Both Sides Alone Cannot Tell the Truth

“The Day Shall Come” confuses objectivity with obfuscation.

Marchánt Davis as Moses Al Shabazz in “The Day Shall Come” (2019).
Anna Kendrick and Denis O’Hare as FBI agents in “The Day Shall Come” (2019)
Finley Peter Dunne, Chicago-based newspaper essayist.

Humorist Finley Peter Dunne once described effective journalism as something that “afflicts the comfortable and comforts the afflicted.”

The same is true of satire — even more so, actually. Whereas journalists have a responsibility to adhere to the basic facts of a story, satirists are supposed to go further. It’s the job of the satirist to use her artistic liberty to exaggerate — to humorous effect — the essential truths of a situation, in order to more thoroughly and completely afflict the comfortable and comfort the afflicted. If you’re a satirist, and everyone is happy with your work, you’re not doing your job right.

To tell the truth, it’s not enough to simply tell both sides of the story. It becomes necessary to adjudicate which sides are right and wrong.

Not only that, but remember — the satirist’s job is to bring down the high and mighty, to give them their rightful comeuppance. And this, ultimately, is what made me so upset. By the end, The Day Shall Come does the opposite. It comforts the comfortable, and afflicts the afflicted. Not only does Moses go to prison, but his friends and family are prosecuted as accomplices, despite the fact that none of them really did anything wrong. And what do the FBI agents get? They get promoted. One of them eventually launches a successful campaign for governor.

image from “Magnificat (Canticle of Mary)” Watercolor by James Tissot

We can do better, and we must do better.

Which leads me to a really important question — in the context of this movie, what would it mean to do better?

We creatives have the responsibility not only to tell the stories of our current horror, but to tell the stories of the preferred future we want to create.

And we can’t do that if we’re stuck in a nihilistic loop of shock-sigh-repeat.

Pastor, Writer, Musician, DJ, Stand-up Comic. Now 30% more me than ever before. Support via Cash App $JelaniGreenidge

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