Every holiday season, in an attempt to rekindle my belief in how joyful life can be, I try to watch ‘Miracle on 34th Street.” Perhaps by divine will, the movie came up free in OnDemand this year. But as if to prove that this world’s divinity enjoys balance, the movie was sandwiched by several USA channel marathons of ‘House, M.D.”
What contrast! The first work propagates the idea of trust and faith, while the latter shatters such beliefs through a miserable doctor’s cynical mantra that ‘everybody lies.” Where Kris Kringle asks us to believe in a simple, fantastic idea, Gregory House deplores those who would take any truth at face value; few procedural shows really crack your faith in humanity so easily. And as I’ve whittled away the last two weeks, bed-bound by surgery, well let’s just say that ‘House” shows up a lot more in the television lineup than ’34th Street” does in February.
Unfortunately, I can’t help but feel that ‘House” hits the nail on the head. It’s hard to trust others, in words or actions. We’re a very untrusting society, founded on glorious-sounding principles but built by the tenet of enlightened self-interest. Our colonial history, pockmarked with witchhunts, evolved into a national history generating the Red Scare and House Un-American Activities Committee. No less than three months ago, legislators and television commentators declared that socialists were attempting to destroy our economy. Distrust of our fellow citizens even those closest to us exists in all the nooks and crannies of American culture. Take this year’s Oscar nominees for Best Picture all of them deal with some kind of trust issues: ‘Oh, wait, that woman I had sex with is a former Nazi concentration camp guard?”
Or, perhaps, look at the fact that Academic Services, in order to assist the handicapped, requires a note from my surgeon to prove that I am indeed on crutches and unable to go up stairs. After all, the stitches and full-length leg brace are probably just props. As individuals, we reinforce these problems every day. Promises are left unfulfilled. That assignment guaranteed to be in on Wednesday at noon might as well not be received until 5 p.m. Yet so many perpetrators, myself decidedly included, still seek further responsibilities, which inevitably invite greater perpetrations. We eventually become spread so thin and so self-involved that we injure meaningful relationships. Every misstep, whether intentional or, most likely, not, is still a breach in trust and in turn plies those betrayed with greater cynicism.
Worst yet, when someone is adamantly uttering a fantastic truth, no one believes it. No one wants to believe without seeing, or bet faith against the odds. Almost one year ago exactly in this same space, I stated that only by Barack Obama’s election to the presidency would any sense of optimism return, and it looks like that is coming to fruition. The American electorate rewarded my faith, and now, here’s a huge new chance.
Yes, we will always suffer our most human flaws, and our trust will be betrayed occasionally; sure, not every Cabinet nominee will know the tax code like they should.
Yet sometimes, we have to take the leap and hope that a trampoline is there. Sometimes we have to believe that the old man at Macy’s is Santa Claus. Sometimes, we have to believe that yes, we can.
Brenneman is a member of
the class of 2009.