What’s the matter with South Carolina?

I love South Carolina. Some of the friendliest, most hospitable people I’ve ever met. But, as Tom Turnipseed says in Boogie Man, the place is “too small to be a country, too big for an insane asylum.”

President Carter just called out SC Rep. Joe Wilson for his “You Lie!” outburst.

“That racism inclination still exists, and I think it’s bubbled up to the surface because of belief among many white people — not just in the South but around the country — that African-Americans are not qualified to lead this great country. It’s an abominable circumstance, and it grieves me and concerns me very deeply,” Carter said.

Get ready for the all-too-predictable backlash. Because Wilson didn’t explicitly mention race, he will cry foul and conservatives will attack Carter’s comments as – you guessed it – racist.

Interestingly, Maureen Dowd weighed in on this a day before Carter:

Wilson’s shocking disrespect for the office of the president — no Democrat ever shouted “liar” at W. when he was hawking a fake case for war in Iraq — convinced me: Some people just can’t believe a black man is president and will never accept it.

“A lot of these outbursts have to do with delegitimizing him as a president,” said Congressman Jim Clyburn, a senior member of the South Carolina delegation. Clyburn, the man who called out Bill Clinton on his racially tinged attacks on Obama in the primary, pushed Pelosi to pursue a formal resolution chastising Wilson.

“In South Carolina politics, I learned that the olive branch works very seldom,” he said. “You have to come at these things from a position of strength. My father used to say, ‘Son, always remember that silence gives consent.’ ”

…For two centuries, the South has feared a takeover by blacks or the feds. In Obama, they have both…

An interesting storyline here is the predominance of South Carolinians leading the charge against Obama. Dick Polman in the Philadelphia Inquirer takes us all down memory lane, in an article sure to be decried as more South Carolina-bashing.

“An anti-slavery senator from Massachusetts was nearly beaten to death on the Senate floor by a colleague wielding a cane. The assailant was Preston Brooks, from…surprise…South Carolina. Brooks became the Joe Wilson of his day. South Carolinians were so thrilled with his behavior that they showered him with gifts, especially new canes.”

Of course Polman discusses the Atwater playbook – which appears certain to play a key role in the upcoming elections of 2010 and 2012. With even minor school bus fights turned into race-baiting judgements on ‘Obama’s America’ by Drudge and Limbaugh, so much for the punditocracy’s eager predictions of a happy, Kumbaya-singing post-racial America.

Posted: September 16, 2009 Comments Off

On Tarantino, sadism, and morality in film

From a fascinating essay on Tarantino by Johann Hari:

“I don’t believe works of art should be ennobling. I don’t believe the heroes should be virtuous, or that bad characters should get their comeuppance. It can show deeply violent and deeply cruel people, and tell us that — as in real life — they can be charismatic and successful and never pay a price for their cruelty. But what it should never do is tell us that human suffering itself is trivial. It should never turn pain into a punch-line…

Not long after 9/11, Tarantino said: “It didn’t affect me because there’s, like, a Hong Kong action movie… called Purple Storm and they work in a whole big thing in the plot that they blow up a skyscraper.” It’s a case-study in atrophy of moral senses: to brag you weren’t moved by the murder of two and half thousand actual people, because you’d already seen it simulated in a movie. Only somebody who has never seen violence — who sees the world as made of celluloid — can respond like this.

Tarantino’s films aren’t even sadistic. Sadists take human suffering seriously; that’s why they enjoy it. No: Tarantino is morally empty, seeing a shoot-out as akin to dancing cheek-to-cheek. He sees violence as nothing. Compare his oeuvre to the work of a genuine cinematic sadist — Alfred Hitchcock — and you see the difference. Precisely because Hitchcock enjoyed inflicting pain, the pain is always authentic, and it is never emptied of its own inner horror.

And yet, and yet… I have to admit that part of me loves Tarantino’s films.”

Posted: August 31, 2009 Comments Off

More from Roger Ebert on Boogie Man and Death Panels

Roger Ebert wrote this in his Boogie Man review last year:

“A fascinating portrait of an almost likable rogue…It makes a companion piece to Oliver Stone’s W…a remarkable portrait…heartbreaking.”

Now he sees a connection to the health care debates:

“I saw a documentary last year about Lee Atwater, the strategist for the Reagan and George H. W. Bush campaigns, the mentor of Karl Rove and George Bush. The man was a brilliant creator of memes…He made “Willie Horton” a code term. He got many people to believe “Michael Dukakis opposed the Pledge of Allegiance.” He was capable of outrageous invention, as when about the Willie Horton ad he said with a straight face: “I don’t think a lot of Southerners even noticed there was a black man in that ad.”

Atwater might have been proud of “Death panels.” Those two little words have derailed the town hall meetings, by stirring up such unruly dissent that legislators have been shouted down by their own constituents…

Posted: August 19, 2009 Comments Off