One of our cable channels (HLN, whatever that is) is running nonstop episodes of The West Wing, my #2 all-time favorite show. #1 is The Expanse, then The West Wing, and it’s a little murky after that. Maybe Yellowstone, maybe Breaking Bad, maybe the original Star Trek. Requires more thought than it’s worth.
But back to The West Wing. I hadn’t realized it until yesterday, but TWW is the thing that turned me from somewhat conservative, somewhat apolitical, into a card-carrying liberal. Watching just a couple of episodes, it was so obvious – all the thoughts and feelings I originally had came rushing back, and I remembered those times when I heard or saw something on the show and realized “yes, that’s the way it should be”.
The West Wing was wholly the product of Aaron Sorkin, and all the ideas and dialogue that came out of the characters’ mouths was his. So I guess Aaron Sorkin turned me into a liberal. This would have been in the late 90s and early 2000s, a period when I was doing a lot of soul-searching (longer story, not for the blog). Sorkin’s dialogue was smart, witty, fast and interesting. Watching it now, it still is captivating. And his vision for the role of government was, and still is, inspiring for me. Watching that show, for the first time I thought logically about the role of government, what it should and shouldn’t be. And it’s so simple. For a wealthy country like us, a country with massive resources, here are the simple instructions:
- If people are hungry, get them some food. Don’t debate, don’t delay, get some food to them.
- If people are sick, get them some health care. Don’t argue about whether they deserve it or can afford it, just get them access to care.
- If people are scared, do your best to reassure them. Give them facts, be straight with them.
- Do everything in your power to educate the country’s citizens.
- If people are at risk because their air or water or food or drugs are dangerous, fix that. Don’t let stupid/greedy/evil decisions by individuals or corporations put citizens at risk.
- If people are homeless, get them housed. Give them shelter.
- If the nation is under attack, defend it. And that includes borders – manage and control your national boundaries firmly but with compassion.
We don’t need government to stir us up, to pit us against one another. We don’t need government to define our culture for us. We don’t need government to build empires on other continents.
The West Wing was a fictional government with fictional politicians, but it’s still my ideal of how things could work. I know it’s a silly, somewhat naive dream, but I’m holding on to it.