This December, the passing of President George H. W. Bush seems to have created even more nation-wide nostalgia than what is normally experienced through Hallmark movies. Does America’s infatuation with icons of the past, old movies, and cheesy Hallmark TV shows reflect our yearning for a kinder, gentler country? I believe it does, and here’s why.
My wife, Linda, and I were in Washington, DC, by coincidence when the body of former President Bush was lying in state in the Capitol rotunda. We are volunteers for the Association of Mature American Citizens (AMAC) and were invited by that organization to lobby Congress for one of their senior adult legislative initiatives. We arrived four hours prior to a working dinner and decided to pay our respects to the president and war hero we admired greatly. After standing in line for a cold hour, we learned the wait would be over three-and-a-half hours, so we had to depart to be on time for the dinner. Why were thousands of people from all over the country braving the frigid temperatures for up to four hours to spend a couple of minutes with a former president’s remains in a closed casket? Mostly because they needed to reconnect with the more peaceful, more civil, and simpler times when America was, well, just better.
People are also turning to more traditional entertainment from the past. Apparently, I’m not the only one who rejects the tripe that passes for TV series and reality shows opting instead for network classic movies. Every year, more people tune into the TCM network, and the average age of the movie fans is getting younger. Again, the evidence is that our society is yearning for the values of days gone by.
But, the most telling display of America’s desire for traditional morals and family has to be the Hallmark Christmas movie craze. Why else would millions of people opt for a poorly written, low-budget movie with amateur actors in totally predictable plots. It’s always about someone from the big city who goes to a small town and falls in love with someone who already has a love interest. The screen writers just change the names and venues. Yet, people are driven to these movies because of the void in their hearts that longs for the authenticity, simplicity, and unconditional love characterized by the stories.
Americans in general want to return to a time of goodness. Maybe it should be described as a time of godliness. We see our nation moving in a direction contrary to our ideology and we find consolation in retreating to more meaningful times. Realistically, those times were not as good as our memories of them, but they were heavenly compared to today’s social climate. So, how can we reverse the present political and societal mess and return to better times? Societies only change as individuals change, and we can only change one individual–ourselves. To borrow a concept of Mark Batterson, author of The Circle Maker, we can draw a circle around ourselves and change everyone in that circle.
I am very concerned about the scarcity of civility, respect, love for others, and personal sacrifice that characterizes America today. There is little I can do about it other than make sure I’m not contributing to it. So, with God’s help, I’m going to continue striving to be more like George H. W. Bush and the people of classical and Hallmark movies. I hope you will, too.