they beat the monster. And that’s nice.”
That’s also us, America.