Dunn’s Civics > Cinema Civics

Political Gridlock

“Storybook images are as indispensable to the basic human process of world comprehension and are the formulas of physical science or the nomenclature of social science.”

Albert Murray, The Hero and the Blues

The imagery of “Django Unchained” challenges the credulity of the viewer with the panorama of human bondage so vast as to resemble wildebeests on the Serengeti, with the merciless degradation of men in irons and women at whip and with a system of social control staffed by the selfconsciously helpless and ignorant--all governed by the honor of handshake.

To most viewers of “Django…” the insistence of Candie on a handshake to a formally consummated $12,000 deal was a mere theatrical device to set the scene for a fatal argument: for the observant student of civics, it is an insight to understanding America’s current political gridlock.

Handshakes sealed the deals in the slave states of 1858 America. Governments and courts were a redundancy where honor had to be satisfied with duels, justiciable causes of action notwithstanding. But government was less a redundancy than an impediment in the marketing of the human beings constituting the wealth of Texas, Tennessee and Mississippi. So government in the Ante-Bellum South was made weak and ineffectual, unrepresentative and blatantly duplicitous. The slave wealth of the American South, the greatest source of wealth in the United States in 1858 was transacted without regulation or transparency by a handful of men. Their motivation, incentives and tactics for maintaining their oligopic domination of their markets mirror those of the market barons who currently dominate American civic life.

Government in the South was expected to be out of sight and out of mind. So much so that three years after Django began his ride with Schultz, the Confederate States of America began its own four-year quest to free themselves (of the United States of America), but without the knowledge or will to form a government capable of sustaining itself. The South’s lost cause began and ended with its aversion to governmental power, even its own.

The menacing squalor of clan Stonesipher is another image that defined the 1858 South and informs the historical and current voting patterns of its politicians, Republican or Democrat. From the community of Stonesiphers emerged a brave fighting force for the Confederate States of America, whose constitution forbid the consideration of the General Welfare of the families the Confederate soldier left behind. The comparative statements of purposes of the warring factions of our Civic War demonstrate what Mr. Stonesipher was fighting for as well as what he was fighting against:


We the people of the United States, in order to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We, the people of the Confederate States, each State acting in its sovereign and independent character, in order to form a permanent federal government, establish justice, insure domestic tranquillity, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity — invoking the favor and guidance of Almighty God — do ordain and establish this Constitution for the Confederate States of America.

Mr. Stonesipher’s great, great grandsons and daughters now live in the North, the East, and the West, as well as the South. Wherever they live, they zealously reaffirm—and vote to prove it—their allegiance to the form of governance reflected in the vision of Confederate Preamble. In so doing, they look not to the powers they have as American citizens, to make their government responsive to their needs, instead they rely on Christian charity and the fall-out of their market.