Three years ago I had the chance to perform in a production of 12 Angry men. I’d never been in a play, and I fell in love with acting–or if not acting, whatever it was that I did out there on the stage.
When the director invited me back to reprise my role, I couldn’t say no–even though the commute to and from the theater is two and a half hours.
I got a call from the Ogden Standard, wanting to do a quick interview about the play. The reporter asked me some easy questions, and then threw me a curve ball. “Why do you like the movie so much?”
I’d told her just a moment before that 12 Angry Men, with Henry Fonda is one of my top three favorite movies of all time.
But I didn’t know how to answer her question. I hadn’t given it a lot of thought before, so I threw out the first thought that popped into my head. And now that I’ve had a few days to consider it, I think my first thought was right.
12 Angry Men is really about one man. One man who stands up against eleven other men. Juror number eight has a lot of redeeming qualities. He is not afraid to stand up to a crowd. He’s smart. He can’t send a man to die without at least “taking about it first.”
But the reason I like the character so much is the way he goes about making his case. Almost all of the jurors at one point or another get angry. But not juror number eight. He keeps calm. He lays forth his case with refreshing sincerity and honesty. He asks hard questions. There are times when he doesn’t have the answers, and he freely admits it. He says that he doesn’t know, but that “it’s possible.”
When the reporter asked me why I liked 12 Angry Men, the Republican debates were fresh in my mind. We’re closing in on an election year, and the fighting between the parties seems particularly harsh. Voices from both sides seem more concerned about making the other party look bad, than to find common ground.
I wonder what would happen if all of us–left and right–freely admitted that sometimes we just don’t know? Or what if we asked the hard questions? Or really listened to–and kept an open mind about–the answers? What if we put aside the snide remarks? What if we didn’t worry about our “team” being right, and instead were open to new ideas.
In 12 Angry Men, we get a happy ending. The jury ends up unified.
Unity. I told the reporter from the Ogden Standard, that when it comes to America, I’d like to see a little bit more of that.