My wife asked me the other day why I like to watch disaster movies so much. No one in the world knows me better than she does, no one knows better the time and energy I’ve sacrificed to give my best effort to make at least some kind of small difference for the betterment of our collective future without the luxury of material compensation. So she was baffled that I could possibly take pleasure in the catastrophe and mayhem that would follow an asteroid pulverizing a good portion of our planet, or the unbridled chaos of an alien invasion bent on the extermination of our species, or the upheaval and anarchy that would ensue if a virulent plague would indiscriminately ravage the globe and rob us of society as we know it today. I would like to share my answer with all of you, with the hope that you may look at today with a slightly altered perspective, and that tomorrow, for all of us, will see brighter days to come.
Hollywood is masterful in the way it brings vivid imagery to our most primal fears, no one does it better. We’ve all had thoughts of “what if?” We’ve all wondered how humanity could possibly endure terrors of biblical proportions. We’ve all wondered if mankind would find a way to survive and how our civilization would look once we weathered the worst of the storm only to find that everything we know, everything we trust, everything we believe, has been turned inside out. We’ve all wondered how the human spirit would endure, how we would rebuild a new tomorrow when the comfort of yesterday was ripped from our grasp, how our most basic faith would survive.
It is the answers to those questions that magnetizes me to the genre. It is my unshakeable trust that goodness and decency would see their finest hour if we were left with nothing to depend on but each other, that’s what wills me to watch. It is my unwavering belief that collectively our moral compass doesn’t really need an arrow to point the way, that even without one we would all find ourselves instinctively stepping on the same path forward, that’s what keeps me coming back. It is my desire to see the superficial dividing lines of race, national origin, or religious beliefs get wiped away by the powerful tide of the oldest human condition, the basic need to survive, that’s what makes me gravitate to such tales.
History has tested us all before, and no nation, or empire, has ever been spared. We’ve seen hatred manifest in holocaust, we’ve seen tyranny evolve to genocide, we’ve seen arrogance unleash racism and sexism, we’ve seen heinous carnage in the name of the one thing that is supposed embody the best qualities of our character, religion, and somehow it continues to this day. Yes, we’ve seen the darkest sides of mankind.
But, when Hollywood decides to torment our psyche with visions of an apocalypse at our doorstep, we all know deep down inside what it will take to ensure the continuity of our very existence, a unified stand that coalesces around our better angels, finally free of the deeply etched lines that divide us from one another. To see that brought to glorious life on the sliver screen, that’s why I watch.
Lady Destiny knows our history too, but she gives us an opportunity every day to change our stars, she unrelentingly offers us her greatest treasure, the freedom of choice, and all of the magnificent possibilities that those choices could afford us if we choose to embrace the wisdom learned from past mistakes. The question today, and every day to follow, is what will we do with her gift?
America, today we find ourselves at just such a crossroad. While the ramifications of the calamities we all see heading our way daily may not be as instantaneous and awesome as a gargantuan piece of the heavens on a collision course with the blue planet we all call home, they could prove just as potent and lethal for far too many of us that find ourselves inching our way toward the edge of the abyss. If we choose to turn a blind eye once again, no soul will be left un-ravished, no individual will be untouched, and no dream will remain unscathed.
In 2008 we found ourselves gripped in the life and treasure-draining torment of two far-away wars, the materializing specter of another great depression, and the indignity of joblessness claiming more and more of our fellow Americans by the day. In 2008 I, and most of you, heard a man vocalize those fears, we saw a man with vision put his finger on the problems and fill us with the possibilities of hope for a better tomorrow. In 2008 we chose that man to lead our great nation, not unanimously of course, but with a strong democratic majority. In 2008 we reached for Lady Destiny’s gift and chose a new course, a course that was breathtakingly simple, a course that was achievable, a course that we knew was right.
When President Obama took the helm, our great American sailing vessel was already in the middle of the Bermuda Triangle and all of our navigation equipment was spinning out of control. But instead of giving our new captain the authority to chart the direction we chose him for, we got panicked by the rough seas and decided to turn on the emergency radio for assistance. For some reason we chose to tune in to the very same station that had landed us in that foul harbor to begin with, and the minority of doom-sayers started to feel empowered. All of a sudden, a crippling mutiny was, and still is, afoot.
To make matters worse, Main-Stream-Media decided to open that sinister channel on all decks with unparalleled volume, giving pure repetition the ability to masquerade as truth, no matter how much farther off course it would send us. I can only hope this deficiency of real truth won’t prove to be the 21st century version of scurvy that robs us of the strong-minded and able-bodied souls that we will need to man all the ropes and sails. After all, we are all in this boat together, and like it, or not, we will all be voyaging as one until we find a new port to shelter us from the storm, as long as we can avoid finding the bottom of the ocean together first.
When we voted Barack Obama into office, we knew he wanted to reform our health care system and make it work for every American, we knew he wanted to create a new future by creating millions of green jobs and breaking our dependence on foreign oil, we knew he wanted to make a world-class education accessible to every American without regard to their financial station in life, we knew he wanted to end the misguided war in Iraq and bring the fight to those that brought the fight to our soil instead, the ones hiding like cowards in the border regions of Afghanistan and Pakistan, we knew he wanted to lessen the influence of special interest money in Washington and bring transparency and accountability to the workings of government, and we knew it was the right thing to do, we knew it was the right choice. Why are we so busy now making the journey all the more difficult?
So I ask you America, what’s it going to be? Is our tale going to end in blackness and oblivion? Or are we going to follow the lead of the great patriots of our past that bled for us and gave everything they had to make this an epic tale about what’s best in each of us, a tale about compassion and spirit, a tale about courage and honor, a tale about self-sacrifice and perseverance that deserves to be called an American epic?
Scene one is about health care and it’s being written right now. What’s it going to be America? Will we fail under the self-imposed burdens of partisanship, or rise to the grander challenge together? Will we be blinded into tilting at windmills, or will we see clearly and overcome the real obstacles in our path?
Lady Destiny is waiting for our answer, for better or for worse. So, what’s it going to be?