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Johann Hari on Clint Eastwood's Gran Torino in The Independent:
In the endless babbling torrent of news, it's easy to miss the small signs of how a culture – and a country – changes. For me, a marker almost as sweet as a black man in the White House has just flickered into Britain's cinemas.
...This shift in one of America's greatest icons is – I think – a helpful, hopeful sign of the wider shift in American culture. Although it was obscured by the back-lash jolts of 9/11 and the Bush years, the US has been slowly becoming a more liberal and open-minded society. Look at the difference between the reaction to the My Lai massacre in Vietnam and the Abu Graib horror in Iraq. When My Lai broke – the deliberate massacre of a whole village, including children – 40 per cent of Americans defended it, and songs celebrating it topped the charts. When Abu Ghraib broke, only the madder fringes of talk radio praised it; more than 90 per cent were repulsed.
The old Dirty Harry racism and brutality is abating, as the country's great civil rights movements slowly win. Of course, that doesn't mean the actions of the government will necessarily follow Walt and public opinion. They are often driven by forces that aren't as accountable to democratic pressure, like corporate power, or the super-rich – but in time, they too can be eroded. If Inspector Harry Callahan can say sorry and change, anyone can.
Go ahead, America – make our day.