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A West Wing Tour

It really makes me think, while watching a television series from ten years ago, how little we have changed and I have to wonder if progress really is always possible.

I recently started re-watching the entire West Wing series. I had forgotten how much I sincerely appreciate this show. The writing and acting is just outstanding. About 20 episodes per season for 7 seasons and each one is just as good as the last. Also, it is more fun watching now that I know and care significantly more than I did back then.

One thing I find very disheartening, however, is that this show, a decade after it was produced, is in-your-face proof that we are simply not progressing as I would have hoped. We are socially stagnant; perhaps even regressive in some instances. Fighting the same battles, arguing the same issues – we cannot seem to get anywhere with two diametrically opposing sides. Each holds onto their fundamental beliefs so tightly that we have become stuck in this never-ending tug of war.

Opinions over social beliefs and the desire of some to legislate morality will forever be a personal struggle not to mention conflictions with our families, our communities and certainly, our government. Abortion, death penalty, war…it is not difficult to comprehend the sensitivity of these topics or why they will always beget diametrically opposing views.

But there are times when I truly have a hard time understanding why certain arguments still exist and persist. Gay rights, healthcare, public education – to name a few. I will never fathom why a person is threatened by the love lives of others. I find it confusing that people do not see the great benefits to a healthier country. And I will probably always be astounded when I am reminded that there are people who hold little value in an educated population.

Nonetheless, as I have been re-watching these episodes, I cannot help to wonder if – when it comes to certain issues – we will ever evolve and progress.

Below are a few scenes which made me think about the fact that some battles will likely never be won because we still collide over them just as much today, if not more, than we did a decade ago:

Death Penalty

In this clip, The White House Communications Director has a conversation with his Rabbi about capital punishment.  

From the same episode, The President speaks to his priest after his decision not to pardon an inmate about to be put to death.

During this episode, it was easy to see the challenges with this subject. While the writing did have a liberal slant, The President still made his choice and did not interfere with the execution.

As hypocritical as it seems, as wrong as it feels – many people can recognize both sides of the argument when imagining themselves in horrible circumstances. But the truth is, for the most heinous crimes – those worthy of capital punishment sentences – this is not a deterrent. And it is certainly not rehabilitation. Therefore, it is revenge and punishment. Period. And we really need to ask ourselves if any one of us should have THAT much power.

Education

In this clip, The Deputy White House Communications Director explains his views on education.

In this clip, The President gives a speech on education shortly after a school shooting.

While vouchers are mentioned once or twice in the series, I have to wonder how many people truly realized the enormous push for privatized education we would soon expect. I wonder if they would have predicted the war on public educators. I wonder if they could see the dismantling of the public school system on the horizon. I think the corporate ambition to privatize schools is one of the foundational pillars on which the extreme right wing and Tea Party build – it may even be their ultimate goal. And I think it is pretty frightening.

Mr. Taxman

In this clip, The Assistant to the President gets a harsh lesson in tax returns.

In this clip, Chief of Staff to the President explains the Progressive Tax.

They say the only two certain things in life are death and taxes. I think we can add to that – debating about death and taxes. Whether we go to heaven when we die or simply rot in the ground; whether everyone should pay the same flat rate or the rich should pay more – opposing sides will never agree.

You may know where I stand. If you can afford more by an enormous margin – you should pay more by a slight one. I think a Progressive Tax – although a reformed & simplified one – is fair and the best policy for the bigger picture of a better nation.  

Sacrifice and Compromise

In this clip, The President explains to a farmer why he could not sign a bill which would have been profitable for the dairy industry.

I am sure most people are aware that The President, at times, needs to make very difficult decisions. Like any leader – be it a President, Mayor, Parent – he/she must decided how to pay the bills. Sacrifices need to be made because nothing is free and money is not infinite. Sometimes the choice between column A and column B isn’t so simple. We should always expect compromise. And sometimes, we may even need to demand it.

Gun Control

In this clip, the White House Press Secretary gives a briefing after The President and two staffers were shot.

Yell about the 2nd Amendment all you want, but I wholeheartedly believe that the men who decided on those rights did not have in mind the kinds of weapons we have today. Nor could they have possibly imagined the rate and ease of obtaining such weapons. Anyway, I don’t like guns and I don’t think that is a big shocker.

 

And then, there is Religion…

And this clip is a personal favorite – The President addresses a talk radio Dr. on her referring to homosexuality as an abomination.

Not only do I pride myself on being a supporter of gay rights, but I am always mortified when religion is injected into politics. So, this is why I like this clip as much as I do. Granted, I have had bouts of spiritual confusion for some time now. However, the more spiritual I become, the more I am certain that my or anyone else’s religious beliefs should play absolutely no role in government.

Liberal: A Dirty Word

This is one clip which really resonates with me. For a long time I avoided calling myself a liberal. The word has been tarnished and tainted. As if being liberal was something for which to apologize. I am no longer afraid to make the claim, to own the title. Much like Senator Santos in this excerpt, I wear the badge proudly. However, I guess we are supposed to call ourselves Progressives now. It must seem cleaner or more respect-inducing somehow. Either one, I’ll take it.

Mark Maley November 28, 2012 at 12:10 AM
Great column, Heather...and I miss this show, too. The final year wasn't as strong as previous seasons, but it had a good run!
Heather Rayne Geyer November 28, 2012 at 12:39 AM
Thanks Mark! I am finishing the last season now. I completely agree. But I think that is often the case with most series...last season rarely measures up. Trying to think of shows that did...?? Newsroom really fills that West Wing/Aaron Sorkin void. And I have a feeling it will be even better next season. And I like that the main character is an old school Republican - although the show certainly leans left...won't deny that.

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