Saturday, April 13, 2013

Day One Hundred and Three - The West Wing: Season 1, Episode 19, "Idealism in the face of stark reality gets me pumped!"

If there's one thing I love about the way Aaron Sorkin preaches from his television pulpit it's that he never falls short of aiming really freaking high.

It's been a while since I've watched any West Wing. In fact, I can trace it back to the marathon run of fifteen episodes I did over a forty-eight hour period right around the time of Day Zero as I was enjoying my New Years.

Naturally, I didn't blog about them all, but I do feel it's safe to skip around a bit. Once you've gotten a feel for the West Wing you really only need to pick your favorite issues from the description text and zoom in on one or two particular episodes to give yourself the feel good patriotism and idealism that you actually can and should make a difference... and so should our leaders.

Even fictional ones.

Using that rough formula, I jumped to episode nineteen. I did this because while the narrative is scattered with several story threads concerning an overarching theme of the Bartlet Administration being soft and tame, more worried about reelection than doing what's right, one of the mini-arcs deals with Don't Ask, Don't Tell.

I was an Army Brat when DADT was floated through the Clinton Administration as a "compromise" to allow closeted members of the armed forces to serve. Being a straight teenager from a Catholic officer's family, I didn't see what the hubbub was all about. Trying to be a good Boy Scout, a good Altar Boy... just a good young man, I openly trumpeted Gingrich's "Contract with America" thanks to an enthusiastic gym teacher whom, in retrospect, I have to wonder wasn't just in denial herself, being heavily in her own closet.

And that bit of personal history makes me ashamed.

Sure, as of 2011, DADT is defunct and gays and lesbians can openly serve, but the West Wing was fighting for this issue way back in 2000... and I wish I was, too. When I was a teen in the 90's, I latched on to things and supported them blindly, not knowing the people I was hurting. When I went to college and started meeting and interacting, becoming friends with the folks my stupid politics were discriminating against, I truly began to grasp the depths of my shame.

I love this episode... because it feels like a call to arms. Whether it's Sam confronting Congressmen and DoD Majors on the issue of DADT or Josh getting riled up over party leadership from BOTH sides dictating nominees to the Administration, just about every moment feels like the omnipresent "THEM" are kicking "US" while we're down... and it's time to stand up and FIGHT BACK!


That's not to say there isn't any despair over the fact that "this is the way it is and this is the way it's always going to be," thanks to our powerful ruling class and their need for status quo, but that all stops when Leo and Bartlet argue in the penultimate scene of the episode... finally resolving to show some grit. It was all very much reminiscent of The American President when Martin Sheen was playing the chief of staff and Michael Douglas was the tired, idealistic President more focused on reelection than what was right.

Makes sense, though... considering that was ALSO Sorkin.

Sure, I guess that means he's just repeating what he's already done, but I like it... hell, I love it. Probably because it fits right in with my Democratic ideals and I hope that doesn't mean that my critical thinking concerning politics hasn't been compromised so I'm just lock-in-step with the opposite party of my teen years, trading one style of corruption for another, but still.

I think the West Wing is worth it... but only for those perfect moments of virtue and, well, idealism that are scattered throughout the series. If you are wondering which ones I'm talking about, stick with me as I'll be following the above formula and talking about them in the blog.

Until tomorrow, Potatoes~

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