If my own adult children are any standard of measurement, there about 12 people left in America who are willing to watch old black and white movies. But in honor of MLK Day and the coming Inauguration and for my own sheer pleasure, I watched Frank Capra’s Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Again.
It holds up. And with some new meaning. There was Jimmy Stewart with glazed eyes staring at the Capitol Building like a pilgrim finally arriving at a Sacred Temple. His eyes are open with wonder as he passes the stones carved with words like “Equal Justice” and at the end of the film, after more than 7 hours of non-stop talking on the Senate floor about the graft and lies he's discovered in Congress, gasps out something about the bad guy “Mr. Taylor and his army marching into the Capitol…” before fainting on the floor. The parallels are astounding.
Earlier in the film, he talks about his Dad teaching him to look at the beauty of this world as if coming out of a tunnel and seeing it for the very first time. Ah, there’s an image. Because we have one more day in the tunnel with the World Record Liar-in-Chief and if the law and order folks do their job, the armed lunatics will not be waiting for us, but behind us, hopefully behind bars. The beauty that awaits is no Shangri-la paradise, it will be fraught with the enormous challenges of the continued pandemic, the ongoing climate change, the wild dogs let out and equipped by the NRA and the enormous job of simply cleaning up the mess of four years of utter incompetency and uncaring. But simply being out of the tunnel will let the hardy plants of human kindness and simple decency (again, see the film and let Mr. Smith tell you) rise up through the cracks in the concrete.
One more day.