Two movies and a thought….
On numerous occasions during the last year--and especially over the course of the last few weeks—I have been asked about the political situation in Washington. My response runs something like this: “I am laser focused on serving my people to the best of my ability and to do so with dignity, honor, and humility. I was elected to serve the people of the 99th District and that’s what I strive to do each and every day. Therefore I cannot render a truly well-informed opinion.”
However, there are times, (late at night typically), when I will awake and think deeply about our direction, our journey and our purpose. It does bother me. It bothers many. And we search for answers.
Recently, two movies were released that Nancy and I both wanted to see: Midway and It’s a Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. It is very strange that we found ourselves at the theatre separated by only five days’ time--but the times themselves are strange indeed.
As a former history teacher (and the son of a WW II Navy veteran of the Pacific theatre), Midway, provided a cinematic glimpse into a pivotal time in our nation’s past. Nancy’s father also served during the war, (he with the Seabees in the Aleutians) and hence, our personal tie to the storyline.
Watching the drama unfold on-screen, I was again reminded of the deep reservoir of courage that was required in combat. Like those who fought in earlier conflicts (and those who currently serve) courage, coupled with a selfless sense of sacrifice for the common good, produces an esprit de corps which is infectious, motivating, and oftentimes, triumphant.
Similarly, in the face of our political confusion, friction, and doubt, we must draw upon that same courage and our innate sense of selfless service to find purpose and meaning to our shared experience. Rather than the rampant narcissism and the callous lack of humility that seem to permeate our modern culture, are we not stronger and better when we sacrifice for others to achieve goals which benefit all and to do so with a deep sense of humility? Is this not one of the many lessons we should have learned from the Greatest Generation?
Selfless sacrifice. Service to others. Humility in all things. Are these not essential to finding our personal and collective meaning and purpose for life? Are these not at the very core of the great American experience?
Fred Rogers was a product of this time period. Born in 1928, he lived through the Depression and WW II -- two seminal time periods that would shape his inner self and with it, his world view and vocation.
For generations of young people, Mr. Rogers was the calming voice of reason—an adult who would take the time to address those thoughts, fears, and anxieties, that all of us face from time to time. All were welcome in The Neighborhood, all were accepted. Watching Tom Hanks brilliantly portray Mr. Rogers was like watching an artist at work or a musician in performance. He became the television icon beloved by many.
It was, of course, a simpler time in life for us—or so it seemed. But not so fast. The Neighborhood survived through the Vietnam War, the assassinations of Dr. Martin Luther King and Bobby Kennedy, Watergate and Nixon’s resignation, the Iran hostage crisis, the Gulf Wars, and Clinton’s impeachment. Surely even with the War on Terror and the pending impeachment, The Neighborhood would provide a place of refuge for our children (and adults as well), if we could but hear the voice and message of Mr. Rogers once more. One can, and does hear that voice, through Tom Hanks’ portrayal:
So let's make the most of this beautiful day,
Since we're together we might as well say,
Would you be mine?
Could you be mine?
Won't you be my neighbor?
And so we can, and shall, emerge from the current shadows of despair, I would argue, if we but remember the lessons which flavored both Midway and The Neighborhood. We must summon our inner courage and sacrifice self for the greater good and along the way, accept all, embrace all, and love all, for we share this journey of life together—during good times and bad—but together, to make the world a better place now, and for future generations, as we write our own chapter in the unfinished story of our great democratic experiment.