Tonight was the finale of the West Wing and like a good little blue-stater I watched. It was mediocre as far as finales go, but I was still reminded that this was one of the only places on television for the last 8 years where my opinions were reflected back at me. Not in the news, or the talking head shows on Sunday, but in a fictional television show about the White House.
On the finale tonight, as the super-fast moving crews were cleaning out President Bartlett's personal items, the camera lingered on a book by the French philosopher Michel Foucault. I don't know which particular text it was, but just the fact that this fictional president would read a dense and difficult philosopher like Foucault is what resonates with me the most. The show didn't treat us like we are idiots. The current administration and even the real Democratic Party do.
The most timely Foucault tome that could have come off that fictional president's shelf would have been Discipline and Punish, which is about the creation of the panopticon state. In the last few weeks we have become aware of the extent the current administration will go to monitor and spy on Americans through the domestic wiretapping and gathering of phone records. Foucault was well aware of the extremes the state (and a subdued society within it) would go to in order to keep constant surveillance and control.
So our fictional president reads Foucault-a French, Gay, one-time communist philosopher- while our real president seeks to create the nightmarish state that Foucault envisioned and feared, has insulted the French, and is working hard to keep gays from having the right to marry and thinkers from having the right to think. Reality bites.
Maybe now that there is nothing on television that reflects our idealism and intelligence we can get to the hard work of finding a president who does think and read (My Pet Goat not included).