It’s that wonderful time of year when families gather to celebrate the birth of Christ. A tradition for many is watching old Christmas movies, hearkening back to a time when life was perhaps more innocent and simple.
While most get caught up in the heart-warming story of how one man’s life can make an important difference to a small town in upstate New York, there are more lessons to consider in the Frank Capra classic “It’s a Wonderful Life.”
As George Bailey gets the opportunity to see “what the world would be like without him,” the first stop in George’s alternative universe is the once-gentle neighborhood pub, where he had just said a prayer asking for God’s help a few hours before and the owner was concerned about George drinking too much. Instead he finds a raunchy bar where “they serve hard drinks for men who want to get drunk fast.”
What was once peaceful Bedford Falls had become a seedy, bawdy mess with looters in the street and where Violet Bick (the loose girl of town gossip) is hauled away in a paddy wagon. The scene gives way to a discussion with his friend Ernie the taxi driver whose wife had left him and taken his son.
Why were the people of Pottersville in such desperate straits? Why would their lives have been so different, depraved and sordid? Even George’s sweet dear mother had become mean and nasty.
The answer is simple: The people had no hope. They were ruled by the iron hand of Henry F. Potter, a man who controlled every aspect of their lives. Like a dictator, he only allowed people to survive at his whim, living in his rundown houses. He dictated how the people worked, how much land they could own and how much they could earn.
They were without hope, as Potter’s control over their lives meant they were never capable of being successful or rising above their station in life. They were under the rule of a tyrant, who cared nothing for their lives or their well-being.
While traveling in 1987, that feeling of lost hope was evident in Eastern bloc countries of the former Soviet Union. The people were in despair, they had no hope of succeeding against a totalitarian regime that only allowed them to live under their rules and by their hand. When people have no freedom, no ability to succeed and no chance of every getting ahead, what is there to live for?
With the election of Barack Obama and Democratic control of Congress, many Americans had a feeling of dread as 2009 began, convinced the Democrats’ leftist agenda meant the government, especially at the federal level, would take more control of their lives.
From new regulations on businesses like the cap-and-trade bill to government takeover of the health care industry, conservatives, libertarians and independents justifiably feared for what was on tap. They would never have predicted the federal government would immediately move to take over private industries like banks and automobile manufacturers or mandate the giving of taxpayer dollars to government agencies to “stimulate the economy,” even when it wouldn’t work.
Amidst the despair and assured passage of the health care bill, there was an unexpected glimmer of hope for America - the tea-party movement. Stirred by frustration over the government mandates and dictates and the takeover of every part of their lives, Americans across the country began to get active in protesting against this objectionable state of affairs.
Some attended rallies. Some participated in town-hall meetings with members of Congress. Others simply spoke out in protest with their friends and neighbors. They read the country’s founding documents to understand which powers the government was intended to have.
During the summer months, these activists were reading the health care legislation, when members of Congress wouldn’t bother. They got their friends involved, and they talked to people who voted for Mr. Obama. They watched Glenn Beck and listened to Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity to get the latest information.
While they became more and more active, even the mainstream media had to report the polls showing that more than 60 percent of the American people are opposed to the health care takeover.
Average Americans, busy with their daily lives, have been awakened by the fear of a behemoth federal government that takes control of every aspect of their lives and that will be the demise of a nation based on liberty and justice for all.
Our freedom and rights come from God, not from the state. If the government can give rights, it can take them away, which is what it is attempting to do with every move toward centralized control.
This is reflective of a scene from a personal favorite Christmas movie, also directed by Frank Capra, called “Meet John Doe.” The story was of one man’s fight against the political elites and the government’s ruling authority over the people. John Doe, played by Gary Cooper, champions those who don’t have a voice against the powerful union bosses, the rich and the politically connected, calling them the “John Does” of the world. In his speech defending these average Americans, he says, “Wake up, John Doe. You’re the hope of the world.” Thankfully, this is happening. There is hope.
Diana Banister is vice president and partner of Shirley & Banister Public Affairs, a Washington-based public relations and government affairs firm.