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Small Wonders: Hopeful, defeated at the same time

July 14, 2012

I'm tired. So very tired.

You could say I'm mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore. But I won't be beckoning you to your windows to curse the world. I don’t know what good that would do anyway.

Some months ago, I told myself I was going to avoid writing politically charged columns because I’m the “feel-good” columnist and have a pathological need to be liked. A recent personality profile said my communication style was “considerate.”

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That may or may not be true. I don’t care, just so long as we all get along.

But then I watched the first episode of HBO's “The Newsroom.”

In the opening scene, cranky, disillusioned, centrist nightly news anchor Will McAvoy, played by Jeff Daniels, verbally tees off on a question posed by a sophomore coed at a college forum.

Her question: “Why is America the greatest country in the world?”

His frustrated, reluctant answer: “It's not.”

The sermon that follows is epic, honest, glib, inspiring and made perfectly for TV by a master of the genre, Aaron Sorkin. If you haven't seen it, a link to the full clip is on my website (below).

“We're seventh in literacy, 27th in math,” McAvoy rants. “Twenty-second in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality.... We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real, and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies.”

It’s a ludicrous question, posed by an American to Americans, serving only to incite chest-thumping jingoism with no basis in reality. It assumes we all already agree that America is the greatest.

“We sure used to be,” he finally adds. “We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons, passed and struck down laws for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were, and we never beat our chest.... We reached for the stars.... We didn't identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election, and we didn't scare so easy.”

At the risk of being branded unpatriotic, I find myself, philosophically at least, in the company of fictitious characters Will McAvoy and Howard Beale. But I'm not really mad. I'm something past mad.

I'm tired.

Tired of left versus right, red versus blue.

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