Frankly my dears (my column's dear, teeming readers) I do give a damn about where you stand on the pulsating issue of Gone With The Wind.
Controversially, Home Box Office (HBO) has for now dropped the film from its offerings. HBO decided that the enormous 1939 epic starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh is offensively racist, making it especially problematic right now. Everyone, everywhere seems to have a strong opinion about HBO's move.
This is because the film is so famous but also because one's opinions about allegedly racially offensive movies and shows (such as Gone With The Wind and as Chris Lilley's suddenly-controversial Jonah from Tonga) can strike us (deluding ourselves or not) as good, timely, instant, am-I-a-racist? litmus tests.
Millions are suddenly moved by this furore to watch the grand film for the first time ever or to watch it again for the first time in yonks. Your columnist is a first-time-for-yonkster and first-time-evers include The New Republic's excitable Drew Magary.
He opens his opinion-bristling piece with the admission, "Until this week, I had never seen Gone With the Wind. That neglect was one of the very few things keeping me feeling young at age 43. But then HBO temporarily pulled the movie from its streaming service last week to add an introduction that would provide vital context to a movie that is widely beloved but is also super racist."
For now I will keep my confused, seeing-it-for-the-fifth-time feelings to myself while urging you to enjoy the ripper read of first-timer Magary's polemic.
"I already noted that Gone With The Wind is super racist," he opens, "and that's not me being presumptuous. You know exactly what you're in for the second the preamble starts scrolling. Read it for yourself: 'There was a land of Cavaliers and Cotton Fields called the Old South. Here was the last ever to be seen of Knights and their Ladies Fair, of Master and Slave ... now it is no more than a dream remembered. A Civilisation gone with the wind.' "
What should interest (perhaps even torment a little) those of us who have sat through entertainments like Gone With The Wind without noticing/being appalled by things about it that are now appalling others is what our equanimity meant then and means now.
If Gone With The Wind really is super racist, was it ignorantly insensitive, even racist of us, not to notice or give a damn about it? Do these sorts of furores give us new, educated spectacles through which to see and judge these entertainments, perhaps bringing a flush of shame to our pale cheeks?
I am a leftist, bleeding-heart-on-my-sleeve kind of a person and in these statue-toppling times my wild side itches to join in some righteous statue-toppling.
But, alas, it cannot be.
For one thing it is a further testimony to how bland my city (Canberra, the federal capital city of Australia) is that there is somehow (in spite of Australian history and public life having a rich cast of glorified swine) scarcely a single statue here controversial enough to stoke any zealous fury in a thinking bosom. The chains with which one itches to tear statues down gather rust in Canberra activists' cellars.
But even if there were some topple-deserving statues here I doubt my tamed, thinking side would let my wild side savage them.
In these things my mind's tamed, refined side operates like the distinguished mind of Peter Hitchens writing about the new statue monstering in First Things.
Hitchens lives in statue-festooned Oxford and one of his neighbours is a statue, much menaced these days, of Cecil Rhodes that Hitchens says is "a rather ugly graven image of the businessman, politician, and philanthropist ... clutching a silly hat and looking a bit like a boxing promoter. You can almost smell his reeking cigar".
Hitchens' piece is a softly-spoken argument against the "incoherent" attitudes of statue-topplers and for leaving statues alone, however silly, however smelly the effigies' cigars.
"The Rhodes statue is controversial. Now it has a police guard. Not long ago a large demonstration ... gathered beneath it while shouting about decolonization, as if Britain still had an empire. Perhaps they wish it was so. People need enemies..."
With statues of the famous now menaced, Hitchens muses that "No doubt Rhodes, Churchill, and Lincoln said and did things that we might now think of as bad. Quite probably, like most humans, they did and said things that they themselves regretted and were ashamed of. But should they be hurled into the dust like some overthrown despot?
"I am no enthusiast for statues of slave-traders or Confederate leaders. But what do we gain by throwing them down? Only that cheap simulation of virtue, which comes from damning sins we have no mind to, while committing the ones we are inclined to."
Yes, if ever I find my frenzied legs driving me into my cellar to fetch the chains for a morning's exhilarating statue-toppling I pray my mind will intervene, say "Stop! This cheap simulation of virtue is unworthy of you!" and generally read me Hitchens' wise anti-riot act.