As chaos, deceit and lies are engulfing the White house, the sanctum sanctorum of American democracy; I find myself increasingly pining for the “cartoonishly optimistic” days of the Bartlet administration on my TV screen.
I watch the reruns of West Wing with a sense of nostalgia, where the White House staffers would do the “walk and talk” with charge, meet at the Oval Office with a distinguished President, and give press briefings that were transparent and not a battle ground for the war against media.
Watching West Wing nowadays is painful.
The Trump administration has destroyed the prestige of working at the White House.
The well- beloved CJ Cregg, who was known for her astute mind and performance of “The Jackal”, has been replaced in reality with the aggressive and dull Sean Spicer, whose lexicon leaves a lot to be desired.
Leo McGarry, the man who always stood behind President Bartlet, who always viewed everything with benevolent pragmatism, has been replaced with Reince Preibus, a man who believes that defensiveness is the shield that he must carry and not necessarily political acumen or sensitivity.
It is almost like the Trump administration is trying to be the total opposite of what idealists loved about West Wing.
For almost a decade Aaron Sorkin’s West Wing mesmerized the American psyche; depicting American democracy’s morals, values and diplomatic stance in the world, albeit with a few instances of infamy, all along having a scholarly president at the helm of affairs.
With his penchant for classical music, literature and finer sensibilities in life, President Bartlet and his team exuded a sense of fairness, liberalism and intellectualism that acted as a panacea for the troubled times of the Bush administration.
The fictitious West Wing gave all Democrats a ray of hope.
The President’s failure to disclose his physical ailment was tantamount to a big scandal!
It would probably hardly earn a mention when compared to the missteps of Trump and his team.
What do we do now?
The country is split along party lines.
The chaos is palpable.
Intellectualism has been relegated to a secondary place.
The disregard for traditional institutions of democracy, including its fourth pillar known as the free press, is too blatant.
We need an escape from reality.
This time, we need an even bigger flight of imagination.
At the same time however, something too idealistic might be painful to watch amidst a sense of crumbling political values and lack of accountability displayed by the current administration.
We need a show that encompasses “American values”, one that believes in intellectualism, respect and equality and yet portrays the reality with sincerity.
In the last season of West Wing, Republican nominee Arnold Vinick and Democratic nominee Matt Santos were fighting for the presidency.
Their election season was intense, their campaigns were on full throttle; but throughout the entire political discourse they remained civil.
They fought on the basis of substantive arguments, not through personal attacks and the spread of abhorrent lies.
In fact, both candidates found mud-slinging repulsive, and they never launched any attacks that would defame their opponent.
Granted that at the end of the day, this election wasn’t real, and these campaigns were all part of Aaron Sorkin and Lawrence O’Donnell’s imagination, but they remind us that civility is not unnatural, that it should be the norm.
Shows such as Scandal and Designated Survivor do an excellent job in commanding the attention of their audience for the allotted one hour block they are given, but they are meant to act as a source of excitement and drama.
Scandal is a somewhat dystopian depiction of the White House, where corruption, bribery and murders are rampant.
It’s a political drama in some aspects, but it doesn’t do the job of alleviating the nerves of those who are already flustered by the Trump Administration.
I personally love West Wing.
The fast paced dialogue, sharp analysis and wit of the show are all very addictive.
There are days when I watch four episodes in a row, just to soak up the intense and realistic depiction of what goes on in the White House.
West Wing is unique because it shows the camaraderie of Presidents and political leaders despite partisanship and politics.
It romanticizes the White House and its occupants.
When the reality is filled with mundanity and crudity and when there is an obvious attempt at breaking away even from the age old tradition of honoring one’s predecessor; the only escape can come from the TV screen, when we can turn off CNN and indulge in the pure extravaganza of wishful thinking!
The country deserves and needs an updated, idealistic, version of this show so we can all make it through the next four years.
So help us Aaron Sorkin, you’re our only hope.
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