One of the most popular shows of the new television season is This Is Us, a series that follows three generations of an American family back and forth in time. Though it primarily focuses on three grown “triplets” in their thirties, the hallmark of the story is that it flows easily through the decades as if they are continuous scenes on our screens – much the way we surf everyday on our desktops to follow variations of the same news story or subject matter. The latter is purposeful and is a large part of what makes This Is Us so timely and relatable.
The focus of the show is about being seen and heard. The brilliant African American kid from drug addicted parents who was adopted but never quite fits in; the fat girl who grows up into an obese women and has trouble letting people see the real her beneath what they view of her exterior, assuming they’d ever care to; and the hot TV actor who was once the least noticed in the bunch who now hides behind his looks and success because he can’t face the pain of always knowing that inside he really is and always was second rate. And these are just the triplets!
This is Us echoes a popular show from my past, thirtysomething, which pulled off a similar feat in the 80s but with the focus on a contemporary group of friends of a certain age who had indeed become each other’s family. However, while This Is Us moves constantly through past and present, thirtysomething dwelled primarily in the present with only occasional echoes of the past.
There was a limit to how willing we were to look backwards for answers in the “Greed is Good” eighties. These days, perhaps presciently, This Is Us’ focus is on searching the past in desperate hope for answers about who we are today. Each psychological and actual crisis seems to rest in a series of past incidents – though after seven episodes they provide mostly brief insights and few satisfactory answers or solutions to changing actual behaviors. Perhaps it will go more fully down that road as it continues and takes notes from network execs. But right now, its characters seem to be desperately exploring. They know they’ve suddenly woken up in crisis and are willing to do almost anything to either NOT feel the pain or to somehow begin to forge a new way in which to live on.
Perhaps some of you might see where I’m going with this. Though I’ll bet half of you don’t… which could be my fault but is probably indicative of the fact that I dwell in deep blue state America. Did you think you’d get a break from it all here? Rest assured there will be little escape for at least the next two four years. Though we’re probably not headed in the direction that you think. In either place.
The Electoral College election of Donald Trump and Mike Pence to President and Vice-President – despite the fact that they will have lost the popular vote by close to TWO MILLION people by the time the final tallies are counted – is currently wreaking havoc on the American family. Yet how we see our present via our past seem to greatly differ, depending on what side of the ideological fence we stand on.
Let’s take the example of what happened when Mike Pence attended the Friday night performance of the hit Broadway musical Hamilton in New York City, a deep blue state renowned for its multi-ethnic population, some of whom work in what is renowned as its sexually diverse theatre community (Note: Meaning, there are a ton of us gays employed on Broadway, and 99.999% of the straights are among our staunchest allies).
If you haven’t heard, upon entrance to the theatre, the veepee elect was spontaneously booed among small bits of applause. Sort of like what would happen in an alternative universe if president elect Hillary wandered into a Chick Fill A in Mississippi a week after voting ended.
Being that Hamilton specifically tells the story of an IMMIGRANT’s rise in American history it is unsurprising the audience cheered at various pro-references to immigration nor is it shocking that upon Mr. VP’s re-entrance to the theatre in the second act a specific line about just how much we immigrants (Note: Yes, my grandparents came from Russia, Poland and Hungary – though not all of them – some were killed by the Nazis) can accomplish if given the chance drew thunderous applause.
That was seemingly about it until after the curtain call, when one of the lead actors read a statement (partially written by Hamilton creator-turned-cultural-icon Lin-Manuel Miranda) as the audience filed out. It read exactly thus:
To which that night our 2016 President Elect who will lose the popular vote by TWO MILLION (Note: It’s sort of like an asterisk to a home run record), sent out
TWO THREE TWEETS via Twitter. They read exactly thus:
So much for the land of dissent – at least in theory. As for practice, well, that’s still up in the air until AFTER January 20th.
But let’s not stray too much from the subject at hand, which would be looking back at our lives and our families in order to provide information, insights and answers about who we are, how we can heal and in what fashion we will move on.
Since Make America Great Again is THE SLOGAN that won Trump-Pence the electoral college vote, many non-T/P voters found themselves recoiling from their anti-immigrant, often racist, sexist and xenophobic campaign rhetoric; their embrace by white nationalists; and rallies where hysteria to Lock Her Up (Yes, you know which “her”) was the war call of both supporters and candidate.
Wait, aren’t we mostly a nation of people who mostly came from other countries? Wasn’t civil rights for Blacks and other non-whites a given, at least on paper, after a checkered racial history culminating with eight years of our first Black president? Isn’t a large part of what makes America great the fact that we don’t en masse scream for the incarceration of an individual until they are proven guilty, or at least until they have been formally charged with a crime?
On the same, token, numerous T/P voters and supporters clearly don’t feel great. The discernible issues cited seem to be not enough jobs in the white working class, our country’s benchmark welcoming policy towards immigrants in an age of global terrorism and a general disgust with the status quo in Washington, DC, but more particularly with the liberal coastal elites.
Wait, you fixed the economy for yourself but not us; you don’t care that many of our American factories closed; we were attacked by non-whites on 9/11 and you’ve never faced it; our government is going bankrupt and all you want to do is spend, spend, spend??? Well, there are no free rides anymore, buster (and busterettes).
