As the curtain drops on the final act of another mean-spirited election season, one can almost hear the words of Paul Newman’s character Brick Pollitt in Tennessee Williams’s play “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof,” when he says to his wife Maggie, who is played by Elizabeth Taylor, “Maggie, we’re through with lies and liars in this house. Lock the door.”
Americans should take those simple words after Americans have cast their final votes and, after the curtain falls on the final act of this election season, maybe, just maybe, it is time in American history to rewrite the final act of this election season. It is a time to lock the doors not just from the liars, but from all those who embrace division, not unity, for all Americans.
Maybe it is time for Americans to look to another playwright, one who will write an old-fashioned three-act play with a final scene which closes with words of encouragement, not words of discouragement.
How about a play entitled “America, a country of hope,” a three-act play which closes with a final scene when the main character, a newly elected president, delivers an inaugural address and challenges all Americans with the words, “…ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
Or maybe, Americans need to find a playwright who will write the final act in a play entitled, “America, a country of hope,” where a departing president delivers a farewell speech to America with the words: “I’ve spoken of the shining city all my political life, but I don’t know if I ever quite communicated what I saw when I said it. But in my mind, it was a tall, proud city built on rocks stronger than oceans, wind-swept, God-blessed, and teaming with people of all kinds living in harmony and peace; a city with free ports that hummed with commerce and creativity. And if there had to be city walls, the walls had doors and the doors were open to anyone with the will and the heart to get here. That’s how I saw it and see it still.”
Looking back on history, many Americans who grew up in the sixties considered themselves Kennedy Democrats, Americans who truly asked themselves what they could do for their country, not what their country could do for them. And then something happened in the seventies which left Kennedy Democrats longing for the good old days when Americans could once again embrace a vision of America as a shining city on a hill, Americans who considered themselves Reagan Republicans.
So, what does the future hold for America? Should Americans allow the playwright who writes the final act of “America, a country of hope,” to allow the playwright to write a final scene which ends with words of discouragement, words of division, or with words of encouragement where all Americans share in the dreams envisioned by President Kennedy and President Reagan.
Maybe, this generation of Americans will someday be known as the generation which reunited us, as the generation which espouses a vision for America which unites all Americans, not a vision for America which divides all Americans.
In a few days, as the curtain falls on this mean-spirited election season, let’s pass the baton to the next generation of Americans, Americans who have already tired of those politicians who in the words of Brick Pollitt are nothing more than liars, nothing more than politicians’ intent only on getting elected at whatever the cost.
The next generation, the generation of Millennials, should be able to choose their own playwright, a playwright capable of writing a final act of an election season of hope for a brighter and more prosperous America.
So, as I often do, I would ask each of you to join me on my imaginary mountaintop, no better yet, I would ask each of you to join me on my imaginary shining city on a hill, where each of us can shout loudly to all Americans those famous words, “…ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”
Mark Wohlander, a former FBI agent, federal prosecutor and passionate writer, practices law Lexington.
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