Legendary Pictures biopic of Jackie Robinson – “42” opens in theaters today – but the New York Times already tells you everything you think it needs to know about the iconic baseball player who reshaped the country’s sports and cultural landscape, had such an impact on the game that his number was retired for all teams forever, and basically stands as a symbol of truth, justice and the American way.
“… Robinson was a committed Republican who campaigned for Richard M. Nixon in the 1960 presidential election.”
That was the stunning revelation in last Sunday’s preview of the movie. If it’s not clear exactly what that has to do with the merits of the movie (not much, apparently), Robinson’s merits as a ballplayer (nothing), or his measure as a man (even less), it is very clear it has everything to do with how the New York Times sees American history, politics and all times, past and present:
Republicans are bad.
And a black Republican – one who campaigned against the patron saint of American liberalism, no less – is inconceivable. (“Complicated” is the word in the piece, but that’s NYT humor. Its intellectual-lib readers will know what it means, and grin wryly.)
The preview stresses parts of Robinson’s autobiography that show him an angry man, writing in 1972 that he could not “stand and sing the anthem. I cannot salute the flag; I know that I am a black man in a white world.”
This is America. You can stand and sing the anthem or not, if you don’t want to. You can salute the flag or not, it’s up to you. (You can also, if you’re an American hero, make a bucket of money telling people how much you don’t want to do either.)
The only thing that’s truly unforgivable, according to the New York Times, is being a black man who campaigns for Republicans.
It’s too complicated.