All the fuss about Clint Eastwood's performance art piece at the Republican National Convention got me thinking less about empty chairs and invisible adversaries, as intriguing as they are, and more about some of the great anti-authoritarian moments in Eastwood's movies over the years. One of my favorite, perhaps because I love grand and futile gestures, is Lone Watie's monologue right after he meets Clint's Josey Wales in The Outlaw Josey Wales. Played by the always excellent Chief Dan George, Lone Watie packs plenty of punch into a few spare sentences.
I wore this frock coat to Washington before The War. We wore them because we belonged to the five civilized tribes. We dressed ourselves up like Abraham Lincoln.
You know, we got to see the Secretary of the Interior. And he said, "Boy, you boys sure look civilized."
He congratulated us and he gave us medals for looking so civilized.
We told him about how our land had been stolen and how our people were dying. When we finished he shook our hands and said, "endeavor to persevere!"
They stood us in a line: John Jumper, Chili McIntosh, Buffalo Hump, Jim Buckmark, and me — I am Lone Watie. They took our pictures. And the newspapers said, "Indians vow to endeavor to persevere."
We thought about for a long time. "Endeavor to persevere." And when we had thought about it long enough, we declared war on the Union.
Even when your act of resistance is doomed before the fact, sometimes you've just had enough smoke blown up your ass and you need to do something to make your point. Lone Watie's character appeals to me so strongly because his fatalism never stands in the way of his willingness to do what he sees as the right thing.
Unfortunately, history suggests that Americans have a very high tolerance for smoke. So, until enough people get tired of … well … looking so civilized, enjoy yourself a little Lone Watie from a movie that's near and dear to me. (Note to the usual suspects: I'm not suggesting that "the right thing" is declaring war on the Union. So there.)