THREE BILLBOARDS: Hurt People Hurt People

Note: I began writing this in early December, right after I saw the movie. I got sidetracked. In the time since then I have listened to a lot of people complain about the way Three Billboards handles race. I agree with them, and I think Martin McDonagh made a mistake – an honest and a well-intentioned one, but a mistake nonetheless – in introducing race into his movie and not actually dealing with it. That mistake was compounded by having the racist element be a cop who abused his power.

I don’t think that McDonagh’s larger points, which I write about below, are invalidated, or that the movie is worsened, but I think that the mistake he made hobbles the film in as much as it is harder for audiences to embrace what is already counterintuitive messaging.

This piece contains significant spoilers for Three Billboards.

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The Impossible Beauty of Human Kindness

These have been bad, hard days so I want to share with you a story I listened to while taking a walk that is so full of the beauty of human kindness that it made me cry in the middle of a crowded street. This story is taken from Jack Kornfield, who tells it in his lecture series “Awakening Is Real.” He was told this story by a man who works with juvenile offenders – especially killers – in Baltimore.

A young man in Baltimore joined his local gang when he turned 15, and as part of his initiation he had to kill someone. He did it, he went out and killed another young man that he didn’t even know, a total stranger to him.

The cops caught the killer and he was brought to trial. Every day of the trial the dead boy’s mother sat in the gallery, watching. When the jury returned the guilty verdict the mother stood up and loudly said to her son’s murderer: “I am going to kill you.”

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