Saturday, January 10, 2009

Timeless Questions

I had a fairly apolitical childhood. We rarely discussed current events. My family's black and white television was mostly tuned to programs like I Love Lucy, Bonanza, and The Andy Griffith Show. Although my folks watched The Smothers Brothers and Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In, much of the content was over my tender young head. I have only one distinct memory of either of my parents talking to me about politics. That once was enough to get me going.

When the Watergate scandal broke, Dad said to me, "This is important. Pay attention to it."

I was interested enough to read Woodward and Bernstein's All The President's Men and absolutely loved the movie version. When I look back, I think that incident marks my transformation into political geekhood. The abuse of power checked by a vigilant free press seemed as exciting to me as any superhero tale. The trailer for the Dustin Hoffman/Robert Redford movie version proclaimed "They solved the greatest detective story in American history." This was thrilling stuff!!

I am so dorky about politics and research that one of my favorite scenes ever is the one where Woodward and Bernstein are researching in the Library of Congress. It seemed like the coolest place ever. All that knowledge about government in one place. Squee! I had a crush on the LoC. It doesn't get any dorkier than that. When I first visited Washington, DC years ago, I immediately went there to go to the main reading room only to be turned away. You need to go through a lengthy process to prove you are serious and apply for a special readers card. So I did. Nothing would keep me from the temple of knowledge. Bear in mind, this was well before the internet machine was available. But even if it had been, I think I would have been as crazy about the LoC as I was. It was so beautiful. Sigh. If you've been, you know what I mean. If you haven't, book a flight immediately and go check it out. (Get it? Check it out? Ha ha. I'm a real political pundit.)

So, given the revelation of the event which set me on the path of political fandom, it will not surprise you to learn that I've been eager to see the new movie Frost/Nixon. I finally got the opportunity tonight. I wasn't sure how Director Ron Howard was going to make a very exciting movie about the story of a television interview of a fallen president.
After all, wasn't the big story how he fell? I was still very interested in seeing the film, but I shouldn't have doubted Opie's ability to entertain. Peter Morgan originally wrote the piece as a play. Actors Frank Langella and Michael Sheen first starred in Frost/Nixon on London and Broadway stages. I found the International Herald Tribune story of the film's development very interesting. I love that the same principals were involved in both types of performance. It always seems so unfair when someone is cut in casting a movie to make way for a "bigger name".

The questions that Frost asked are profound. What is a legitimate exercise of power? Where is the line? Was that line crossed? And did the line crosser regret his actions?

Really, these are the same things we apply to almost any situation. What is appropriate behavior? Did someone overstep? Whether it's our child or the president behaving badly, we want to know that they recognize they screwed up and that they're sorry. Honesty and repentance go a long way toward gaining forgiveness.

I'm still paying attention, Dad.


Anonymous said...

Amazing, I couldn't imagine spending a day without hearing about some grand political event. But then again, I am a youngling.
I enjoy your posts!

Clayrn Darrow

Fantastic Forrest said...

Thanks, Clay! :-)

My own kids are exposed to politics by me and Professor X on a daily basis. My folks are great people with great values, just not big political animals.

I don't think it's a matter of age, just interest. I know a lot of septuagenarians who are very politically avid and much more liberal-minded than those half their age.