I watched the documentary Paper Clips on my palm pilot over the last week while waiting for the bus. I’ve been meaning to check it out since I heard about it, and since I would always have time to kill waiting for the bus I thought I’d spread it out over a couple of days.
I figured I’d have some problems with aspects of it, and I did.
Take the setting–20 miles outside of Chattanooga. If the students really wanted to see evil close up, all they had to do was a little bit of digging down the street. Even looking at the Jewish Holocaust their focus on prejudice and hatred rather than on more systemic questions troubled me. Where’d they get their stuff from (hint: the Nazis sent people here because they believed the reservation represented a workable model they could use)? Where’d they get the training (hint: check out the backgrounds of Goebbels and the rest…how many of them spent time “honing their craft” in German colonies in Africa and abroad?)?
Where did the philosophy undergirding the attempted extermination come from?
But these are questions we shouldn’t necessarily expect 8th grade teachers to ask, much less 8th grade teachers in suburban Tennessee. And I know that for most whites racism is solved by getting people to like one another or at least be tolerant. I shouldn’t hate on little steps.
But what impressed me more than anything else was Linda Hooper. She was the one who came up with the idea, and at every step she upped the ante. Referring to her power as an organizer one of the teachers said, “God created the world in seven days but that’s because he didn’t have Linda Hooper!” Her story was the most moving story of the documentary.
I wonder how long it’d take to get 100 million paper clips?