Saturday, August 21, 2010

Day 135: Vote Santos today

“Brace yourself, this politician is about to tell the truth!” This was the tagline, or logline, for the 1998 film Bulworth, that starred Warren Beatty.

Then there was the whimsical Being There, the Peter Sellers film of 1979: “The story of a man who has been totally isolated in his life, living in a man’s house and tending to his garden. Upon his benefactor’s death the isolated gardener is thrust into the cruel world and by acts of fate he becomes a prominant and important celebrity. His opinions are sought, after all, he is oblivious to anything important. Now called ‘Chauncey Gardener, he becomes friend and confidante to and influential businessman and an unlikely political insider, his TV-informed utterances mistaken for profundity.”

I recall and mention these two politically refreshing films - both of which I like a great deal - because today is election day in Australia and, maybe naively, I’m looking for leadership from those I vote to represent me and for truth, even if it does come from an idiot savant. I’m looking for ideas that I cannot imagine, a vision for the future that I would like to live into. To quote Bobby Kennedy:

“There are those who look at things the way they are, and ask why...I dream of things that never were, and ask why not?”

Wisdom, sagacity, prescience and inspiration have been thin on the ground throughout the five-week campaign leading up to today’s vote, instead, what we’ve had in abundance, is blame, finger-pointing, mediocrity and prosaic politics.

Can I tell you what I want, what I really, really want (did I just channel the Spice Girls there?). What I dream of, is living in Series #6 and Series #7 of The West Wing. Where is Congressman Matt Santos (Jimmy Smits), where is Leo McGarry, CJ, Josh Lyman, President Josiah “Jed” Bartlett (Martin Sheen) and where, oh where is that man of conscience, Toby Ziegler, when you need him??!!

Indulge me; here’s some of Toby’s greatest hits:

“We’re not talking about the President going to Asia or the President going to Rwanda or the President going to Qumar. We’re talking about the President sending other people’s kids to do it.”

“If I were an actor or a writer or uh, uh, uh, a producer in Hollywood and someone were to start coming at me with a list of things that were American and un-American, I’d start to think that this was sounding eerily familiar.”

“I think it would be a good idea as a symbol to signal that China is serious about their relationship with us if they stop running over their citizens with tanks.”

“No, I’m disagreeing with you. That doesn’t mean I’m not listening to you or understanding what you’re saying - I’m doing all three at the same time.”

Towards the end of Toby’s time in the Jed Bartlett administration, he’s visiting his estranged wife and son, and even though they live in Washington, where the local baseball team is the Baltimore Orioles, Toby has brought his son a New York Yankees cap, telling him “I know you might not understand this right now but I just want to save you a lot of pain later in life.” I’m paraphrasing there, going off Series #7 recall, but hopefully you get the point.

When, as a dramatic writer, I need to be inspired by GREAT, thought-provoking and intelligent scriptwriting, I gorge on The West Wing. When I need to recall just how GREAT television can be, I consume episode after episode of The West Wing. When I need to believe that politics, elections, policy and politicians can be GREAT too, I turn to The West Wing.

Day #135 Tip: Watch The West Wing
That’s it, that’s today’s tip, the best advice or guidance I’ve got for anyone today, this election day in Australia, writer or no. Run to your local DVD supplier and grab armfuls of any of The West Wing that you can lay your hands on and stuff yourself full of this incredible series.

One final thought from the Oval Office. On the desk behind which Jed Bartlett sat for at least two terms of office, was this quote , on a small brass plaque:

“Oh Lord Your sea is so great and my boat is so small”

Hail to the Chief!

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