Once there was a man who believed in movies. He did not just think they were a way of escaping frm ordinary life or that they were entertaining, he thought they were truth. Forthis man, they were two kinds of reality. There was real life reality and then there was a greater reality. This was movies.
When this man thought about war, he thought about war films. When this man thought of poverty, he thought about films about the Great Depression. To him, war was about heroism and sacrifice and not about carnage and waste and gross stupidity. And he did not see poverty as a social pathology, nearly impossible to cure and hard just to understand, he saw it as a temporary state, a little setback that could be rectified by hard work.
Movies ran through this man's head all the time. In his off hours he talked about them. He talked about movies he had seen and, of course, movies he had acted in because this is what he used to do. He was a movie actor and in his mind, his roles and his life became fused. He could no longer tell the difference between the two and so even one day when he was shot, he talked like John Wayne in a western. It was charming and you could not find anyone who did not envy him his wit and his courage, but the whole thing nevertheless seemed to take place in black and white. Only the popcorn was missing.
Sometimes when this man was asked a question, he cited movie-like scenarios for his answer. One time, he credited the desegregation of the armed forces to the bravery and courage of black soldiers and sailors. He spoke of one sailor in particular, a galley cook, and when he talked of the bravery this man had shown, you could see the scene unfold in your head--the cook cradling the machine gun in his powerful black arms. Ratatatatatatat. And then the armed services were desegregated.
Of course, it did not happen this way at all. It happens this way only in the movies, but this man believed in the movies. This is why he was always citing the exceptional to prove the ordinary. When a very brave man dove into the icy Potomac River to rescue people who had survived an air crash, the man who believed in movies cited this as an example for us all.
He sometimes referred to letters he received from people who told him how they loved programs that ran counter to their own interests--like blind people saying how they can do without disability payments. The man who loves movies can conjure up the picture of the blind man, but he can not see all the other people who need and want their payments. This is because it's practically impossible to make a movie about ordinariness. Ask anyone in the business.
Movies also shaped this man's ideas of what private charity should and can do. He once quoted the wisdom of Billy Graham, who had figured that if every church and synagogue in America adopted 10 poor families, "we could eliminate all government welfare in this country." This is out of an Andy Hardy movie. You can almost hear Mickey Rooney say, "Gee, I have an idea. Let's all adopt 10 poor families."
The man who believed in movies became a very successful politician. At first this may not make much sense, but you have to remember that he was not the only one who believed in movies. We all did. And so when he talked about the Depression the way he did, and when he talked about poor people as if they were just people with coal smeared on to dirty their faces, we all nodded in recognition because we had seen the same movies.
In his political speeches, the man who believed in movies just flipped a switch in the minds of his audience and a movie played in their heads. He summoned up the names and achievements of former presidents. He talked of courage and spirit and war. And when he talked, he sometimes choked up and got teary because he believed very much in what he had seen even though he had seen it only in the movies. And sometimes when he did that, the people who listened to him did the same because they had seen the same movies.
The man who believed in movies was called a Great Communicator. He became the president of the United States and even though his policies were a failure, and people knew that, they did not seem to mind. In real life, they were hurting, but real life was not the movies. And the movies were better than ever.