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Nancy Mace And The Red Badge Of Courage
Teachers leave Nancy Mace alone!
It is so NICE to be writing a post about Famous Literature that for once isn’t about said Literature being pulled out of school libraries by rightwing “concerned parents.” Instead, it’s just an unrelated rightwing idiot making a damn fool of herself with a literary reference! That would be, as Stephen discussed earlier, Rep. Nancy Mace (R-South Carolina), who emerged from a meeting of House Republicans yesterday wearing a T-shirt with a bright red “A” on it, in a very straightforward sans-serif font that looked like it belonged on Sesame Street, or on an anarchist. Is it an Anarchist A, or A for Antifa? No. Here she is, explaining that she supports Jim Jordan for House speaker, and why she went to school and she got the big A.
We decided to go with this Forbes video because obviously I am typing up their YouTube chyrons and captions now: “Scarlett Letter” and “Hosue Republican Speaker Contest.”
Mace explained that she’d chosen the shirt as a statement of proud defiance to those who would try to cancel her by criticizing her vote to oust Kevin McCarthy:
I’m wearing the scarlet letter after the week I just had last week being a woman up here and being demonized for my vote and for my voice. I’m here to let the rest of the world know and the country know I’m on the side of the people. I’m not on the side of the establishment and I’m going to do the right thing every single time, no matter the consequences ‘cause I don’t answer to anyone in DC, I don’t answer to anyone in Washington, I only answer to The People.
In the video, you can actually hear Mace capitalize the last two words.
We are pretty certain that if Nancy Mace has ever read Nathaniel Hawthorne’s 1850 novel The Scarlet Letter, or even seen the hilariously bad 1995 Demi Moore movie what was “freely adapted” from it, she has forgotten most of what’s in it. Heck, she could have even watched that movie Rebecca likes, with the redheaded girl in the Ojai high school and Stanley Tucci is nice dad and the guy from Wings is the teacher whose wife Lisa Kudrow is fucking the high school boy. Easy A, that’s the one.
The point here is that in the real Scarlet Letter, Hester Prynne is imprisoned, literally pilloried in the town square to shame her, and then formally shunned for birthing a babby outside the bonds of holy matrimonylock. For the rest of her life, she must wear a bright red “A” on her bosom, or at least on the bosom of her raiment, to mark her forever as an adulterer, and no she did not get any clever ideas about adding a plus sign to it, either, smartass. But she did make the embroidery all fancy, so high schoolers a century later could copy stuff about its symbolism from the Cliffs Notes.
Now, it’s true that in the novel, being an outlaw in the eyes of the world grants Hester a certain kind of freedom, as Hawthorne wrote:
But Hester Prynne, with a mind of native courage and activity, and for so long a period not merely estranged, but outlawed, from society, had habituated herself to such latitude of speculation as was altogether foreign to the clergyman. […] Her intellect and heart had their home, as it were, in desert places, where she roamed as freely as the wild Indian in his woods. For years past she had looked from this estranged point of view at human institutions, and whatever priests or legislators had established; criticizing all with hardly more reverence than the Indian would feel for the clerical band, the judicial robe, the pillory, the gallows, the fireside, or the church. The tendency of her fate and fortunes had been to set her free. The scarlet letter was her passport into regions where other women dared not tread. Shame, Despair, Solitude! These had been her teachers,—stern and wild ones,—and they had made her strong, but taught her much amiss.
Now that’s some Romanticism with a capital A, plus of course it reduces indigenous people to metaphors, because what else was a white guy writer in 1850 going to do, write them as complex human characters? Come on now.
So yeah, cast out of society, Hester earns through her ordeal the clarity to recognize those who judge and oppress her for the fools and hypocrites they really are. Also, Dimmesdale’s an asshole.
No, that’s not really at all analogous to Nancy Mace being called names for voting to fire Kevin McCarthy, however much she wants to pretend she’s made it through the wilderness, somehow she made it through, and now she feels all shiny and new and ready to “stand up for what’s right” “no matter what,” and she will be the champion my friend. She will stand her ground and won’t. back. down.
If Hester Prynne had simply been subjected to people saying a few mean things about her, she probably would have been OK with that, moved on, and gotten her realtor’s license so she could flip fixer-upper homes in the Massachusetts Bay Colony.
“This is my signal to others that I don’t answer to anybody up here,” she said. “I only answer to the people back home. And I don’t care what you throw at me. I don’t care what the establishment throws at me.”
It was, you might even say, her fight song, her take back her life song, her prove she’s all right song.
She went on to insist that the A was also definitely not for Attention-seeking, because she is already incredibly sought out by both South Carolina and national media outlets who beg her to share her opinions please if she would:
“I turn down more interviews than I actually do. And I don’t need to be performative,” Mace said, “because I am a serious legislator.”
Serious legislators always do serious things like very well-thought-out references to American Literature, like that time Michele Bachmann gave a speech condemning gay marriage while wearing a novelty “Spouter Inn” tee from New Bedford. (No that didn’t happen, I made it all up.)
When the Post and Courier pressed her on why she didn’t think the stunt was performative at all, Mace said she just wanted to send a message to her colleagues, which is somehow not the very definition of a performative act.
“I’m always going to do the right thing, no matter what. It’s what they taught me at The Citadel — that I will deal with the consequences and dive into it; and I’m not going to back down,” said Mace, who in 1999 became the first female cadet to graduate from the military college in Charleston.
See? Just like Hester Prynne, who acted at all times like the hero leader she was trained to be, but also a rebel who can’t be silenced.
While she was at it, Mace added that her constituents constantly told her that she was absolutely right to have voted out McCarthy, and that they appreciate her stand on banning abortion. Here, we feel we needn’t even bother highlighting the obvious parallels to Hawthorne’s heroine, whose views were immensely popular with the people who mattered most, no matter what the bigwigs in Washington might say.
And really, what could be more antiabortion than having a child out of wedlock to constantly remind Hester of her sin? Her daughter, Pearl, is described by Hawthorne as “the scarlet letter endowed with life,” so we bet Mace is probably looking to keep her shirt close to her as a symbol of her shame too. No, wait, of her pride in never being vanquished, that’s it.
Like we say, it’s nice to write about books that are merely being made ridiculous instead of banned. Next up, our spectacular compare-and-contrast essay on Javert’s pursuit of that bread-stealin’ Valjean guy with Republicans’ efforts to bring Joe Biden to justice for liking dogs — not only in Hawaii but also in Ireland!
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We’ve had quite a day, haven’t we? Let’s make like Joe Biden and have an early lid OPEN THREAD!