During the Trump era, the world anxiously watched America as it rapidly polarized, sharply divided by two radically different, mutually antagonistic groups. America was not always like this. The United States used to be a country of diversity, from which the strength and greatness of America stems.
As Donald Trump marched into the White House, however, those good old days were over, and to the world’s disappointment, America was transformed into a country of division. As a result, on Jan. 6, 2022, a group of people on the extreme right attacked the Capitol in an attempt to overturn the outcome of the presidential election. The incident astonished the whole world. It was a shame, indeed, that such political chaos happened in broad daylight in Washington, DC, in the 21st century.
Rumors say that Trump is coming back to the 2024 presidential running. If so, people worry that there will be two Americas in the US again, mutually aggravating and fighting to the level of a new civil war. Domestic terrorism will be rampant, and so will political vendettas and reprisals. How, then, should the American people deal with the dilemma? Are there any solutions?
The 2019 science fiction thriller film, “In the Shadow of the Moon,” delves into the above-mentioned complex issues that have plagued American society for the past few years. The film is set in Philadelphia in 1988. As the movie begins, we learn that several people have been killed similarly: hemorrhage and massive blood loss. Police officer Thomas Lockhart investigates the linked murder cases and finds out that the suspect is a mysterious Black woman. Lockhart chases the suspect into a subway station and, during the struggle, unintentionally kills her when she is struck by a train. The case is closed. Meanwhile, in the hospital, Lockhart’s baby daughter Amy is born, but his wife dies in childbirth.
Nine years later, in 1997, a copycat serial killer murders people in the same fashion as before. Now a detective, Lockhart pursues the suspect and is appalled at finding that the killer is the same woman whom he killed in 1988. He comes to know that the woman resurfaces every nine years when the blood moon rises due to the total lunar eclipse. Warning him not to interfere, the black woman disappears.
Again, nine years later, in 2006, Lockhart is now a private investigator who is still obsessed with the case. The suspect returns and begins killing people. Lockhart finds out that all the victims are related to a white supremacy militia group.
In 2015, nine years later again, Lockhart receives a voice message from his daughter Amy who is asking him to come to see his granddaughter’s birth. Then the suspect returns and explains to him that she has time-traveled from the future and, in fact, she is his granddaughter Rya. She also tells him that she has been killing domestic terrorists who will do horrible things in the future, such as detonating a bomb that kills 11,000 people when Rya is nine, which eventually triggers a new civil war in 2024.
Now Lockhart comes to know that in 2042, he convinced his 27-year-old granddaughter to take the mission of eliminating those right-wing militia terrorists by time traveling to the past. Rya knows that she cannot come back from the time travel, and yet she takes the mission. Thanks to her sacrifice, the terrorist attacks are prevented, and civil war does not break out. The problem is that Lockhart, though inadvertently, kills his own granddaughter in the process. The film ends as Lockhart holds newborn Rya in his arms in 2015 and shows that Rya’s father is an African American.
“In the Shadow of the Moon” shows that killing future terrorists may solve social problems but will inevitably bring personal tragedy and sacrifice. Thus, the price of eliminating one’s political enemies to prevent civil war is costly. The movie makes us consider the importance of reconciliation and coalition in our society. Rya saves America from destruction at the cost of her life. It is highly symbolic that she is an outcome of love between two antagonizing races.
Political commentators have pointed out the striking current similarities between Korea and America. South Korea, too, is a country of bipolarity, sharply divided by ideology, and full of enmity and hostility. The Korean Peninsula is already divided into the North and the South, but now we see another two Koreas within South Korea.
Approximately half of the Korean people support President Yoon, and the other half still support Moon, Yoon’s predecessor. The problem is this: If we give in to hate and eliminate those who are different from us, our country is doomed. Instead, we should pursue the rainbow coalition for the next generation’s sake. Only then will our future be bright.Kim Seong-kon
Kim Seong-kon is a professor emeritus of English at Seoul National University and a visiting scholar at Dartmouth College. The views expressed here are his own. -- Ed.