In the closing scenes of the 1982 film, “The Verdict,” Paul Newman’s character learns about a betrayal so deep, he is still reeling as the credits roll (by the way, if you can find a film with a better structure than this one, please let me know; it is brilliant).
Frank Galvin, who has lived in a certain world for so long, realizes that things will never be the same for him. He is momentarily isolated, staring, and shaken. But one gets the impression he will be all right, for he now sees reality.
The screenwriter of “The Verdict,” David Mamet, knows something of having a worldview turned upside-down. The Chicago-born writer has carved out his own legend in New York and Hollywood as an acclaimed playwright, screenwriter, film director and essayist (okay, I just lifted that from the book’s jacket). A Pulitzer Prize winner for the play “Glengarry Glen Ross,” Mamet’s place in literary history is secured.
And now he wonders about much of his previous life, the life he led before his epiphany that liberalism might not be the magic elixir he once thought.
Mamet’s new book, “The Secret Knowledge,” I have to tell you, is one of the most extraordinary I’ve ever read. Long fascinated by one-time, outright liberals who had the courage to investigate the claims of the other side (Dennis Miller, Ron Silver), I find Mamet’s memoir of soul searching to be a document that should be read and studied widely.
In 2008, Mamet penned an op-ed piece for the Village Voice: “Why I Am No Longer a ‘Brain-Dead Liberal,’” in which he detailed his journey of discovery.
Mamet possesses considerable literary firepower, and while this memoir presents the soul-searching of an intellectual, it really is an important book for everyman.
Consider this biting assessment of the world in which he lived for decades: “The left, in addition to its embrace of the false (higher taxes means increased prosperity for all), and its acceptance of the moot as incontrovertible (global warming), must account for the incidental effect of the sum of these decisions. This effect is the destruction of our culture.”
Mamet was born in Chicago and attended progressive schools before becoming a force in writing. Not all his views would be embraced by the right, but the very things he champions – such as freedom of thought – is a common link.
In “The Secret Knowledge,” Mamet draws out truth from sources that most of us are familiar with, but perhaps we miss a salient point or two.
For example, writing about the Exodus and freedom as a way of life, he states: “Moses told the Jews to look back at the pursuing army and said, ‘Those Egyptians you see today you will never see again’ – that is, they would be freed from not only the fact but the shame of slavery as soon as they recognized in themselves the possibility of choice, which is to say, as soon as they entered the sea. … The sea was not the path to freedom, the sea was freedom. The essence of freedom was and is choice.”
Because he came from it, Mamet shows a remarkable understanding of the essence of liberalism, as well.
In Chapter 15, “The Intelligent Person’s Guide to Socialism and Anti-Semitism,” he describes his up-close views of the left: “Liberalism is a religion. Its tenets cannot be proved, its capacity for waste and destruction demonstrated. But it affords a feeling of spiritual rectitude at little or no cost. Central to this religion is the assertion that evil does not exist, all conflict being attributed to a lack of understanding between the opposed.”
There you have it. In one paragraph, Mamet has told us why our State Department and White House operate the way they do. He has explained the fuzzy dream world of Joe Biden, Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama and Jimmy Carter. Let us thank him for his insight.
Now, while I am recommending that Christians read this book and stretch your minds, don’t expect that Mamet will want to show up at your revival clapping and then enjoy a meal of cornbread and beans. He is not that kind of … of … “ex-left.” But it is a breath of fresh air to see someone with the courage to question the dead ideologies he experienced in his previous life as a brain-dead liberal.
The series of essays in “The Secret Knowledge” will be an exercise in sane thought, and exercise your brain you will. But it will be worth it. Then you will be able to share the secret.