Saturday, January 2, 2010

REEL and REAL Versions of Politics




Why can't real politics be more like reel?

"The world has been shaved by a drunken barber" says the Colonel (Walter Brennan) in the Frank Capra film "Meet John Doe." Brennan is the side-kick of Gary Cooper in this 1941 movie of common people and the power-hungry upper-crust during the Great Depression years.

In the film, a public relations scam to increase newspaper circulation, turns sour for Cooper's character, a humble, honest kid from the farm. Brennan's character wants to leave the city and the "heelots" (heels) he blames for the downfall of good people. The "heelots" are his name for people who are corrupted by wealth.

Which reminds me it is January again and time for the U.S. Senators to give themselves another raise. If no senator objects their raise is automatic. What a deal for our dedicated public servants. They care less that tens of thousands of Americans are out of work, laid off, and cheated by jobs going overseas. Blessed by Congress factories and jobs keep going overseas. No longer is just a profit acceptable, they must make mega-profits. They are top-notch "heelots."

The anti-establishment Brennan character fears his buddy Cooper is getting corrupted with the luxury and money. He tells Cooper, "You're gonna get used to a lot of stuff that's gonna wreck ya ... I've seen guys like you go under before, guys that never had a worry. Then they got ahold of some dough and went goofy ... and there you are – you're a heelot yourself."

The world of today is not that different from the 1941 film. The Colonel, a vagrant anti-social tramp, is skeptical of the power hungry, greedy "guys in charge." That attitude is growing in the hinterland. (Not the corporation-sponsored tea-bag parties – their anger is misplaced.)

Corruption and dishonesty, extra-martial affairs don't even get a powder-puff slap; no shame to having pockets bulging with re-election cash; no regulation laws enforced; ethics committees never meet; the legislatures give speeches to the walls; don't think for themselves and do little research or they would not say the things they do. (Molly Ivins has been gone three years this month. She said of Congress: "It is silly, vacillating, with no earthly idea what to do unless it has an opinion poll in front of it." Molly may be gone, but congress is as Looney as ever.)

Molly would have agreed with Thomas Carlyle, who said, "The greatest of faults, is to be conscious of none."

Remember the film, "Mr. Smith Goes To Washington," with Jimmy Stewart acting like a senator should act. Seventy years later this films reminds us our leaders need to have character and integrity. Alan Alda's 1979 film "The Seduction of Joe Tynan," reveals how extra-marital affairs ruin character and make them unfit to be trusted with affairs of state.

The 1948 film, "The State of the Union," revealed how the finest man seeking public service can be twisted, abused and used by those wanting to control. Fortunately Spencer Tracy comes to his senses before he is completely controlled by the greedy and powerful heelots.

Film classics, great theater, with hints to the wise for those who pay attention. Paraphrasing the "My Fair Lady" song "Why can't a woman be more like a man?" I ask "Why can't a the "real" public servants be more like the "reel" ones?"

E-MAIL: bet@suddenlink.net