One of the movie's most unsettling notions is that good people are resented for their virtue. And because they make everyone around them feel even worse about themselves, they need to be taught a lesson.
In light of the last seven days or so in American politics, this resonates deeply with me. Falling off to sleep last night, I found myself wondering why it is that amoral politicians with atrocious service records, poor educations, utter contempt for the disadvantaged, etc. do so incredibly well when it comes to Presidential elections. I think it might just be because of the following things:
1. Who wouldn't like to wake up and find that they've won the lottery? Surely we can all sympathize with someone who woke up and found themselves elevated to national office, right? And wouldn't it be nice if we got free money from the state to sleep in our bed and eat our own food? Wouldn't it be nice to be beautiful? To stand in a room of thousands of people and be applauded? After all, if someone as ridiculous as Sarah Palin can make it to that level, then there's hope for all of us, right? Don't worry about education or achievement or hard work or self-sacrifice: if you can just convince other people of your value - without any facts or deeds to back it up - then you too can enjoy big cash prizes, get back at friends who have sex with your friends' wives, run up huge debts, you name it.
2. All of us are failures compared to someone like Barack Obama. We didn't edit the Harvard Law Review. We didn't write a bestselling book. We didn't pass legislation that effected actual, positive changes in people's lives. We didn't marry the hottest woman in all of Chicago (sorry, Oprah). We can't write speeches, much less deliver them. So what do we do when we meet someone like Obama? We try to feel better about it by finding reasons, however stretched or specious, to explain it all away. Isn't he shacked up with a terrorist from the 60s? Doesn't he want to teach kindergartners about using condoms to prevent chlamydia? Didn't a Serbian gangster give him a million dollars to buy a mansion in Chicago? And what about those ties to Farrakhan? None of it makes any sense logically, but emotionally, you bet, right? Because isn't that the only way any of us are comfortable with success - we have to explain it away by saying it came at the expense of someone else, right? Hey, at least I did anything as stupid as community organizing - if anyone ever tries to improve their own communities, they're just making me look bad, so fuck 'em.