It’s Sunday evening and I’ve just finished watching one of my favorite movies of all times, “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington” starring Jimmy Stewart and Jean Arthur. It was produced in 1939 and won nominations for eleven academy awards. Unfortunately, it was released the same year as “Gone with the Wind” which of course blew away every other movie produced that year when it came time to hand out the trophies.
I love that movie because, in spite of all evidence to the contrary, there is a part of me which continues to want to believe that there are men and women in our country who are still willing to stand up for the truth. There is a part of me who desires to be Pollyanna in a world of Lady Gagas, Lindsey Lohans, and Paris Hiltons who thrive on reflecting what has become the worst of us in our society. I would name government officials but the real people who are running our government are most often content to keep their names out of the news. They prefer a “shadow government.”
Perhaps you have never taken the opportunity to watch Mr. Smith. Jimmy Stewart is selected to fill out the remainder of a term left vacant when a senator dies in office. He is the head of a group called the Boy Rangers. He believes all the stuff school children are taught about doing what is right and honest. When he gets to Washington, he soon learns about a powerful corrupt man, Taylor, who, with his political machine, controls the entire state.
Mr. Smith learns about the corruption and graft taking place. He begins a filibuster in the senate to give time for people back home to learn about a Taylor land deal. Of course since Taylor owns most of the papers in the state and controls the radio stations, Mr. Smith’s voice is never heard. Instead, he is smeared and branded as a corrupt man himself.
Corruption in government of course is not new. There is evidence of abuse of power as far back as written records can take us. Government seems to bring out the worst in those who are elected to serve. “Compromise” can take the leaders down roads they never intended to travel. The love of power is a terrible temptress when it comes to those who wish to rule.
Our government, in my humble opinion (IMHO), has not changed a whole lot since 1939. Backroom deals are still alive and well. If you’ve been alive the past several years, you already are aware of that. Our government is not run by Congress. It is run by special interests with deep pockets who pay lobbyists to remind the Congressional members who actually owns them. I know that…in spite of all the stuff I was taught, and ended up teaching myself, about truth, justice, and the American way. The longer I live, the more I learn about the American way, and it is something which deeply troubles me. It’s hard to be Pollyanna the more I learn.
It takes courage to stand up against corruption in any of its forms. In the movie the only thing that happens to Mr. Smith is that he gets laryngitis from talking for over twenty-three hours during a filibuster and faints from fatigue. Today in the senate someone in the gallery would probably smuggle in a plastic gun somehow and shoot him. The whole world would then blame the terrorists and we would have another excuse for yet another war.
I don’t know if there is a larger percentage of corrupt people now than there was in 1939. It seems to me that there is. I fear we would need more than one Mr. Smith in our Congress to turn that government entity around. I can only pray that there are people who are running for government offices next month who are naive enough to think it can be done. And then have the courage and strength to do it.
Americans are rising up to say that we want change. I hope that means a change to more responsible, honest leadership, but that would be very Pollyannaish of me. There is a line in the Pollyanna book that I like. “When you look for the bad in mankind expecting to find it, you surely will.”
I try not to look for the bad in anyone. I try to look for the good. That is why I can still hope that there is enough time to wrest our government out of the hands of the corporate CEOs in our land who now appear to have more power than God. Is there any chance that someone in our country who is running for office is a Mr. or Ms. Smith? Is there a chance that when they go to Washington to the national government, or the state government, or the local government that somehow they can honestly make a difference? I can only pray. Care to pray with me?