Here is a great speech from an extremely powerful movie.
“So I guess this is where I tell you what I learned – my conclusion, right? Well, my conclusion is: Hate is baggage. Life’s too short to be pissed off all the time. It’s just not worth it. Derek says it’s always good to end a paper with a quote. He says someone else has already said it best. So if you can’t top it, steal from them and go out strong. So I picked a guy I thought you’d like. ‘We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory will swell when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.’ ”
~ Danny Vinyard American History X (1998).
American History X is a 1998 American drama film directed by Tony Kaye and written by David McKenna. It stars Edward Norton and Edward Furlong, and co-stars Fairuza Balk, Stacy Keach, Elliott Gould, Avery Brooks, Ethan Suplee and Beverly D’Angelo. The film was released in the United States on October 30, 1998 and was distributed by New Line Cinema.
The film tells the story of two Venice, Los Angeles brothers who become involved in the neo-Nazi movement. The older brother serves three years in prison for voluntary manslaughter, changes his beliefs and tries to prevent his brother from going down the same path. The film is told in the style ofnonlinear narrative. It was given an “R” rating by the MPAA for “graphic brutal violence including rape, pervasive language, strong sexuality and nudity”. Made on a budget of $20 million, it grossed over $23 million at the international box office.
Danny Vinyard (Edward Furlong), a high school student and budding neo-Nazi in Venice Beach, California, receives an assignment from Murray (Elliott Gould), his history teacher, to write a paper on “any book which relates to the struggle for human rights.” Knowing Murray is Jewish, Danny writes his paper on Adolf Hitler‘s Mein Kampf. Murray attempts to get Danny expelled for doing this, but principal Dr. Bob Sweeney (Avery Brooks) — who is black — refuses, instead informing Danny that he would study history and current events under Sweeney, and that the class would be called “American History X.” Danny’s first assignment is to prepare a paper on his brother Derek (Edward Norton), a neo-Nazi leader who had just been released from prison after serving three years for voluntary manslaughter. Danny is warned that failing to submit the paper the next morning would result in his expulsion. The rest of the movie alternates between a series of vignettes from Danny and Derek’s shared past (distinguished by being shown in black and white), and present day events (shown in color).
Derek and Danny’s father is Dennis Vinyard (William Russ), a firefighter who displays racist tendencies in reaction to the news that Derek’s English teacher, Dr. Sweeney, had assigned Richard Wright‘s novel Native Son. Sent on a call to fight a fire in a drug den, Dennis is murdered by black drug dealers. In a television interview conducted after Dennis’s death, Derek erupts in a long racist tirade. Shortly thereafter, Cameron Alexander (Stacy Keach) and Derek form a white supremacist gang called the D.O.C.
A skilled basketball player, Derek is reluctantly dragged into a 3-on-3 game against three members of the Crips in which the prize was control of the recreation center basketball courts. Derek and his friends won the game. That evening his mother, Doris (Beverly D’Angelo) invites Murray, whom she is dating, home for dinner. A dinnertime discussion about Rodney King and police brutality turns into a full-blown argument between Derek and Murray. When Derek reveals his swastika tattoo and threatens Murray with violence for “invading his family”, Murray leaves and Doris orders Derek out of her home. That night, as Derek has sex with his girlfriend Stacey (Fairuza Balk), Danny hears people (the three gang members whom Derek beat at basketball) attempting to steal Derek’s truck. Derek grabs a pistol and heads outside. He shoots one of the thieves to death and curb stomps another. Immediately arrested, Derek is sentenced to three years at the California Institution for Men in Chino.
Derek is given a job in the prison laundry and is assigned to be the partner of Lamont (Guy Torry), a black man who is serving six years for assault. Lamont stole a television set from a store and broke the arresting officer’s foot when he accidentally dropped the television on it. The pair develop a rapport from their shared love of basketball.
In prison, Derek joins the Aryan Brotherhood but, after about a year, he becomes disillusioned with the racist gang, particularly over the group’s hypocritical friendly relations with a Mexican gang member, and their trafficking of narcotics. In response to Derek’s criticisms, Aryan Brotherhood members savagely beat and rape him in the shower. While recovering from the attack, Derek is visited by Sweeney, whom he asks for help to be paroled. Sweeney informs him of Danny’s involvement with neo-Nazis, and warns that he is on the same path as his older brother. Sweeney confesses that he hated white people as a youth, but eventually realized that hatred is pointless.
Derek further distances himself from the Aryan Brotherhood and changes his outlook on life. He spends the remainder of his time in prison alone, reading books that Sweeney sends him. He fears that the prison’s inmates will attack him, but they leave him alone, thanks to Lamont’s persuasion. Finally realizing the error of his ways, Derek leaves prison a changed man.
In the evening that Derek returns home from prison, he finds that Danny has a D.O.C. tattoo. Derek tries to persuade Danny to leave the gang. Later that night, they both go to a neo-Nazi party, where Derek tells the leader, Cameron, that he and Danny will no longer associate with the neo-Nazi movement. Cameron provokes Derek, who beats him up. In response, Danny’s neo-Nazi friend Seth Ryan (Ethan Suplee) runs after Derek and aims a pistol at him, which Derek wrestles from him and points at the angry crowd before running away. Danny angrily confronts Derek, who tells him about his experience in prison, which seems to prompt a change in Danny. Back at their home, they remove all the white power posters from their bedroom walls.
The following morning, Danny finishes his paper and Derek gets ready for a meeting with his parole officer. Derek walks Danny to school before his meeting, and on their way they stop at a diner where they are met by Sweeney and a police officer. They tell Derek that Alexander and Seth were attacked the previous night and have been hospitalized.
At school, Danny is confronted by a young black student named Little Henry, with whom he had a confrontation the previous day. Little Henry pulls out a gun and shoots Danny in the chest, killing him. When Derek arrives at the school, he runs into the bathroom and tearfully cradles his dead brother in his arms.
The film ends with a voice over of Danny reading the final lines of his paper for Dr. Sweeney. Stating “Hate is baggage. Life’s too short to be pissed off all the time. It’s just not worth it.” and then quoting the final stanza of Abraham Lincoln’s first inaugural address.
- Edward Norton as Derek Vinyard
- Edward Furlong as Danny Vinyard
- Beverly D’Angelo as Doris Vinyard
- Jennifer Lien as Davina Vinyard
- Ethan Suplee as Seth Ryan
- Fairuza Balk as Stacey
- Avery Brooks as Dr. Robert Sweeney
- Elliott Gould as Murray
- Stacy Keach as Cameron Alexander
- William Russ as Dennis Vinyard
- Paul Le Mat as McMahon
- Guy Torry as Lamont
- Joseph Cortese as Rasmussen
- Keram Malicki-Sánchez as Chris
- Giuseppe Andrews as Jason
- Christopher Masterson as Daryl Dawson
- Tara Blanchard as Ally Vinyard
- Alex Sol as Mitch McKormick