Tag Archives: hero

Heavy Lies the Crown of Leadership

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Grand Prairie
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate and U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders speaks at a campaign rally in Grand Prairie, Texas February 27, 2016. REUTERS/Brian Snyder

By Christopher Pickhardt

After day one of the Democratic National Convention last night in Philadelphia, what is clear (and what has been evident for some time) is that the party is broken, the political and economical system is rigged and America is divided. This was especially apparent after last week’s disastrous Republican National Convention, where Donald Trump was anointed the new authoritative king of the right wing.

The Democrats have chosen to anoint their own queen, Hillary Clinton, who has hungered for the Presidency as much as Bill hungers for a fresh intern. Clinton’s ascension to the Democratic nomination has been a tumultuous journey as we all know; fraught with party divisiveness, alleged voter fraud, the FBI email scandal and the now infamous DNC email debacle which has forced the resignation of committee Chair Debbie Wasserman Schultz, who takes most of the blame for the committee’s blatant favoring of Clinton over Bernie Sanders; whose campaign they actively worked to sabotage. So it is suffice to say that the Democrats are truly a dysfunctional mess of a family who now after continued marginalization and unfair treatment, have asked the recipient of their venom – Bernie Sanders, to step up and fix the problems THEY CREATED. The amount of balls these party “leaders” are exhibiting are clearly gigantic.

But, Bernie is a big enough man to see the grand picture and will do what needs to be done to unify the party and ensure Donald Trump does not become our next President; regardless of hurt feelings, resentment and pettiness. Sanders has continually presented himself as a vessel for a MOVEMENT that is greater and more important than ONE MAN and his humble declaration of progressive change over personal ego is a unique marvel to witness.

Regardless of party or ideology, a political leader’s job is to show the way and to present ideas with conviction and heart. And most importantly, one must LISTEN to the people and actually HEAR what they have to say and then TAKE ACTION on their behalf. Bernie has heard the call and is following the will of the people in pursuit of a better America – a country that, as Bernie says, belongs to ALL OF US and not just a handful of wealthy campaign contributors. We can all learn a lot from this man, who has selflessly driven a movement with integrity, poise, unity and a deep deep love of country.

THIS is what a TRUE leader looks like.

So in the end it appears as though Bernie did not win the fight, but he has won the war. His ability to grow his campaign from a tiny upstart in New Hampshire to the behemoth grassroots movement it has become – all without big corporate donations, is an incredible accomplishment. Throughout this Primary season, Bernie was able to get over thirteen million votes and tens of thousands of volunteers to help spread his message across America and around the world. Bernie has also negotiated with Democratic leaders to adopt many of his initiatives going forward – like a $15/hour minimum wage, making public college tuition-free a reality and further combating climate change (among others) and he has forced the Right-leaning Clinton to move more to the Left.

[For the entire Democratic Platform look no further: https://www.demconvention.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/Democratic-Party-Platform-7.21.16-no-lines.pdf]

In other words, his impact is unmistakable. Sanders’ efforts have set in motion a grand tide for change which have inspired a generation of young people, who will be the future of America, to take part in moving the country forward . They just have to show up and carry the torch Bernie has so graciously burdened himself with to this point. If the roars of applause he received last night as he approached the podium  to give the evening’s closing speech are any indication, Bernie Sanders’ appeal and popularity have not dwindled – even after the furor that his supporters unleashed as he officially endorsed Hillary Clinton less than two weeks before. The cheers, clapping and adulation lasted for what seemed like an eternity and as Bernie struggled to quell his following’s accolades, you could see on his face just how touched and humbled he was by this display. After all this time it appeared as though he was still not used to this kind of admiration.

Thank you, Bernie. Your efforts and passion will be remembered long after we are all dead. And that is a remarkable feat, for very few candidates linger in the collective memories for more than the length of the cycle. The 2016 Primary will be one for the record books and I know history will mark Bernie Sanders’ name with a huge bookmark.

Bernie in LA


Dallas Buyers Club

Dallas Buyers Club



***1/2 STARS (out of 4)

By Christopher Pickhardt

Ron Woodroof is a hero. Sure he’s also a drug-taking alcoholic with a penchant for unprotected sex with prostitutes who inevitably contracts HIV and AIDS, but if not for that laundry list of flaws, our protagonist would not have his mission and the other AIDS-addled citizens of Dallas in the late 1980’s would have never gotten the alternative treatments they needed to battle the most horrifying new disease of the 20th century.

