Crossing Guard: Uncalculated Risk

You know better, and you know you know better. But you do it anyway. Why is that? I had a roommate once who was the Queen of Remorse. She'd generously blow her last $20 buying a pizza for the gang, then borrow money the rest of the weekend for laundry and food. She'd date the biggest sleaze-buckets in town, then cry in her pillow when they took advantage of her. She'd stay up all night watching TV, then stress out about not being prepared for work the following day. Not that she was dim-witted. It's just that, at the moment she was called upon to make a critical decision, the risk of a bad thing happening didn't outweigh the benefit of tempting fate one more time. And, come to think of it, often she managed to squeak by. We all have that intellectual side which understands that many of our decisions are crazed and self-destructive at best, and downright dangerous at worst. Yet, completely ignoring the consequences, we bluster forward, on a sure path to doom. Think of how many times you've found religion for the sole purpose of pulling yourself through a momentary lapse in judgment: God, don't let this pregnancy test turn blue; God, just let me just pass; I'll never drink again, just get me through this hangover; Please help me hit the numbers and I'll never gamble again. And then, like a true sinner, you survive only to transgress again. I just can't explain the human urge to tempt fate. Nearest I can guess is it's just like my blood phobia. I know what blood is. I understand what it does. It's inanimate and functional, like freon in an air conditioner. But to me, it's too warm, too red and too thick. It's directly connected to mortality, to life and death. I see it leaking out of a paper cut- a pregnant bead of tepid life- and the bile rises in my throat. My head says, "It's just a silly cut," but my stomach is revolted, the adrenalin is stirring up a cold sweat, my lungs are grasping for air and, if it's a gusher, I keel over in a dead faint. This is unreasonable, but I do it anyway and I can't stop it. No matter what I do to prepare myself or to talk myself down, blood makes me panic, just like the feel of warm water makes most people have to use the bathroom. I've heard people cluck disdainfully at phobics. Why can't they just be reasonable? Why can't they just tell themselves not to be afraid? This lack of compassion is perplexing, since I've yet to meet a person who has not struggled with an uncontrollable urge- the urge to smoke, the urge to experiment with drugs, the urge to have unsafe sex, the urge to reach out and strike someone weaker than you because you lack the power to strike at what's really oppressing you. This is the truly disturbing undercurrent of the movie, Crossing Guard. I spent the first 30 minutes of the film being bludgeoned by the utter sadness and near-total emptiness of the characters, thinking, "I'm glad I'm not them." "Them" being a couple which has been torn apart by the death of their 4-year-old daughter, killed by a drunk driver. But then the movie cuts to the murderer, and that's where it gets personal. The guy seems to be nice enough. If he was a lush when he hit the child and killed her, he isn't one by the time he walks out of prison and into the story. He's depicted as an ordinary guy who got tanked one fateful night and bam, there's blood on his hands forever. Sitting there, I was suddenly thrown off the MADD bandwagon and slung deep down into an abyss of debilitating guilt. What are we to make of life's "accidents" caused by our own carelessness? How do we hold ourselves accountable at all times for even the slightest instance of poor judgment, for which we might pay for the rest of our lives? The parents of the murdered child nearly sapped my soul of its compassion. But as the film unfolded, it was the drunk driver who haunted me, and who continues to make me think and think again. Like a ridiculous parade of dark jokes, one drink too many proved to exact an outrageous price tag for a good night out. Rape in prison. The inability to ever work again but for the largess of close friends. The humiliation of his family. The inability to love again because he was filled with self-loathing. Thinking of himself as a child murderer day in and day out. So quickly and so permanently, things can change. If ever you have taken an uncalculated risk, be it great or small, you must see Crossing Guard. The film will make you come to grips with the interdependence of your actions with those around you (both strangers and friends), to be able to project the effects of your behavior out to the last ripple, to learn to see yourself not as victim or perpetrator, but as powerful agent, to understand that in the end, we are all part of the human heart. Crossing Guard is tough to swallow and it cuts on its way down. But that is no excuse for you not to tackle it, conquer it and finally take it home with you. If you're still without one, make going to see it a New Year's resolution. Then, if you're big enough, live by what you learn. If not, get ready to suffer the consequences.

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