TAFA: The Textile and Fiber Art List

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Paul Newman: The Beautiful American

I just learned that Paul Newman is no longer with us. There is a sadness in my heart, a hole in this country, a vacated space in this world... I never met the man, yet I grew up with his movies and in all the years that he has gifted Hollywood with his presence, I have never heard a bad word uttered against him, a rare thing indeed when our press hungers for juicy gossip and grudgingly honors a good man.
There is a book called "The Ugly American" which was a big hit in the 1950's. Here is Wikipedia's description of it:
"The Ugly American is the title of a 1958 political novel by Eugene Burdick and William Lederer. It became a bestseller, was influential at the time, and is still in print.
The novel describes how the United States is losing the struggle with Communism—what was later to be called the battle for hearts and minds—in Southeast Asia, because of arrogance and failure to understand the local culture.

The book takes place in a fictional nation known as Sarkhan. In the novel, a Burmese journalist says "For some reason, the people I meet in my country are not the same as the ones I knew in the United States. A mysterious change seems to come over Americans when they go to a foreign land. They isolate themselves socially. They live pretentiously. They're loud and ostentatious." The phrase "ugly Americans" came to be applied to Americans behaving in this manner."

These are the Americans who have angered the world. We will protect our loud and wasteful way of life, at any cost, because it is our God given right. Paul Newman was not one of these men. He rejoiced when he found out that he was on President Nixon's top 20 "Enemies List", saying that his inclusion on the list was one of the top accomplishments of his life. Paul Newman often portrayed the angst of the American soul, the discomfort of being judged by wealth and beauty. As a young man and as an old one, he challenged social norms, living on the edge on film, maintaining a solid marriage with Joanne Woodward (Well, isn't THAT something?!!), and with all of his social entrepreneurship.
Robert Redford is of the same caliber and he is still with us. His visionary protectionism of the Sundance land began long before he was famous. Both men acted on principles, "Walk the Talk".
I almost lost my father to a diabetic coma this week, but my mother, a nurse, caught it in time and saved him. My father is also one of these beautiful American men. After this fright, I started documenting our time as missionaries in Brazil in a new blog, Biels In Brazil, as an exercise in memory, of capturing the essence of what has passed. These beautiful Americans have worked quietly, but steadily, leaving behind a model that attentive younger Americans can follow. Yes, Paul Newman has passed on. Robert Redford and my father are both now old men. But, as they leave us with their body, their spirit remains. I found this interview with Paul Newman last year very interesting:

There is a dignity in this man that is absent from our social fiber as a nation. I watched the debates between future-president-wannabes McCain and Obama last night and both lacked something that I cannot quite put my finger on- a certain ease of self, a definition of manhood that I look for in leadership (although maybe Obama is 80% there...).
People like Paul Newman are beacons of light in this flippant world. His work has often voiced my own angst at how things are, but his actions have also been a nudge to keep on going and fight the good fight without imposition or aggressiveness. Yes! I would love to make Nixon's (or McCain's) enemy list as well! Yes! I can be a positive force in my own circle. Yes! I can be a beautiful American, too!
My heartfelt sympathies go out to Newman's family and friends. You have been blessed to have known his true self. May he go in peace.


1 comment:

  1. it is sad that he died.... he was beautiful.

    hope your father is doing well....i was sorry to hear this also.


“Sing like no one's listening, love like you've never been hurt, dance like nobody's watching, and live like it's heaven on earth.”

“Whatever you say, say it with conviction.”

(Both by the master, Mark Twain)

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