As I wrote on Monday, I found a fun Facebook trend a few weeks ago where people were posting three photos of fictional characters they were most like. I chose all of mine from TV or movies. My first and obvious choice was Alex P Keaton from Family Ties, but my second and third choices were Jefferson Smith from Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and Richie Cunningham from Happy Days. Today we are going to look at the second one of the set.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington presents the story of essentially a Boy Scout leader who is appointed to the U.S. Senate because other scheming politicians believe that he will be a pushover. He surprises them by showing up as a politician who actually wants to make a difference in the lives of people in a way that directly conflicts with the motives of the politicians who put him in office.
I can see a lot of Jefferson Smith’s idealism in my own work. If you have been reading this website for a long time, you will remember that for essentially the first month, I outlined why I believe that the public square needs to be a place of free interaction. Obviously, that is a dream. We see the toxic climate in our culture right now and recognize that most people are not interested in intelligent and open dialogue.
In fact, most people are interested in creating echo chamber where they only hear things that reinforce their own opinions and biases.
However, I don’t think it has to be that way, and I write about it because I think that maybe I can help influence culture in the right way. Is it hard to fight against the forces that are already in place and the cultural institutions that celebrate this echo chamber? It certainly is. However, in the words of Jefferson Smith, “I guess this is just another lost cause.”
This is another similarity. I might be idealistic, and that might be unrealistic on some level. However, I don’t believe in lost causes. A large part of this comes from my Christian worldview where there is always our great Hope. I take quite literally the words of Paul, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, to the Romans:
For the Christian, there is always hope, and any obstacle is able to be overcome.
Even when the entire establishment seemed to be pushing him to resign and even bringing false charges, he fought to the end because of his convictions. When you have the truth on your side, you don’t compromise that out of convenience.
It is no secret that sometimes people disagree with me. There are plenty of things I have written that people don’t like. However, if I am writing something that is true, that is what I am going to stand by even if nobody listens.
Idealism can sometimes be a dangerous thing, and I recognize it is not always a strength. However, I can certainly identify with that characteristic of Mr. Jefferson Smith.