Suffice to say, Woodroof (played brilliantly by Matthew McConaughey) contracting AIDS was a bitter/sweet and tragic push the fighting-AIDS movement received during that very scary time in America’s history. During those early years when AIDS first began popping up amongst mostly Homosexuals, people were terrified and confused – their heads muddled with rumors, misinformation and even for some, biased hatred towards those they assumed were spreading this plague via reckless debauchery.

Additionally, there are even conspiracy theories out there that the US Government created AIDS in a lab in an attempt to eradicate the Homosexual population in the wake of the free love movements of the late 1960’s to 1970’s. Those claims are still open for debate, but given the intense unbridled fear which populated large portions of America in the early 80’s – especially amongst right-wingers in Washington, not to mention the added immeasurable profits fighting this disease could garner for the big pharmaceutical industry – taking all that into consideration, almost anything is possible.

This engaging film tells the story of Woodroof’s own battle with AIDS, the perils of early AIDS-pharmaceuticals like AZT (which in early stages was being tested at dosages that became lethal in many patients) and Woodroof’s eventual enterprising idea of trafficking (for lack of a better term) herbal and alternative AIDS supplements into America from Mexico, which were deemed illegal by the highly-corruptible FDA and distributed to patients free of charge via a membership “club” with monthly subscription dues of $400.00 where they could then retain the treatment they needed as a safer alternative to the hospital’s guinea pig AZT testing.

Woodroof gains some allies who assist him in his operation: Rayon (exceptionally played by the always great Jared Leto), a male transvestite who is also an AIDS patient becomes his partner in the operation and Dr. Eve Saks (the very sympathetic Jennifer Garner), is Ron’s hesitant doctor who eventually sees how flawed the hospital’s testing is and decides to back him up in his quest. Steve Zahn is Tucker, a local police officer who sympathizes with Woodroof’s plight and seems to always show up just when Ron needs him. Griffin Dunne shows up as Woodroof’s expatriate doctor in Mexico who supplies him with the alternative medications and lastly Dallas Roberts as Woodroof’s thankless lawyer David Wayne who has to deal with Ron’s adversaries – such as the FDA lackey Richard Barkley (Michael O’Neill), the hospital’s imposing Dr. Sevard (Dennis O’Hare) and eventually the subjugating IRS.

This film is an amazing story of courage, rebellion and drive – all in the face of certain death and legal punishment. Most people faced with the diagnosis of AIDS would quietly just go with the doctor’s orders and hope for the best. Ron Woodroof was not one of those people and his tale was one of consistent strides in the other direction – a middle-finger to the establishment and a smoking gun highlighting the overreaching flawed hands of the Food and Drug Administration whom lost its integrity long ago. The FDA sold its soul to the pharmaceutical companies and today especially to the agribusiness industry (especially the monstrous MONSANTO), where regulation really just means profit-protection for corporations.

Woodroof was a prime example of a leader, a man igniting a movement who did not fear his opponents or bow to the status quo. He was a fighter who got past his own prejudices and banded together with others afflicted with the same debilitating fatal disease as him. Dallas Buyers Club is an excellent companion film to And the Band Played On, Angels in America and Philadelphia, for it underscores not only the physical plights AIDS’ victims endure, but also the bureaucracy of the health care industry and especially the negative stigma those afflicted carried on their backs daily like a Scarlett Letter.

You will surely be hearing more and more about this film as the awards season heats up. Its stars Matthew McConaughey and Jared Leto will most certainly be shoe-ins for consideration in the top acting and supporting categories, but long-shots for the trophies at some of the bigger awards due to the film’s subject matter. Regardless of awards though, this is a powerful film with wonderful performances – with McConaughey and Leto giving their career-best turns (not to mention amazing physical transformations into emaciation).

It is utterly remarkable how effective and educational a film like this is. What could have been just a column in an old magazine is now told on the big screen in a way that completely envelopes the viewer and takes us to a time and place we were not necessarily privy to – an important time during a turning point in our culture. Films are about entertainment most of all, yes, but they also need to educate and enlighten its viewers. That is the true power of art and no medium accomplishes this better than film – it is THE art form of the 20th century and will continue to be for the foreseeable future. The industry just needs to remember how powerful it really is and focus less on profits and more on integrity. More films should accomplish what Dallas Buyers Club has and more often.