• The Narrative

    When I was growing up my family and I used to watch movies together. I didn’t always like the way the story went. I remember asking my dad, “But why didn’t he do this, or why did she have to do that? My father would say, “Because it was in the script.”

    This was his way of reminding me that it wasn’t real. It was just a narrative that someone had thought up and in which people had acted out their roles. But when we watch movies, we want to believe they are real, at least for a little while. We want to lose ourselves in the story. We don’t want to be reminded that it was in the script.

    Another problem I had with movies was all of the loose ends. Hollywood has never been especially good at tying off the loose ends in their story telling. I would ask my dad, “Well, what ever became of so and so?” My dad would answer, “What do you think became of so and so? What do you want to have happened?” My dad would say it was up to me to determine my own version of the story. It was up to all of us. My version of what became of so and so would be different from my brother’s version, or different from either of my sisters’ versions. That bothered me. We all needed to have the same version of the narrative, and it had to be my version.

    We want other people to write the narratives, but we also want them to write the narratives according to our terms. Most of us don’t like sad endings to our stories. Movies that end that way only get watched once by me. We want someone else to tie off all the loose ends, again, according to our terms. However, we don’t want to write our own narratives. This has nothing to do with imagination, or the lack thereof. I have a great imagination and would have no problem writing scripts. It has everything to do with everyone sharing the same narrative. It has to do with everyone marching to the same drummer, or being on the same page. It has to do with such things being the same for everyone.

    That which is true for movies is also true in life, real life. Politics affects all of us in very personal ways, yet very few of us wish to contribute to our narratives. We want others to write the narratives for us, but according to our terms. However, unless someone’s narrative is particularly terrible, rarely will most of us get involved in helping to write or to rewrite the narrative.

    The study of civics is no longer a priority in many high schools. It is a sad reality that most of us do not even know how our government works, or how it is supposed to work. Most people do not know what our legislators are doing. We do not know which laws are working their way through Congress or care what effects they will have on us. We seem to think that Presidents can do whatever they please. We don’t seem to know or care that Congress is the primary check and balance against executive tyranny, not that anyone would know what that is. We expect the candidate who promised us Shangri-La to get the job done without realizing it takes more than one to carry a majority or how much it will cost. Most of us have never even considered writing our congressional representatives a letter. Then again, why would anyone watch C-SPAN when we could be watching Judge Judy?

    When we allow others to write the narrative for us, don’t complain when the story has a sad ending.

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