The recent Disney/Pixar release “Brave” –a story about a Scottish princess and her quest to “change her fate”– is full of many nuggets of wisdom worth consuming. Here are just a few:
“Legends are lessons, they ring with truth.”
“Are you willing to pay the price that your freedom will cost?”
Don’t use others lives as a bargaining chip to change your own fate.
Actions on decisions have consequences.
A house divided against itself can not stand.
Blaming others, even if deserved, does nothing to help your situation.
There are many, many more bits of wisdom in this underrated gem of an animated feature, but the one that rings throughout the movie, the one that we should understand as Americans is one simple word: Listen.
When I was a newly divorced woman, I had a friend give me a thorough dress down. “It’s not always about you,” she said. “You don’t have to fix everything. Sometimes you just have to listen.” But it was already too late. I lost that friend because I couldn’t just ‘listen.’ I wanted to put a tattoo on the back of my hand that said ‘listen,’ so I couldn’t forget that lesson.
Today, with all the challenges of the media, a blogosphere that is full of opinion, accusations and musings, you would think that we would be more willing to listen to one another. A simple search of “Ban Speech” on Google brings up a hitlist that isn’t populated with a bunch of nuts. A simple viewing of MSNBC, CNN and Fox News will give you an education on what speech this or that ‘expert’ thinks we should have. And that’s not even counting the arguments that begin with an accusation of racist, sexist, homophobic, islamophobic, or others that are specifically designed to end a discussion (in favor of the person throwing the accusation, of course).
In the movie Brave, being unable to ‘listen’ to the person who is offering wisdom of their own, or an opinion of their own, led to dangerous conflicts of interests that continued to compound until the parties in question made the effort to ‘listen.’ That alone was not the answer, the communication was difficult by the time the conflict and danger became the greatest, and great effort had to be expended to ‘understand’ what the other party was saying. The effort spent on understanding brought a mutual agreement.
This was, in essence, the same process the Founding Fathers had to come to. They made long, serious efforts to get all discussion out in the open. They had Congresses, they published their arguments, and had dozens of meetings where they ‘listened’ to one another. This doesn’t mean they agreed – not by a longshot – but they came to understand each other’s positions well enough to create a compromised that was agreeable to both sides (or, more accurately, all sides).
Those efforts, and the understanding that listening was so very important, gave us the first, most important amendment to the Constitution, and the first guaranteed freedom: The Freedom of Speech.
“Listen,” the advice that every main character in the movie “Brave” advocates, is very good advice, indeed. It has a long history of positive results when followed.
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If you have a suggestion for a movie that exemplifies American Values, please leave a comment below with the name of the movie.