Andy and I watched the new HBO/Aaron Sorkin show this morning at around six. It’s my favorite time of day. We brew a pot of coffee and enjoy the latest episodes of series that inspire us (mostly me) to hit the pause button every six or thirteen minutes to interject commentary. When the pilot of “Newsroom” ended, he raced off to get ready for work. So tonight was the first I could ask him, “What did you think of the show?”
He said he didn’t know if he’d changed or if Aaron had changed, but that it wasn’t fully working for him. We talked about this. And our discussion reminded me of how strongly I feel about a handful of things.
1. The whole idea of America being “the greatest country” on earth is idiotic and bogus at best, and rather akin to racism. Not to mention the fact that “America” is a really large place of which the U.S. comprises only a portion. Am I grateful that I was raised here? Of course. But it’s time for our culture to grow up beyond the fallacy that our nation is “the best”. Not to sound like a drama queen, but our survival (“our” meaning life on earth) depends on it.
If you watched the show, you’re thinking that I must have loved the opening monologue. It’s true; I did. I lapped up that line about incarceration and angels. I bought right into nearly everything out of Jeff Daniels’ mouth, even the part about how the U.S. used to be great.
Until Andy reminded me that — my words not his — that’s a bunch of bullshit, because . . .
2. There hasn’t been a time in Anglo history when the dominant forces on this land weren’t committing heinous acts: the genocide of the Native Americans, slavery, lynchings, internment camps, the Tuskegee experiments, drone missile strikes. . . What am I missing? There are plenty more examples. So the idea that the nation “used to be great” really depends on how “great” is defined.
3. I want the U.S. to be better than it is or has ever been and that doesn’t make me anti-American.
4. I want #3, not out of a sophomoric desire to compare areas on a map, but rather because if we were better, maybe we would stop doing so much damage. I feel (and I think I actually am) complicit in that damage, by the nature of being a voter and a tax payer here.
5. Speaking of taxes, how’s this for a dream? I want to pay taxes to a nation that won’t use the money to hurt living beings or the planet. Where can I go? If there answer is nowhere, if all governments do damage, then that’s all the more reason why the U.S. should strive to be different (i.e., better).
6. I want to contribute to a government that (to borrow and build on a phrase I saw at FB today) holds its bankers and oil producers to the same level of scrutiny as it holds citizens gathering in parks and driving on freeways.
7. I’m grateful to have discussions like this with my partner in our safe home. I know that safety isn’t free, and neither is freedom, but tossing out the rule of law and torturing people, and covering up that torture, and destroying the planet — none of that is going to make us any safer or more free in the long run.
8. I’m grateful that artists like me and Aaron Sorkin have freedom of expression.
9. I’m grateful that for right now, for my family and most of my friends, things are pretty wonderful.
10. I want a priority in my life to be helping beings for whom 8 & 9 aren’t true. But I don’t have the Nurse Gene and I’m becoming more curmudgeonly by the week. Plus, I dislike the way “helping others” has the real danger of being an act of assumed superiority. All this to say, I’m going to have to get creative.
One TV show and a discussion with Andy reminded me of all this? Not bad. Not bad at all.