By Ellen McGirt
March 26, 2019

If you weren’t among the brave moviegoers who flocked to Jordan Peele’s new feature film Us this weekend, you’re about to run out of time: The movie is so fascinating, multi-layered – and yes, terrifying – that spoilers are quickly popping up everywhere.

The film raked in more than $70 million over the weekend, well past double the opening weekend receipts of Peele’s first film, Get Out, and exceeding the expectations of industry insiders. (Unsurprised Peele fans simply sipped their tea and nodded.) I won’t spoil much of it here except to say that its central metaphor is a powerful one made for modern times: Every American has a double who looks exactly like them, abandoned in an empty subterranean world, who rises up to fight for their freedom and their due.

With that image in mind, I’m going to switch back to the real world and point out that some of us are feeling pretty abandoned right now.

First, there’s Puerto Rico.

Congress expanded food stamp aid to the island after the devastating effects of Hurricane Maria in September 2017. But the federal government missed the deadline to renew that aid earlier this month. And, it seems, lawmakers have been getting strong signals from the administration that no new aid will be coming. Some 43 percent of island residents are now struggling to buy food and other essentials, the island is still owed billions in yet undispersed emergency funds, and residents are now facing cuts to Medicaid. Each of these remedies requires the support of the federal government, which is unlikely to come. “[The President] doesn’t want another single dollar going to the island,” a senior official told The Washington Post.

Then, there’s Pine Ridge.

Recent snow, rain, and related flooding have set off a natural disaster on the Pine Ridge Reservation in South Dakota, which is not looking to clear up any time soon.

Some residents have been stranded as long as two weeks; washed out roads have made it nearly impossible for food, medical, and other supplies to reach them. Volunteers on horseback are delivering essentials when they can, but increasingly, ill, elderly or otherwise desperate residents have been braving the weather and walking for miles to get help.

From the New York Times:

Officials with the Oglala Sioux Tribe, which administers the reservation, say they lack the training, manpower and equipment needed to deal with such a large-scale crisis. And there’s a pervasive sense on Pine Ridge, a place of long-strained relations with the state and federal governments, that help has been woefully slow to arrive, and that few people beyond the reservation know or care much about its plight.

And finally, there are the Muslims next door.

This past Sunday, a mosque in Southern California was set on fire in an attack which was designed to express solidarity with the perpetrator in the March 15 attack on two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand. The arsonist used an accelerant to fuel the fire set to the Dar-ul-Arqam mosque in Escondido, a city near San Diego, Calif. and left graffiti referencing the New Zealand attack. Thankfully, nobody was killed or injured.

But it sent a message. Hate crimes and other bias-related incidents against U.S. Muslims have ticked-up dramatically in the last few years. According to the Council on American-Islamic Relations, there were 2,213 incidents of anti-Muslim bias in 2016, 260 of which were verified hate crimes. In 2017, 2,599 incidents of bias, including workplace discrimination, of which 300 were hate crimes. This is the highest number since 2009, the year CAIR began keeping track.

Jordan Peele’s latest film examines the deep divisions that stem from our shared history, and the struggle of people who have been cast away in a failed experiment of exploitation. But it doesn’t take a film critic to see how many times these scenes play out in real life, with real people who play the other in our policies, while in fact, they are us.


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