Justice in fiction vs reality. Learning from Watchmen, Chernobyl and The Good Place

I just watched Episode 6 of The Watchmen. My friend Greg Basta said it was impressive and I agree. I’ll watch it again after reading this EXCELLENT analysis by Melanie McFarland in Salon. HBO’s “Watchmen” trolls history and heroic whiteness in the most extraordinary episode yet

Watchmen Season 1, episode 6: This Extraordinary Being, Screencap HBO

I know that some people don’t like the super-hero genre and I totally understand why. What I like about this series (and this episode) is it explores who created these heroes and what function they serve for some people, but not all.McFarland’s piece brought insight I missed, enriching my experience. It’s a MUST read for fans of great TV cinema writing. It reminds me of the work of two of my favorite writers on TV and cinema, Matt Zoller Seitz and Mick LaSalle.

I was talking to some friends about the presidential race the other day. I recalled this comment from Joy Reid, but not the specifics, so I looked it up, Here’s the clip.

“So the idea of united and coming together, that sound fine for Pete Buttigieg to say to middle class white America that wants to come together with their uncle that’s a Trumper, but that is not going to work in communities of color.”

I listen to white middle-class voters. I get that they want a “return to normalcy” that Biden represents or Klobachar offers. But that “normalcy” also excused and supported a lot of injustice. Racial, gender and financial.  I get annoyed when I hear candidates talking about reaching across the aisle and working with Republicans to “get things done.”  Who are these Republicans they are talking about?  The same ones who have blocked the 100’s of bills the House has passed?   Joy Reid,

“There is no conversation of interest to talk about uniting, to be blunt, with the party that has given up not just its moral standing, but its soul, to the person who is president of the United States right now.”

The MSM likes to push centrist candidates. They want to keep a conservative corporate system happy. Incremental change is okay, don’t do anything too radical. Pundits talk about the need for “kitchen table issues” believing it will lead to people feeling passion for a leader who addresses those issues.  That’s true to an extent. I want to know candidates are addressing health care and education costs, but I also want someone to prosecute people who violated our Constitution and betrayed our ideals

I’ve been impressed by Warren’s acknowledgement and stories about how medical bankruptcies destroy lives and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau that she set up to stop abuses of financial institutions. I like Sanders’ understanding of the positive role Medicare for All will play in strengthening the country. I enjoy hearing Harris talk about prosecuting criminals in government and corporations.

Not everyone desires “nice things” that will help all of us.  Some people desire a leader whose actions won’t help them directly, but will hurt the people they hate and/or fear. This puzzling behavior came up talking with friends who don’t follow politics as closely as I do, who wonder why people would vote against their own interests. I talked about this piece that explains something I’ve seen but couldn’t articulate after two beers.

In January the New York Times’s Patricia Mazzei published a dispatch from Marianna, Florida — a small, politically conservative town that depends on jobs from a federal prison and thus has been deeply hurt by the government shutdown.  “I voted for him, and he’s the one who’s doing this,” Minton told Mazzei. “I thought he was going to do good things. He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.” 

He’s not hurting the people he needs to be hurting.
Think about that line for a second. Roll it over in your head. In essence, Minton is declaring that one aim of the Trump administration is to hurt people — the right people. Making America great again, in her mind, involves inflicting pain.
This is not an accident. Trump’s political victory and continuing appeal depend on a brand of politics that marginalizes and targets groups disliked by his supporters. Trump supporters don’t so much love the Republican party as they hate Democrats, a phenomenon political scientists call “negative partisanship.” They like Trump not because he sells them on the GOP, but because they believe he’ll stick it to the Democrats harder than anyone else.

Zack Beauchamp, Vox  Jan 8, 2019

The right taps into anger. The left can too. Anger at injustice, unfairness, discrimination. From the Salon piece on The Watchmen:

“He’s [Will Reeves] the inheritance of a town and a nation that’s in denial about its legacy of racial strife and the resultant disparity and unrest, a man fortified not by magic or gamma rays, but precisely directed rage.”

I can hate a system, I can hate people. I can work to change a system, I can work to change the minds and heart of people. I can say to them, “We are better than this.  We CAN have nice things.

And we also have to work to bring down the people and institutions that lie and cover up horrible acts.  We live in a time where information silos enables a right wing media that systematically attacks on the truth.  To quote from the scientist Valery Legasov in Chernobyl, written by Craig Mazin.

Valery Legasov : What is the cost of lies? It’s not that we’ll mistake them for the truth. The real danger is that if we hear enough lies, then we no longer recognize the truth at all.  Chernobyl, 1:23:45 Episode 1 

So when people finally DO go down, and go to jail like Michael Cohen, Paul Manafort and soon Roger Stone, we need to celebrate those convictions and follow up by passing laws that reinforce our ideals so that the the next, smarter fascist will have to work harder.

I don’t want to hate my relatives who have identity fusion with Trump, a man who is cruel, lawless, corrupt, racist and sexist. But if I can’t reach them with the truth and  proof that the people supporting Trump and his violation of our Constitution have gone to jail; my job is to support leaders and people who say to us, “We owe it to each other, as humans, as Americans, to be better. To do better.”

I’d like them see the world as I see it, a place where justice will prevail and with a hope for a better future.

Cross Posted on Hullabaloo.

Comments are closed.