Aaron Sorkin’s new show on HBO, The Newsroom, is a brilliant—as well as scathing—analysis of the failure of American journalism. It’s no wonder that the mainstream critics have leapt all over it with blistering abuse. Sorkin has said what they’re too afraid to say.
The opening sequence—“Why is America the greatest nation in the world?”—is something that needs to be said.
We aren’t. But we can be.
This nation was born in blood, committed to the most revolutionary and subversive idea in history—that a well-informed populace can be responsible for their own government, that the divine right of kings makes no more sense than a watery tart lying about in a lake, handing out swords.
The gift that the founding fathers gave us was the opportunity, the mandate, to be responsible for our own destiny. We get to hold our government accountable.
We have accomplished terrible things and extraordinary things. We committed the crimes of genocide and slavery and environmental extinction—because we didn’t know better. But we also built dams and bridges and railroads and cities and farms big enough to feed half the world. We cured polio and smallpox and sent men to the moon. We built schools and universities and libraries and museums and gleaming towers. We took a stand against tyranny, whether it was fascism or communism. We helped Europe rebuild after the nazis left it in ruins.
As a people, we opened our doors to immigrants from all over the world and built a nation based not on homogeneity, but diversity. We expanded the concept of human rights and continued to expand those ideals.
But along the way, we forgot who we are and what we are committed to. We forgot our humanity, we forgot our generosity, we forgot our compassion. We became fat and selfish and lazy.
We are no longer number one in education or literacy or science or health care. We are no longer number one in technology. We are number one in people in prison per capita. Our infant mortality rate is nowhere near the top. Our educational systems are in disrepair, along with most of our infra-structure. We consume one-third of the planet’s resources. We do not pay that debt forward.
We forgot what America stands for—it’s this simple: “We can do better.”
Like leeches on a healthy body, the greedy one percent have looted three trillion dollars from our economy, making it impossible for the poor to aspire to the middle class, making it impossible for the middle class to share the economic growth of the nation, making it impossible for students to pay for their education, let alone find jobs, making it impossible for homeowners to stay in their own homes, making it impossible for America to be the great nation we set out to build.
That Sorkin said it bluntly is worthy of praise, not condemnation. We can’t fix a problem until we first admit it exists.
Those who missed the point and who attacked Sorkin for speaking so bluntly aren’t just part of the problem — they ARE the problem.