Saturday, February 9, 2008

Family 8108

There's a glut of procedural crime dramas on television, and it can sometimes be difficult to decide which ones are worth watching.

Each has their own slant, whether it be science, missing persons, the law, gore, or more character driven storytelling. I enjoy watching this sort of show on occasion and in fact follow about three fairly regularly. The Closer, which is a singular character driven police work sort of show (boasting some fine production values, stellar acting, and crisp writing as well), Bones, also more of a character show but there's a lot of science and goofy humor in it as well, and Cold Case which focuses on reopening cases that were never solved in the past by hearing the stories of those that knew the person who was murdered. Cold Case more than the other two, can be enjoyed in single episode installments without having watched the episodes that came before or those that come after.

Cold Case is a master at evoking all sorts of emotions and honestly maybe the only show on television that makes me sob like a fool on some occasions. I don't always appreciate or agree with the political overtones, but I can appreciate the way this show, more than any other procedural crime drama, focuses on the human element of such terrible crimes and causes reflection on the tremendous loss of each life prematurely.

I believe they do this successfully by examining terrible time periods and prejudices of the past, and also by using the music of that time period to cast mood. (in fact, music licensing agreements have kept it from being released on DVD)

I recently watched an episode of Cold Case that interested me more than some others and also raised what I felt were important and timely questions.

This episode told the story of the Takahashi Family during World War II. The Takahashis were Japanese Americans who spoke with perfect American English accents. The son in the family's name was Billy. The episode opened showing this very American looking family playing football in their front yard.

As you can imagine, being World War II and this show being Cold Case, the Takahashis were rounded up and forced into internment camps following the bombing of Pearl Harbor. While I'm sure there were several issues involved in this act of government, it is hard not to shudder at this event in our nation's history.

The conditions at the camp were poor as reflected in this episode of television: overcrowded with apparently no plumbing or even cooking facilities. Yet despite this hardship, Ray Takahashi was determined to prove he was American and to somehow change the minds of those who were imprisoning them. When the opportunity arose for young Japanese American men to enlist in the army and leave the camps, he encouraged his son to do just this and show the country just how patriotic and American they were. His son, feeling only ostracized and abandoned by the country of his birth and most likely the only country he had ever known, was resistant to this idea. Following a series of events, however, he chose to enlist to get back at his father for a moment of indiscretion he witnessed between his father and teacher.

The Cold Case crew were investigating the murder of Ray Takahashi which took place after the Takahashis were released from the camp and settled in Philadelphia where the Quakers were helping Japanese Americans start life over again. (the show is educational...the Quakers were among the few who did in fact do this)

In order not to spoil the ending should you catch this episode yourself sometime, I'll simply say it was very moving and raised all sorts of important questions. What does it mean to be American? In our time, I feel this question is still important as we deal with immigration issues, terrorism, and a variety of other factors. What are the true values of America? Is the past really the golden age when such atrocious acts blight the otherwise glowing landscape of our heritage? How do we best deal with those who question our sincerity? What is the best way to respond to racism and prejudice when it is directed at you?

For those of you reading who are American Christians, it reminds me of the constant tension we face in church. Oh you do house church? Is that a cult? Oh you go to a mega church? They don't care about the poor. There is, it seems, always a reason to feel superior to people who do things differently based on some well documented cases of others who were similar and not quite the same. Just because one house church failed, or one mega church spends very little on those outside of its walls does not mean we have the liberty to group them all together in the same category. Even though we desperately like categories. We can take this even further and go into doctrinal beliefs. How do we respond to those who would prefer to call us a heretic or question our love and devotion to God?

If you are interested in watching Cold Case sometime, it airs on Sunday nights on CBS.


Anonymous said...

Wow. That was a well written post. Very thought provoking.

Guess I need to catch Cold Case one day since I really enjoy Law & Order. I'll add it to my list.

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