Truly Powerful People (326)

Join me in inspiring truly powerful people. Each day I will add a new thought, story or idea to support your quest and mine.

When I was a little kid in the neighborhood where I grew up, there were no fences between houses. My parents looked after all the neighborhood kids and the other parents looked after me. Our backyards formed a wide-open field for play ringed by modest brick houses. For a time, the world I grew up in felt safe. And welcome.

Many of the moms at home during the day (the moms that worked at night) watched soap operas. I remember sitting in front of a black and white television set, the kind with a rabbit ear antennae, eating a Twinkie and watching the high drama. And it was high DRAMA with a capital “D!” Wicked betrayal and character assassination in every episode, lot’s of hospitals and people miraculously coming back from certain death. Doctors with a swagger, desperate socialites, pretty men and beautiful women each trying to survive in a cutthroat world spinning out of control. I knew even as a kid that this was humanity reduced to its lowest common denominator – and it was a religion to the neighborhood moms. To miss an episode was tragic. The gossip swirling around the characters had the same weight as the gossip swirling around the people living on the next block.

It occurred to me that I watch the news of the day much as the moms of my childhood watched the soaps. I don’t really believe in the reality of it yet I watch it none-the-less; it is heightened for me-the-viewer to create maximum effect. Last week I counted how many times in a half hour newscast that a story was introduced as “Breaking News!” – complete with graphics and whooshing sound effects: seven times in fifteen minutes (the time before the weather report). Breaking News! “This just in: A house almost burned down in Capitol Hill!” Almost. The image on the screen is a house on Capitol Hill, a very serious reporter standing in front of the house pointing to the spot where the fire did not happen. The organ music swells as the Doctor swaggers in just in time to stop The Lover from injecting a bubble into the heart of his sedated paramour. I take another bite of Twinkie, wipe the crumbs from my mouth and think, “I’m glad nothing happened.”

As I pay attention to the presidential election this time around I find myself yearning for the time when the characters where contained within the pretend world of the soaps and not attempting to be the most powerful person in the free world. If you wonder why our children bully each other on the playground, why there is diminishing respect for each other, take a gander at how we behave in our public forums – how we tell the story of ascension to power, the story of how adults are supposed to treat each other. Breaking News! We put up fences. The neighbors stopped talking. These are the stories we tell ourselves about ourselves.

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