By compiling instances of the kindness and benevolence of masters, Phillips proved to his satisfaction that slavery was a mild and permissive institution.
—George Fredrickson and Christopher Lasch, “Resistance to Slavery.”
The Missing Scene from “Michaels - Despise your Feasts.”
A few things have stuck with me about the term “conservatism.” I think about the idea of the compassionate conservative, a term used by George W. Bush’s first campaign for president in 2000. When I heard this term I thought about a movie called “Betrayed,” starring Debra Winger and Tom Berenger. Based in the 1980s, the storyline was partly inspired by the rise of neo-Nazi/white separatist groups. One group that rose to prominence was “The Order.” The FBI investigated and found enough evidence to link them to charges of racketeering and the murder of the Denver “shock jock” Alan Berg.
The movie made me think about “compassionate conservatism” because of the purposeful way they portrayed Berenger’s character. He was a west Texan farmer who suffered during Reagan’s 1980s, a difficult period for the independent “Farm Aid” farmer. But a nostalgic view of things clouded the character’s view. He wanted things to return to the past. He believed in the myth of the American Dream and the reality of the 1980s had failed him.
Maybe, this is where I started with the character of Ian Michaels. How would I create a sympathetic character out of someone who was conservative? By definition, I didn’t think that a conservative was a bad person. Maybe I was particularly motivated by Berenger’s character. But I didn’t want readers to view Ian as a racist. But an awakening was required to show his displeasure with the direction of the U.S.
I created a scene during his imprisonment in the private jail, where he lashed out at the corporate security soldier and went into an expository story about his past. His life as a young man and his work during the “Dismantling Congress” of early “Tinsel Fortress Time” America. It was environmentalism that he railed against and the affairs of national politics, most definitely the “Mandate Acts.”
But I went back and watched some clips of “Betrayed” on YouTube. What I’d forgotten was the virulent racism of Berenger’s character. It wasn’t until I thought about the 2012 election and maybe what I had secretly hoped, that some of the white conservatives in America would actually come around and vote for Barack Obama.
What a pipe dream. The real face of “compassionate conservatism” is racism. Bush proved that, and acting compassionately towards bigots wasn’t anything I respected, let alone in the creation of one of my characters. Especially one I liked so much like Ian.
So, I dropped the scene, even though he said nothing racist. The subject of his rant was just too anti-government to me and I associate racist bigots with anti-government rants.
Ian Michaels isn’t a racist. That’s what he is going to end up fighting against.
Maybe I am being compassionate after all.
If you’re interested in reading this scene, it’s now online.