Django Unchained has brought D. W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation back to the fore. Richard Brody calls it disgustingly racist yet titanically original:
The movie, set mainly in a South Carolina town before and after the Civil War, depicts slavery in a halcyon light, presents blacks as good for little but subservient labor, and shows them, during Reconstruction, to have been goaded by the Radical Republicans into asserting an abusive dominion over Southern whites.
I don’t think you need to be “disgustingly racist” to see recently freed slaves “as good for little but subservient labor,” and it seems perfectly natural that such recently freed slaves would “have been goaded by the Radical Republicans into asserting an abusive dominion over Southern whites.” The North won the war, after all.
The movie asserts that the white-sheet-clad death squad served justice summarily and that, by denying blacks the right to vote and keeping them generally apart and subordinate, it restored order and civilization to the South.
I think both sides, at the time, agreed that the South needed to restore order and civilization. The powerful Northern Republicans wanted radical reconstruction, and the powerless Southern Democrats wanted a straightforward restoration of their old way of life — which they did not get.
I can imagine the Sunnis in Iraq feel the same way.