By Jerry Waxman
Clint Eastwood defies description. Most people remember him as either the two fisted action hero of the 1960’s spaghetti westerns or as “Dirty Harry” Callahan. It’s easy to understand why; his characters embodied what frustrated people wanted to do when they sensed injustice. He was the next generation of hero as delineated by John Wayne. To be sure there are big differences between the two icons in both style and intent. Nobody would ever accuse Wayne of being the strong silent type that Eastwood would come to typify, and Wayne’s characters most of the time played by the rules. When they didn’t they were roundly punished for their indiscretions. Wayne’s characters paid the price for those indiscretions in films like Reap the Wild Wind, The Fighting Seabees, Wake of the Red Witch, The Sea Chase and The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Of all of Eastwood’s films I can’t recall his dying in more than two, whether his character deserved it or not. The only other major Hollywood star who died less, if at all was Cary Grant, but I digress.
There was much more to Clint Eastwood than being a mere actor. The part of him that I admired was his artistry as a director, and his passion for the arts, especially music. So, I found it intriguing that he even chose to speak, unscripted to an invisible representation of the president at the RNC. A man who appreciates and plays (rather well) the music of Charlie Parker, Bud Powell, Art Tatum, Oscar Peterson and others of that era should know better than to unintentionally and subliminally embody the main themes of Ralph Ellison’s landmark novel, Invisible Man, but he did, and not very well. That little bit sent an undeniably coded message to the 93% white voters in the Republican Party exactly why they should be voting for voter suppression policies, and why they should be denying any kind of social safety net help for anyone except themselves. What also intrigues me is that civil rights people have not picked up on this. Other than a fleeting reference on Melissa Harris Perry’s show on Saturday nothing else has been said about it. I’ve searched the major blogs and news services and I can’t find any mention of it.
I don’t believe that Eastwood is a bigot. I know his politics are conservative and that’s OK. I do question his judgment. It’s one thing to praise your nominee, but on live TV there’s no time for another take. He certainly didn’t do Mitt Romney any good and all he did was to reinforce the Republicans as a non-inclusive party. From what I hear, Romney and Co. wanted Clint the icon to speak. We’ll, they got what they deserved. Ralph Ellison is spinning in his grave.