An interview with Sarah Churchwell on Gone with the Wind, the Lost Cause and Donald Trump – Baptist News Global

Those of you reading this column I know that I study culture, religion and political life to find the stories that American people shape their lives, and I pay attention to questions of race and morality. zero. Knowing that, it’s no wonder I jumped at the chance to be in London. Spectator asked me to write about the new book The Next Wrath: Gone With the Wind and the Lies America Tells by Sarah Churchwell. Not even when it was revealed to be a unique, clever and terrifying book, a book that had already been announced as an American story told by the nation, I wanted to talk to the author.

Sarah Churchwell

Sarah Churchwell is an American scholar and author of Here’s America: A History of Early America and the American Dream a The Careless: Murder, Mayhem and The Invention of The Great Gatsby. He holds a chair in public understanding of the humanities at the University of London, and although he is busy with the British launch of a new book, he is happy to answer my questions. question about the object. Hate comes teach us about fighting the past and saving the present. There is wisdom in this book, and in these answers.

Greg Garrett: Sarah, you argue that Gone with the wind It is a powerful reflection of America’s past and present. You developed that argument in your new book, but could you briefly explain why you think the 1936 novel and the 1939 film are making our point? And how can understanding the dos and don’ts of this story help us understand some of the major flaws in the American mind?

Sarah Churchwell: It’s one thing that blows our mind and that’s another arrest Our mind — it registers America’s stories about itself and the will to push those stories, the desire to maintain our sense of self at all costs, perhaps the greatest desire. very.

It’s a piece of American history that says slavery wasn’t all that bad, that white people were the real victims of the Civil War and its aftermath, and that it justifies the desire to restore it. and rebuild white power at any cost. It is an idealistic view of wealth, which separates black Americans and their role in our national history, and defends against white narcissism, asserting the rights and interests of white people continue to create and define American history, society and institutions of power.

GG: Your epigraph no Hate comes from James Baldwin, who alternated between writing about America across the ocean and returning to America to work for civil rights. Like other American literature from across the ocean, has America failed you in the best way possible by staying away from it? What can you learn about America by living in England?

SC: Another American friend of mine in England called it a “stereo” way of hearing America, which I really liked: inside and outside, at the same time. We can hear both opinions, understanding where Americans come from, but we know for sure how our country is perceived by the rest of the world.

Now, it is known (in Europe, at least) as a madhouse. What you learn from living in other countries is that your way of life is not the only way, everything that seems real and visible to you is not real and uncertain and impossible. protected. There are other ways of organizing society and other economic systems and other models and many of them have created more stable and stable organizations than the United States are now demanding.

In terms of English, I see the points of convergence and difference between American and English society. I could go on for hours about them.

GG: You argue – and I did the same – as chaotic as the movie Gone with the wind perhaps, it is also important that we study and discuss. How do conversations about the film (and about your book) engage white Americans to discuss issues of race and American history? What movies or TV shows do you think of as part of that process?

SC: I hope that is the theme Gone with the wind in looking at critical history and debating it – instead of saying “he’s racist” or “he glorifies the Old South” or “continues the Lost Cause” but dives deep in the way I did, to separate fact from fiction and take a long, hard look at the facts – can encourage white Americans to face our past.

On December 19, 1939, a crowd gathered outside the Astor Theater on Broadway for the New York premiere of “Gone With the Wind.” (AP Photo)

We really lie about our past to ourselves – not only about slavery, but as I show about the history of American fascism as well, about the Confederates who left America after the war (how many Americans know that history, the establishment of America in Brazil. as a slave trade, or efforts to re-impose slavery in Mexico , or the relations with Mussolini two generations later that I will discuss in my book?) divisions we have, what they are about, and can help us think about things what we need to do to defeat them.

For me the other obvious book to do this with To Kill a Mockingbird, is more self-congratulatory, mythologizing and outright false about the reality of American life in Alabama in the 1930s than readers are willing to admit – because they like it. But the reason is deceptive.

I’d love to hear what books you bring into the group. I mention a few things in my book that I think deserve to be seen again because of what they say about these issues, including George Schuyler’s interesting and very memorable. There is no black and Nathanael West Day of the mothbut I’ll take Faulkner too, myself – Absalom, Absalom! It is a clear book to teach Gone with the wind because they tell the same story in the same age in completely opposite ways. It speaks to the importance of close reading; But like I said, I’d love to learn what other books people are learning with this one.

GG: Absalom It’s an important text to me for good reasons as you can see, and because Baldwin approached Faulkner with great imagination, seeing the best and the best in him and his work.

But now: Donald J. Trump seems to some people to be a kind of radical carved out of the best American stereotypes, but your book shows that he and his ideas are shows that it is deeply American. What is learning? Gone with the wind teach you about how someone like Donald Trump can rise to power?

SC: I’ve always thought that Trump is a white person who is America’s id writ large – not our best stereotypes, but our best ideas, which as a society we have worked together to suppress. . But when things broke – and they did break – it was the biggest, best brand that slipped through the cracks.

For me, Gone with the wind captures Trump’s attention to the fact that Scarlett and Rhett are players and cheaters in the most serious ways – for No. Margaret Mitchell portrays Scarlett as a sometimes-confident liar, and in particular, Trump. But Scarlett is the protagonist, although Mitchell considered her to be an anti-heroine and said that she did not say much about the nature of the race that they admired her so much. You can say the same of Trump.

GG: Do you have any hope that the “good angels of our nature” can be found in the right places? What have you learned about how we can stop saying “Tomorrow is a new day” and focus on the hard work of building a good team?

SC: Well, I hope that my book will show how dangerous and futile it is for society to think that it can sustain results. You can’t, and I think what’s happening in America today shows the truth of that idea. The chickens are coming home to roost, but as a team we’re throwing a lot together.

Denial is perhaps our greatest race, and Gone with the wind example. Can we stop denying reality and truth and start dealing with it? I don’t know – at this point I wouldn’t say the signs are very good – although it will be interesting to watch the January 6 hearing to move that needle.

The truth is coming out, despite the efforts of some very powerful people to deny it, and some of those truths are standing. Can we always do that? I don’t know if we can, but I know we must if we are to survive as a democracy.

Greg Garrett

Greg Garrett Carole McDaniel Hanks Professor of History and Culture at Baylor University and canon theologian for The American Cathedral in Paris. One of America’s leading voices on religion and culture, he is the author of more than two dozen books, mostly now in conversation: Rowan Williams and Greg Garrett a A long, long way: Hollywood’s never-ending journey from adventure to compromise. He currently holds a research grant on racism from the Eula Mae and John Baugh Foundation and has written a book on racial history for Oxford University Press. Greg is a seminary-trained priest in the Episcopal Church and a canon theologian at the American Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in Paris. He lives in Austin with his wife, Jeanie, and their two daughters.

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