First, if you are still a user of DVD’s (as I am) and you enjoy the hunt—Dollarama is carrying seasons of t.v. shows of yesteryear for $4 (yes you read that right) okay end PSA for critical thinkers.
So in discovery form, I found Season One of Picket Fences. A staple in our house growing up on Friday Nights. We are currently binge watching through the quirky Rome, Wisconsin adventures with the Brock Family (Sheriff, Town Doctor, 3 kids); Douglas Wambough (everybody’s lawyer); the Judge (who despite his own beliefs, uses justice as the moral/ethical compass for the town)…and so on and so forth.
But just think of the topics covered in the first scant episodes of season one: that pure nicotine can kill instantly; animal cruelty in circuses (a little person steals an elephant and rides it into town); Euthanasia/Dying with Dignity (and not with a nurse; but with a Nun, whose individual was Episcopalian)—cue discussions from all characters around their religious, ethical beliefs, beliefs around life and death…then the Christmas Pageant— not just the discourse on religious celebrations in public space-as a Rabbi challenges a Nativity scene–but then it comes out that the teacher playing Mary is Transsexual. The exploration from the medical examiner that used to date her; to the parents reactions to the kids reactions of losing a teacher…to the great judgment where the judge admits his own personal bigotry, but when it comes to dismissing the teacher from work…well legally, ethically, morally and constitutionally you cannot due that for she is a good teacher.
Each episode had challenging topics, that built characters by sharing their struggles/beliefs through each topic. Which then bleeds into conversations with the watchers on what they hold to be true, why? what do you think of the resolution?
What sparked this ramble? As discussing with the wife, for the time period the show was not shocking. Dramas, family or otherwise, same as sitcoms, would tackle issues of the day in a way that created conversation. Art and writing were used to continue society’s forward movement into a just society.
Now fast forward 20ish years, and with things like that block feature for controversy on YouTube as just one example. I do not believe this show would make it through its early episodes in this day and age. Why??
We tend to want to have the ostrich effect in regards to controversial or tough subject matters. Anything that can create discussion or discourse, encourage critical thinking we want to shy away from. As a global society we have moved into “safe zones” where we go into our “ideology” caves and like the Croods roll the rock in front for safety. Whatever you want to cover the ideology in whether it is religion, spirituality, philosophy, politics (or another rainbow flavour) as a person you just want to exist within that sphere alone. The downside of this type of existence, is it become impossible to have discussions across the divide. The chasms get dug deeper, bridge building is forgotten, as the only drive is to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that your held ideology is the “TRUTH” and be damned any other.
On this eve of Palm Sunday in my cultural-religious heritage I mourn a little for this dychotomy. It is what 2000+ years ago the Entry to Jerusalem pres session foreshadowed: On one side, the poor and disenfranchised looking for a new way, on the other the oppressors and power holders.
Yet there came a time for discussion that broke down those barriers.
Now unfortunately, we are re-creating the barriers. Building the walls higher, digging the chasms deeper, and ensuring the lakes/motes of fire are poured ferociously.
Let’s agree on one thing as we move through this year. Let’s leave where we are now, and perhaps, just perhaps, take some time as families, communities to go back to a little town in Wisconsin, called Rome. A time when we could have space to process stances and beliefs beyond labels, discuss them openly and really figure out what it means to be in this grand adventure of life together.