Without a Vision

In this year in which we celebrated the 242nd anniversary of our nation’s independence, there is much for which we should be thankful.  We have been blessed with many good gifts.  We enjoy great freedom – including, for most of us, freedom from want.  Yet there are certain things that bode ill for the future of our great land.  Most of all I am concerned with an apparent loss of vision.

What is our vision of America today?  From whence do we derive this vision?

Observe the present political scene. Leaders of both major political parties attack the opposition with minimal regard for civility and only a casual concern for truth.

What is in the news?  Over the past few two weeks we have learned of a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania revealing that hundreds of priests in Pennsylvania dioceses had sexually abused thousands of young boys and girls over a period of decades, and the Catholic Church had engaged in a massive cover-up.

And what is the message from popular culture – from music, cinema, and television.

I must admit that I am a very poorly informed cultural critic.  I prefer classical music.  I go to movies no more than once or twice per year.  On television I tend to watch the news, history programs and very old movies.  Nevertheless, my brief exposure to what passes as entertainment these days is very disturbing.  The crassness and vulgarity is often repelling, and I often fail to detect any redeeming social value in the content.

Over the past two evenings I tried to watch a recently produced television mini-series.  It was a legal thriller, and I tend to be very fond of courtroom dramas.

The protagonist is a down-at-the-heels attorney with a formerly brilliant legal career.  He is spending most of his days in a bar at a California beach, drinking heavily and living aimlessly.  His ex-wife is employed as a top lawyer by a prestigious law firm where the protagonist had once been a founding partner.  His former partner is now sole head of the law firm, and he is a dark and sinister figure who reigns over his firm from his top floor office.  He has the building wired so that he can observe and hear the activities and conversations of his employees when he wishes.

A woman engages the protagonist to pursue a wrongful death claim against a huge defense contracting company where her deceased brother had worked.  The protagonist’s former law firm represents the company.

It was an interesting premise, and I was hooked. Over the course of the two evenings the following events unfolded.

The protagonist is  assisted by a recently licensed lawyer of dubious character and another woman who is a part-time prostitute and almost full-time drug user.

The protagonist becomes sexually intimate with the woman who hired him for the wrongful death suit.

The woman claimant is struck and killed in a hit-and-run.  As suspected by the protagonist, the “accident” was arranged by the defense contracting company, but he has no proof.  Our protagonist lawyer then persuades the deceased man’s son to become the claimant in place of his murdered aunt.

The two top women attorneys in the big law firm, one of whom is the protagonist’s former wife, become involved in a lesbian relationship.  The other woman, the aggressive one, has the morals of a depraved alley cat.

The sinister head of the law firm lures a young female lawyer to his office and seduces her.  It takes very little effort.  The young woman is more than willing to prostitute herself for power and money.

The protagonist finds a former employee of the defense contractor who will serve as an expert witness in the wrongful death trial.  When he arrives for deposition, the “alley cat” attorney destroys him by revealing that he had posted pornographic pictures of his former girlfriend on the internet.

By this point in the drama, I could take no more.  I turned off the television. I will never find how it turned out, nor do I much care.

Why did I watch so long?  The story had a certain morbid fascination, but it was nihilistic claptrap.  It had the feel of a tale scribbled on the walls of a jailhouse toilet. .

There is no one in the story who displayed any admirable moral qualities.  They all appeared to be rude, self-seeking, unprincipled individuals.  Nearly every conversation was laced with the f— word.  Everyone was willing to cheat to win, there was no display of genuine love or caring, and their lives appeared to be dreadfully empty and unhappy.

Many critics of the mini-series acclaimed the excellent acting, and there were accolades for the gritty realism of the story and the fact that it did not have the typical happy outcome.  Indeed, from the reviews it appears that the final ending was quite depressing.

I thought that the entire series was dismal, and I did not think it was at all realistic.  There are some very bad people who live on this earth, and there are occasions when someone is so unfortunate as to run into one of these individuals.  I have encountered some disagreeable characters in my time, liars, cheaters, thieves, traitors, adulterers, etc., but in my nine decades on this earth I have never encountered a collective group of people nearly so nasty and despicable as the ones depicted in this show.  I cannot believe that any major law firm or large business company could survive with that degree of malpractice and criminal conduct among its employees.

Hallmark productions and movies like The Sound of Music are often panned by critics for being too saccharine or unrealistic.  Actually, I believe them to be more true to life than some of the dark dramas now being produced for screen or television. We need to fill our minds and hearts with better images.  Celebrate the good and beautiful things in life.  Refresh yourselves in the joys of church, friends and family.

What effect is television, music and the cinema having on the youth of our land?  What do they think of America?  Do they have a vision of what they think America should be?

We recognize that all is not right with the world.  Evil exists, and we must do all we can to stamp it out.  America itself has many faults.  But many of us have a dream.  As for me, I find that dream well expressed in the beautiful and inspiring words of  Katherine Lee Bates:   

 

America! America! God shed his grace on thee And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

America! America! God mend thine ever flaw Confirm thy soul in self-control, thy liberty in law.

America! America! May God thy gold refine Till all success be nobleness and ever gain divine.

O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years Thine alabaster cities gleam Undimmed by human tears!

America! America! God shed his grace on thee And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!

 

We will never perfectly realize that dream.  Every flaw will not be mended, and there will still be tears.  We are human, and we are sinners.  But we can still have a dream based on the God given knowledge of what is right and good.  We can strive for a more perfect union, a more perfect America.

Some three thousand years ago a shepherd king sang, “Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable in thy sight, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer.”

What is the meditation of our hearts?  Do we have a beautiful vision for America?

“Where there is no vision, the people perish.”  Proverbs 29:18a

 

2 thoughts on “Without a Vision

  1. I wonder if people like these shows with depraved characters because it makes them feel better about themselves; like they are not that bad, and thus in a way, justifies their own questionable behavior that deep down they know is wrong.

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