I don’t know about you, but this whole election doesn’t feel real to me. It feels unreal. Maybe even surreal.
So whenever I’m trying to make sense of it all, I inevitably start thinking about movies.
Listen to Aaron’s commentary.
Think about this:
In Donald Trump we have a candidate who is extremely wealthy. No experience in politics, but he’s very big in business – and the media, with “The Apprentice.” And he desperately wants attention. He wants to be loved. So he runs for office as a populist – even though he’s wealthy, he runs as a ‘man of the people’ – and he’s challenging a candidate who absolutely embodies the Establishment, someone who’s been in the game forever and might very possibly be corrupt. And for a little while it looks like he’s going to win – until he gets embroiled in a sex scandal, he gets called out in the papers over his treatment of women, and he ends up collapsing in the polls.
Now, I don’t know how this election is going to end – but I just, word for word, described the exact plot of “Citizen Kane.”
Did you notice that?
Exactly the same plot. With Hillary Clinton as Boss Jim Gettys, and I assume Mar-A-Lago as Xanadu.
(And I don’t know what Rosebud is, but I have some guesses.)
Is this the “Citizen Kane” election?
But no, that doesn’t explain it for me. Sure, yes, it’s a “Citizen Kane” election. But it’s more than that.
It’s an “Inside Out” election.
You remember the plot of “Inside Out,” right? We go inside the head of an 11-year-old girl, and it’s run by the five basic human emotions: Joy, Anger, Fear, Sadness and Disgust. One thing leads to another, Joy and Sadness get sucked out of the control room, and Fear, Anger and Disgust are left to try to run the show. And of course they fail spectacularly.
This year, 2016, is a real-life “Inside Out.” We are living through an election, we are living through a year, where Joy and Sadness have disappeared and all that’s left is Fear, and Anger, and Disgust. We have lost the ability to feel joy about positive, happy things.
And we’ve lost our sadness.
In the movie, Sadness turns out to be the most important thing, and I think it’s true this year as well. Sadness comes from empathy. Sadness comes from sympathizing with other people, feeling their pain as much as our own. Sadness is what allows us to think about other people, care about other people – and in thinking and caring about other people, Sadness allows us to realize that I am not the only person that matters. I don’t have all the answers. I don’t see every perspective. I am imperfect. I might be wrong.
But we’ve lost our Sadness.
And so we’ve lost our ability to recognize those things about ourselves.
When we see someone who disagrees with us, someone who takes a different side, we don’t react with sympathy. We throw up defenses. We don’t react with Sadness. We react with Fear, and Anger, and Disgust. When good things happen to other people, we don’t feel Joy. We feel Anger that they didn’t happen to us. When good things happen to us, we don’t feel Joy. We feel Fear that we might lose them. And we’re suspicious of everyone who’s Not Us, because we have no sympathy for them – we see them only as threats. We feel Fear. Donald Trump is famous for ending all his tweets with the word “Sad!” But he doesn’t really mean “sad.” He doesn’t want us to feel “sad” when we read those tweets. He wants us to feel mad. We know this.
This is an “Inside Out” election. Joy and Sadness have disappeared, and we have to get them back. How do we get them back?
It may be – just like in the movie – that we have to stop hanging on to our childhoods. Forget the past, let it go, and move on.
Maybe that’s too simple.
But that’s the question we have to answer. No matter what happens in the next week, no matter what happens after that – if we don’t get our Joy and Sadness back, it’s going to be a long winter.
So let’s think about that question. Maybe together we can find the answer.