They used to make miracles come true.
I walked in the door, home from harvest for the evening, and came face to face with a 76 year old Hollywood miracle. I know, the wonders they create are only dreams, but every time Mr. Smith Goes to Washington on the living room TV set I have to stop and think.
Most of us know the story of Smith, the naïve young leader of a group known as Boy Rangers. To the rich men Smith seems harmless enough to be appointed to fill a vacancy in the US Senate, but suddenly, we realize he has heart.
Smith has a boyhood hero, an idol and friend of the family, the other Senator from his state who turns out to be corrupt, in the pocket of a big businessfunded political machine. The choice is made simple for Smith; bow to the will of the high and mighty, leave his principles behind for his own benefit–or fight for the people.
After listening awhile to my favorite movie I turned to my wife and asked, “Are there any great Americans today?” I once felt the same way Smith did when he first saw the Capitol dome. “Look” we both said, “there it is!” Neither Smith nor I could wait to go there, to visit the vast home of Democracy that is Washington, DC. It took me 70 years more to visit than Smith in 1939.
But today after several more stays, for some reason the Capitol seems smaller.
When ‘Smith’ was made in 1939 America was climbing out of a hole just about as deep as the one we’re in now. It’s true, dust clouds don’t darken the southwestern sky today like they did in the dirty 30’s, and bread lines don’t form outside soup kitchens. But in these modern times it’s as bad it’s ever been. I’ve read the history books. I know that monopolies, crooked bankers, and political bosses were around then just as they are now. And now just as then, America needs real heroes.
A real hero looks adversity in the eye without blinking. A hero has to be willing to run into a burning house to save the baby even if it means he himself burns. Heroes find cures, and invent new ways to do old things, better, without the promise of wealth and power but instead inspired by the good they can do.
Heroes are people who’ll give others the benefit of a doubt but not a free pass. Heroes hold doors for those behind them and smile at strangers and grimy kids. Heroes don’t measure themselves against others but against a yard stick each one carries deep inside. It’s called character.
Heroes aren’t only soldiers or firemen or cops, they’re kids who choose not to smoke or take drugs or use foul language even though their peers do. Heroes are drivers who stop at crosswalks, not just for people but dogs and squirrels too. Heroes show respect for other people’s views even if they aren’t their own, and when people take liberty for granted, heroes remind them that all our freedoms in America were purchased with toil’s sweat and the blood soaked tears of patriots. When times call for it, real heroes renew our freedoms the same way.
They pay for it, but in a Democratic America, we must earn it every day.
We have a great debate going on in our nation right now. I want to see our leaders put themselves on the line. I don’t want canned political rhetoric. I want to see Mr. Smith stand before the Senate to defend right from wrong. I want to see a battle to the finish where pro and con is discussed openly without cunning design or lie. I want my leaders to debate directly on issues, not through sound bites or character assassination.
I want to hear someone tell me how it is that the minimum wage is bad even though both Mom and Dad have to work to support their family. Tell me why it is we blame people for high credit card debt without giving them any alternative to paying bills. Is a lower minimum wage, or no minimum wage at all, an answer to that? I want to have it explained why the same people who supposedly take too much for their single digit hourly employment must work for CEOs who are paid thousands of times more, even though these same CEOs fail
to deliver company profits to shareholders that any recent MBA graduate from India probably could.
And after the banking collapse, when people lost billions and the government backed that loss with billions more–at the behest of a Treasury Secretary named Paulsen who made his fortune as one of those overpaid CEOs–I want to know why privatizing Social Security and placing it into the same flush hands that ruined our economy is a great idea.
Make it clear to me why the well-to-do have unlimited access to doctors, hospitals, and treatments while poor men can only choose the way they die.
Someone tell me please, why is job killing “FreeTrade” that floods America with imports at a time when we need to reindustrialize our country, more important than Fair Trade that guarantees the safety of US consumers. Fair trade offers quality goods instead of quantity contamination mandating safety laws with their origin in Chinese lead paint, dioxin, and melamine poisons.
I wonder, what would the leader of the Boy Rangers say to that?
After years of ignoring laws passed for good reason, laws like the Packers and Stockyards Act that gave independent family farmers and ranchers access to fair markets for their livestock right here at home, I’d like to hear a Smith wannabe explain why monopolies are now acceptable as food prices creep higher.
I’d also like to hear every candidate explain every political donation they receive above $100 by line item, and why they think millionaires and corporations would spend that much just to help them.
The wealthy and powerful who would own us are not like us. They’re like politicians who evaluate personal risks.
Heroes weigh the costs of inaction that will be borne by us, the people.
Not a single member of Congress can lay claim to perfect innocence. But still, I want to see a real life Smith. I want to hear as he shouts himself hoarse, cries with anger and alarm, lays himself bare to criticism and scorn. I want him to stand for his beliefs explaining each one in great detail ‘till he can stand no more. I want to see him collapse exhausted from the effort. I want him to make himself vulnerable to me and American voters who will judge him right or wrong, good or bad, rebel, stooge….or maybe even hero.
And then I want to decide the answer to the question: “Are there any Great Americans today?”RO