Thursday, March 03, 2011

A Capra Moment

Frank Capra would have appreciated the present moment. In two of his best films, Mr. Smith Goes the Washington and Meet John Doe, the political system is entirely beholden to big money. And in both films, those financial interests control media empires which can crucify inconvenient upstarts who rock the boat. In the end, the only thing which stands between those interests and doing the right thing is the uncommon decency of the common man.

Financial interests sought and successfully repealed the Glass Steagall Act. The Citizens United decision gave them unfettered access to several media empires. With the exception of Bernie Madoff, no member of the financial elite has been punished. However, workers -- whose pensions that elite managed -- have borne the consequences of its failures.

Today, in Wisconsin and Ohio, those same workers are being told that their states can no longer afford their right to organize. But, in the midst of the debacle, there have been acts of uncommon decency. The Chief of Police in Madison announced that his police force would not serve as the governor's "palace guard." Six Republican state senators defied their governor and almost stopped Governor Kasich's bill to limit collective bargaining. And, when Fox News aired footage of supposedly violent protesters in Wisconsin, ordinary people were quick to notice the California palms in the background.

Capra had an immigrant's faith in the common man. Cynics dismissed his work as feel good schmaltz. After all, life was not that wonderful; and it was foolish to believe that an angel would save you when you stood on the bridge between life and death.

The criticism never diminished Capra's faith in "the people." Not that Capra didn't give money and power a wide swath. In the end, however, the people eventually set things right. It should be remembered that the citizens of Wisconsin have the right of recall.

This entry is cross posted at The Moderate Voice.

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