Black Bart and the Unseen Enemy

Blazing_Saddles_inline_-_Gene_and_Cleavon.jpgI am a fan of “Blazing Saddles.” Yes, the 1974 movie about a black sheriff taming a Western town. There, I said it. It is one of my favorite movies concerning prejudice. It gives the lesson with a good spoonful of sugar. In case you missed it, the racial lessons are the medicine, and comedy is the sugar. Not to say that “Blazing Saddles” is perfect. For example, there is a lot of mockery of gays, especially gay men, plus tossing around of homophobic slurs. (Personally, I do not find them funny.) That is not to devalue the lessons in “Blazing Saddles.” As I said, it was made in 1974.

The warning of “Blazing Saddles” is that the societal ill of racism is elusive, and must be defeated in order to defeat the enemies. It is the fatal flaw that the townsfolk must overcome. The nature of the unacknowledged societal ill is plenty displayed. It works like a malevolent ghost, waiting for the right time to strike, and strike it does, in the form of the sheriff’s general treatment by the townsfolk. Of course, it takes the striking down of racism in the townsfolk’s hearts to save the town. Watch it for how it works.

Unfortunately, in real life, that ideal has not happened yet. It’s still 1874 in some people’s hearts. What some people think about racism – that it was over in 2008 – and what is going on – that it went underground only to resurface with some misguided permission – are markedly different. Racism is a poltergeist.

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