Two fighters for the underdogs died yesterday. Crystal Lee Sutton was the humble, but tenacious, textile worker who inspired Sally Field's movie, 'Norma Rae.' She was 33 when she took on the national textile company, J.P. Stevens, to question their treatment of workers.
She went on to be a tireless advocate for women's equality in the workforce and the unfair treatment of workers in general.
Most of us were very familiar with the other, Patrick Swayze, who said at one time his goal was “to do something that will affect the audience in a positive way, make them feel better about their lives and appreciate what they have.”
Another thing Patrick said really stuck with me as a writer. “People don’t identify with victims,” he said in an interview with The Associated Press, discussing his “North and South” character, originally written as a more passive man. “They identify with people who have the world come down on their heads and who fight to survive.”
But I am also awed by the ability of these two people to pick their battles and stick with them with an emotional intensity that indicates total devotion. Patrick ignored the Hollywood lifestyle for the world of Arabian horses on his San Gabriel Mountain ranch. He filmed an A & E series while undergoing cancer treatments. He took roles that portrayed him as a serious actor though he is truly eye candy for any baby boomer.
Both Crystal Lee and Patrick recognized the dangers of crystalline lifestyles. Lifestyles that are shiny on the surface but empty underneath. Better yet, they fought to bring attention to the meatier lifestyles, the ones that mattered to the folks whose worlds had come 'down on their heads.'