Viking Night: Election
By Bruce Hall
November 10, 2016
Hey, who wants to talk about politics? Specifically, elections?
Okay, put your hands down. Don’t everyone jump up and down with joy and excitement all at once. We all know that if there’s one things Americans are passionate about, it’s a long, drawn out election cycle, with all the trimmings. Anger, hatred, fear mongering, backbiting, and of course all the lies, damn lies and goddamn lies. That’s the part everyone hates, and we all say we’d prefer our political campaigns to stay positive.
But someone has to lose. And when you think you might be that person, it’s awfully hard to stay positive. So, you tip over an outhouse and start chucking whatever you find at anyone who sees things differently. As the big day draws nearer, it even becomes easy to turn against the people who love you, because nobody in the world should be allowed to disagree with you ever, about anything. Then we vote, and the process comes to a merciful end.
Sometimes, we quietly despise ourselves for being unable to express an opinion without turning into turd-flinging meatheads. But of course, we always hate the other side just a little. Bit. More. If it sounds like I’m sour on political discourse, you’d be wrong. Civilization would be as impossible without politics as it would be without agriculture. Or parking tickets. Or great, stinking heaps of raw sewage.
Which brings me back to politics. Politics aren’t the problem in this world. The problem is that while humans have split the atom and landed on the moon and invented Internet porn, we have yet to grasp the simplest law there is in the universe. And it is that everyone on the planet sees things just a wee bit differently than everyone else.
I like to call it the Law of Yeah, Obviously. Except obviously, nobody really gets that.
Eighty thousand spectators in a stadium sees the same thing from a slightly different angle. This effect allows the same event to become a different and unique experience for everyone. Hell, even the act of rooting for one team or the other can affect your judgement. Did Franco Harris let the ball touch the ground? Was Brady’s arm going forward? It all depends. But that’s also part of what makes it great to be alive. Think very carefully about how stupid and pointless life would be if everyone on the planet agreed with each other about everything all the time.
See? Politics are a good thing. It’s our nature as humans that often gets the best of us. Not only is this food for thought, it’s also the plot of Election, Alexander Payne’s somewhat forgotten black comedy from 1999. In it, a well meaning teacher gets himself in over his head when he butts head with an ambitious student. And, we all learn a little something about the difference between Ethics and Morals.
Jim McAllister (Matthew Broderick) is the kind of teacher we all remember fondly from high school. He’s legitimately driven by a strong sense of civic duty, and finds his work as a teacher very rewarding. Most successful people have a “Mr. M” in their past. His brightest student is Tracy Flick (Reese Witherspoon), the aforementioned ambitious teen. She’s the only child of an eccentric woman who might be stalking Connie Chung. Tracy is a hyper-aggressive go-getter who is determined to head every committee, win every achievement award and of course, become student body president. And woe betide anyone who gets in her way.