Tonight I finished watching all seven seasons of The West Wing. The West Wing ran from 1999-2006. I remember watching some of it but I didn’t stick with it. Politics is not my favorite world to inhabit anyway. But thanks to the tepid (and other unkind words) offerings of the networks for television, I decided to take a look at this old show and I’m so glad I did. The first five seasons were simply excellent viewing in every way. The acting, writing, and themes were all great. The sixth season a little less so, and the seventh season I made myself watch although I found it had outlived it’s story (and my interest). I’m mentioning this because there might be someone who hasn’t watched it who’s scanning across the channels looking for something … anything… with some substance and entertainment value to watch. But I’m mostly mentioning this because in some small way watching The West Wing gave me a reprieve from the distressing real-world of politics in which we live.
The fictional President in this series is a Democrat and some of the positions taken, some characterizations of Republicans, and a very few episodes that sounded kind of preachy are notable, but not frequent. But the reason I was so drawn in to this show were all the things that remind me of what I’m missing today. The imaginary Bartlet Administration wasn’t perfect but I did like the portrayal of a certain quality of life … a set of values that focused on the importance of people. There was a camaraderie of the cast in the presentation of the way they worked together through tough situations. There was, in a word, civility.
Civility has become a lost art … a relic of the past … a gaping hole in our society but also among our leaders in Washington. Civility has been replaced by a crass spirit of profanity and a vulgar display of accusation without restraint. Not just by one person or one party, but it pervades the landscape.
It’s almost as if voters in this country wanted such leaders. And if we did want those kind of leaders, what does that say about us?
So every time I see power-house party leaders who won’t sit at a table and do the right thing for the American people … who are just concerned with their party’s well being or making a name for themselves … I’d just rather watch President Josiah Bartlet and think about the America that could be.
I don’t write much about politics. I still think I should vote. I should and do pray for our leaders … and all world leaders. But mostly the blunders and tweets and positioning of the political world leaves me thirsty for that missing quality of civility.
Maybe I’ll start again with Season One.
Thanks for reading, JD.