Mr. Smith Goes To Washington is a gem of a movie, a timeless cultural statement. It could have been written today, and it wouldn’t have missed a beat.
Watch it now, in the midst of everything that’s taking place, and we can clearly see how pervasive some of the problems facing us are, and how to deal with them. The ending of the movie may be — well, it’s a movie! But the lesson to take from this story is that there was life after it, and no doomsday, no collapse in the years during which the movie was shot, the era it so eruditely represented. The people of the day dealt with the problems at hand, admittedly not in a decisive and lasting manner — we wouldn’t be battling the same problems today if they had been successful — but the world didn’t shatter and end. It teetered on the brink of calamity for a while, balancing out in the end. For a while.
End-of-days scenarios. We’ve always dealt with them, fearing the apocalypse, religious or secular, man-made or nature-borne. Sure, one of these days — years — centuries — the predicted doomsday will stick. Like they say, the end must come in the end. Until it does, the clock ticks, time goes on, and life continues even when it seems to stall. The grind is as crucial a part of life as the glide.
Jefferson Smith found out the hard way (see clip below).
Same with us, the post-war generations, innocent and entitled as we are; we will sooner or later realize what it takes to keep our lives going. We will go to Washington and every Washington there is, where the swamp makers and the swamp ‘drainers’ conduct their dirty affairs, and we will have our voice heard because — remember! — the politicians and the free market will always follow public opinion, especially when fad turns into cultural value.
Value the principles of importance — the sanctity of high office, the lives of those who work with you or for you, the surrounding environment from which we draw life and resources, the sanctity of the press, the responsibility that comes with it, the power of a functional democracy versus a squabbling system of congressionalism-slash-technocracy — value the things that make life function and we are one step closer to defeating the graft, the slime, the filth, the lies and deceit that are once again crawling into our living rooms, threatening to take over our lives.
Mind you, they have been active for the past twenty to forty years or so, these factors of filth. Some believe they’ve always been around, always ready to infect the vulnerable parts of the system.
Time to kick them back into the bog from which they spilled, swamp makers and ‘drainers’ alike, laying the foundation for a political and cultural and economic system that will, even if for a short while, re-instil a sense of hope and goodness to the system at large, to the people that constitute it. Even if it’s all just window dressing, let it at least look and sound decent; appear to be working for the benefit of the average person, helping the disillusioned and embittered majority believe in the sanctity of humanity again, the one we have been systematically degrading with our wanton drive for short term gains at the expense of our legacy.
From your deliciously double-edged Spin Doctor,
Eyes open, mind sharp.
First published on Locomotive.
To combat the rise of unsavory characters in politics and culture we sometimes need to resort to fiction, tapping into popular narratives and imaginary stories to help us make sense of what is happening. The unsavory characters in our midst, especially those of high profile, we can bring about their demise by letting our minds envision a world able to grind them down, make them part of an entertainment cycle that uses them and spits them out, spent and forgotten. Itâ€™s even better if we refer to past culture, gaging where we’re coming from. History has a lot to teach us, if we pay attention. This piece is a sobering reminder that the political problems we are currently facing are not new, and that we should keep our wits about us, focusing on the tasks at hand until the bigots of the day are defeated.