What's the difference between art and politics?
The question occurred to me as I left the theater after seeing the surprising new hit film "Juno."
With presidential politics taking an unfortunately predictable turn in the direction of the gutter, I took a break from it all and went to the movies.
I don't spend much time going to films, but "Juno" seduced me because of its accolades and because of the subject matter. It's about teen pregnancy, the abortion option considered and rejected, and adoption.
Most of what appears in our theaters is anything but art, which is one reason why I spend so little time going. But "Juno" is different. It's a powerful film, despite being made on a low budget and having no big name stars. And it conveys important truths about realities of the American society we live in today.
But to digress to my opening question, I think the difference between the artist and the politician is that the former communicates and the latter manipulates. The artist's communication aims to make a reality which we share clearer and more evident. The politician's communication aims to get me to do what he or she wants.
There is excitement in the "pro-life" community about "Juno," because the 16-year-old high school girl in the film, Juno, decides against abortion and gives birth to her child -- the product of a sexual escapade with a high school friend.
It's a pro-life film, but by default, not by intent. I do not believe that the producers or the young woman who wrote the screenplay had any political agenda.
Yet, life triumphs. And it triumphs under dismal circumstances which reflect, tragically, all too common and unattractive truths which define our society today.
Listening to the film's dialogue, you can't help but feel that it doesn't fit a 16-year-old girl. It's too mature and too cynical.
It reflects a teenager who has grown up too fast because life's complexities and responsibilities have been prematurely dumped on her. She lives in a society populated by adults who have turned their backs on responsibilities that once defined what it means to be an adult.
The idea that wisdom exists assumes that there is something true. If you believe such a thing, so it's something that distinguishes adults from children. Adults have it, having received it from their parents and teachers, and children don't, but receive it through something called education.
With the successful politicization of America, wisdom is gone, truth is relative and private, and children have been left to their own resources. Sixteen-year-olds decide what sex is about, when and how to do it, and how to handle the consequences -- the emotional entanglements, the diseases, and, all too often, pregnancies.
Seventy-five percent of American children today have had sex before their 20th birthday. Forty years ago it was more like 25 percent.
Thirty-seven percent of babies born in our country today are born to unwed mothers. Forty years ago it was more like 5 percent.
And well over a million babies will be aborted in this country this year, about 19 percent of which will be teen pregnancies.
The beauty of "Juno" is that the film shows there are some things you can't kill. That despite being alone in a world without wisdom, where love in an adult sense is practically extinct, and where life has no point beyond personal gratification, a 16-year-old girl can discover there is something wrong and do something about it.
Senators Clinton and Obama are having at it now about the question of race. Did Clinton demean Dr. King? Does Obama not appreciate that it took the political experience of Lyndon Johnson to get the Civil Rights Act passed?
The irony of it all is that whoever prevails as the candidate of the Democrats will get 90 percent of black votes.
Why, almost a half century after the Civil Rights Act, does black poverty persist at twice the national average? Why are black unwed births and fatherless homes triple what they were in 1964? Why is AIDS disproportionately today a black disease? Why do black women account for one-third of all abortions?
The unfortunate lesson that blacks walked away with in 1964 was that they should start listening to politicians rather than preachers. They bought into the new American world without wisdom.
Now blacks will vote for a candidate, maybe a white woman, maybe a black man, both who opposed the Supreme Court's decision against partial birth abortion and both who think life's problems should and can be solved in Washington.
To recall the refrain of a popular song of the '60s, "When will they ever learn?"