The Bare Bodkin

Scarlett and Michael

The other night, while watching The Godfather on television for roughly the 50th time, I was struck by a parallel that had never occurred to me before.  The movie’s sentimental musical score reminded me of “Tara’s Theme” in Gone With the Wind.  My mother used to whistle that melody all the time; she loved the book, the movie, and Scarlett O’Hara.  I never quite grasped why Gone With the Wind had such a hold on her imagination until that moment.  Then, in a flash, I saw.

Both films were enormously popular in their day and long afterward.  Each embraced a somewhat disreputable side of American life with unexpected sympathy: the Sicilian mob, the slaveholding Southern Confederacy.  And the two stories—comprising not only the films but also the novels they were based on—appeal strongly to the feeling that life was better in the old days, a lost era when heroic action was still possible and the individual was not yet dwarfed and crushed by the bureaucracy that goes by the name of Democracy.

Democracy?  Face this simple fact: It is exceptional in modern times to deal with an elected official in person.  You are far more likely to encounter, and to be visited at home by, an unelected official of the vast state bureaucracy whose mission is to enforce your compliance or collect your taxes, with no pretense of being your servant. ...

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