All of these issues, every one of them, are valid issues for a family to discuss. And what is our country, or any country, after all, if not a family of people???
The question to be answered is how do we, as a family, settle our real differences? Do we look back into our past – one that included slavery, a Civil War, the fight for women to simply VOTE, two World Wars and any number of others, our coming together as a people and landing on the moon, our rise to becoming one of the most financially and socially admired places on Earth? All of the above?
Meaning, What are the PRINCIPLES and ACTIONS that actually made AMERICA GREAT? And if you don’t believe we ARE great, which clearly the majority of the Electoral College voters do not, HOW DO WE BECOME GREAT AGAIN?
If past is prologue it won’t be about limiting freedoms, closing borders, or judging people by their personalities and lifestyle choices. On either side. At least, that’s what our newest, most beloved television characters are beginning to realize. (Note: Thanks, NBC!)
On the other hand, real life America is certainly not lived in via the reality of ONE hit television series, is it? Or…is it?
Trump . . . he’s bad, bad news.
That’s an under, under statement 🙂
A few years back, I was at sort of an impasse with my sister, one of the most important people in my life, with whom I had shared business adventures, being groupies in the 60’s, both being gay and now, married. We had different life experiences growing up in a home that was loving and supportive to me, was, as I find, for my sister, more critical and restricting, likely due to our mother’s constant striving for perfection, through her whole life. My sister just wasn’t perfect, at least in the way our mother would have wanted, and I was, just because I was the boy, favored and doted upon.
Somewhere along the way, things became frayed between us, particularly when my partner and I moved from California to New Mexico in 1993. My sister and her partner were resentful and angry. I felt it and didn’t know how deep it ran until, in a particularly rancorous missive, I was informed that I was “narcissistic and self absorbed and selfish”, words that were most certainly coming from her psychotherapist partner’s vocabulary.
By this time, I’d been in therapy many times, to learn about my mind, how to see things and solve problems by examining them, done many workshops including the requisite est., Actualizations, Life Spring, Insight and been deeply involved with The Advocate Experience (now The Experience), an offshoot of est. for the LGBT Community, studied and “visited” countless spiritual beliefs until I found that Buddhism worked for me. While not perfect, I had come to know myself and understand the world around me a lot better, I think I was even in danger of becoming a good person.
When this letter arrived, I was surprised at the depth of anger and what felt like being very misunderstood. I decided, then and there, to approach my sister about it, directly. I offered that since “we hadn’t lived (by then) in the same home for decades or, the same state/city, that we hardly knew one another, who we had become or much of anything else. What remained was to decide whether to let it me and see each other “at weddings and funerals” or, to actively seek to know each other again, for who we were and are as individuated adults, before making hurtful statements. I was willing, was she?
As it turns out, she was and we set to work fully recreating a relationship, talking, understanding, and actually participating in each other’s lives and what has become of “us” is nothing short of a miracle. There is so much love and respect, not to mention a shift of power and support when my husband and I suffered terrible losses in the Great Recession, where she became my support system financially for a time. Humility and vulnerability, tempered with actual love was and is a revelation.
I say all this because the “US” in “this is ALL us” has to find some similar place to open a dialogue again, to discover who each other is, examining and communicating or, we are done and will forever live in fear, hate and anger. I am not willing for that to happen and, don’t know what moving forward looks like, yet, particularly after this horror show we’ve been subjected to, no, participated in….but I’m going to try. I would rather be “This Is Us” rather than “Us and Them”.
You are a better man than I am at the moment. As Jewish, gay guy from Trump’s hometown of Queens Im not quite there yet. He’s a sociopath and a racist – and was right out there with his rhetoric – I ve seen this kind of thinking from the old neighborhood more than once. He’s not to be trusted. He’s mentally imbalanced. He doesn’t read, isn’t curious to learn and operates on his own id-generated dogma which will not essentially change at 70 years of age. In short, he is extremely dangerous – a clear and present danger to this country. And to people like me personally. to go one step further, Ive instructed everyone on social media that voted for him and still support him in light of his embrace of a Neo Nazi like Steve Bannon to de-friend me if they follow me. I am hardline on this. I don’t want people who actively or passively support racism and this kind of discourse in my life. If we need to live in the same country by default, I get it – but Im too interested in stopping this insanity in the short term in my life and not giving an inch. I can’t “negotiate” with racists and people who use religion as an excuse and a weapon. And voters who support it, whether actively or passively. The former are Mike Pence and Donald Trump. And they represent the MINORITY in this country. by close to TWO MILLION votes or more. The only way I can see around this debacle is to actively defeat them and prove how corrupt and insidiously prejudiced they are. I have no interested in “infrastructure programs” after Pres. Obama spent almost two terms trying to make them become a reality and was consistently blocked from it. The Trumpeters are pulling a bait and switch and advocating white supremacist policies. I wish I could see “starting over” as an option right now. But I don’t. I wish I could feel it’s realistic instead of a pipe dream. I really do. But once again, I don’t. I think it will be about taking to the streets and a 24/7, 24 hour a day activism until the hideousness of where we are right now can be toppled and we can start over.