By Debilyn Molineaux, Managing Partner, Living Room Conversations
I cry every time I watch the six minute opening scene from The Newsroom, an HBO series from 2012. Yes, it’s well produced, written and acted. But that’s not why I cry. I cry because the words spoken call to the longing in my heart of what I want our country to be. Of what I thought our country was as I grew up. It echoes my belief before I learned that the America referenced was a myth -- that some Americans never thought this dream was possible for them and actively excluded them. The America described is the American dream I was promised and may never see. I cry for the loss of honor and trust in human beings and our institutions, as witnessed on news and social media stories. I cry because I know that the American dream, expressed in just a few sentences, may never be a reality. After all, it’s up to us -- each one of us and all of us -- to choose what our country is and what it will be.
I know without doubt that I’m here -- in this specific time and place -- to assist us in the United States to make a conscious choice about our future. The social contract designed for us following WWII, where we created middle class prosperity, no longer works. We’re divided against ourselves, manipulated by forces we cannot see. I mourn for that lost culture in which I believed - but not for the empty or broken promises made to my fellow Americans. I am hopeful that what comes forward from the ashes of this broken system will work for most (or better yet, all) Americans. This simple scene from The Newsroom does get something right -- our country is broken. And in the words delivered brilliantly by Jeff Daniels, provides me with hope and inspiration that we can repair our country. The monologue provides a means by which we can evaluate our progress and our success by tracking things that actually matter like literacy and life expectancy and infant mortality. How we measure our success will dictate our new contract. So let’s track things besides the GDP and include livability and happiness factors. Living a full, meaningful life is a universal human dream--not just American. And we all deserve the chance to have it.
Script excerpt, written by Aaron Sorkin
“...there’s absolutely no evidence to support the statement that we’re the greatest country in the world. We’re 7th in literacy, 27th in math, 22nd in science, 49th in life expectancy, 178th in infant mortality, 3rd in median household income, number 4 in labor force and number 4 in exports. We lead the world in only three categories: number of incarcerated citizens per capita, number of adults who believe angels are real and defense spending, where we spend more than the next 26 countries combined, 25 of whom are allies. Now, none of this is the fault of a 20-year-old college student, but you, nonetheless, are, without a doubt, a member of the worst period generation period ever period, so when you ask what makes us the greatest country in the world, I don’t know what the fuck you’re talking about! Yosemite?!
It sure used to be… We stood up for what was right. We fought for moral reasons. We passed laws, struck down laws, for moral reasons. We waged wars on poverty, not on poor people. We sacrificed, we cared about our neighbors, we put our money where our mouths were and we never beat our chest. We built great, big things, made ungodly technological advances, explored the universe, cured diseases and we cultivated the world’s greatest artists AND the world’s greatest economy. We reached for the stars, acted like men. We aspired to intelligence, we didn’t belittle it. It didn’t make us feel inferior. We didn’t identify ourselves by who we voted for in the last election and we didn’t [pause] we didn’t scare so easy. We were able to be all these things and do all these things because we were informed… by great men, men who were revered. First step in solving any problem is recognizing there is one. America is not the greatest country in the world anymore.”