Next 'Guiding Light' in Congress? - East Valley Tribune: Opinion

Next 'Guiding Light' in Congress?

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Posted: Thursday, October 7, 2010 10:15 am | Updated: 11:28 pm, Wed May 25, 2011.

"Guiding Light,'' CBS' 72-year-old soap opera, went off the air on Sept. 21, bringing to a close the oldest running daytime drama in television history, one that had begun on radio in 1937.

But the end of the show does not mean that another one just like it must follow. In fact, its success helped spawn the next generation we known as "reality TV."

Real life is not endless repetition of what went before. Betterment and progress come from improving, improvising and experimenting with what went before. Otherwise, everyone's life would be a continuous re-run.

Here's the odd part. A segment of right-wing thinking actually wants it that way.

That became clear after New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson said on "Face The Nation'' that he believed Democrats should take on the Tea Party and address them directly for what they represent, measured against the Democratic performance in the first two years of the Obama administration.

For the sake of a well-rounded political debate, I don't agree with the technocratic issues-and-answers "yes-but" roundtable, liberal-conservative approach. A person virtually needs an advanced degree in a subject just to figure out the trade-offs and what values are in play.

And that spiff about Congress members not reading those mega-page bills (who can read 2,000 pages overnight?) doesn't play, either. Has no one explained that a bill is like a policy and legal blueprint?

Did you read the engineering specifications before you bought your new car? Of course not. You bought the car for certain features and had the usual expectation about the rest, whether two or 2,000 pages).

But the in-your-face verbal assaults over simple matters like this should be in most moderate people's minds when they vote on Nov. 2. A lot more is riding on this election than what is being talked about openly. Don't get me wrong. Not all Democrats have been lame about getting out in front on policy, but too many have.

We have a sick economy for many reason: overly deregulated financing, irrational exuberance, unprecedented income differences now forming rigid social classes, irrational exuberance about war, a 30-year failure to reform schools and colleges or to demand better from them.

During that time, many other countries have made use of what they have and have finally begun advancing economically. In a sense, those improvements have changed the world.

For guidance about what's going on, culture analyst Gary Taylor's 1996 book "Cultural Selection: Why Some Achievements Survive the Test of Time -- And Others Don't" has something to say.

He essentially shows how memory of the past forms how we envision and reshape the present and future. Symbols come into play.

For example, by taking the symbols of discredited characters (Hitler's moustache and the Joker's face), Tea Partiers superimposed them on President Obama's image in order to discredit him and what he represents. A sprinking of venomous words ("socialism") and -- shazam! -- a fiction was created to discredit the present, and to claim fundamentalist ideals instead of adapting, reforming, changing, and rethinking.

Tea Party ideas mostly represent the economic principles responsible for the financial crisis so many households find themselves in and the instability for many businesses.

What the Democrats don't get is that power goes to the one who controls the story and manipulates the symbols. That's what has already happened to them. If you don't believe me, just ask the TP why they blame "government" and not blame "Bush."

Preparing to restore the past will not reshape our country. For instance, can you envision ethnocentrism and the atrocious verbal maligning Latin Americans have experienced with a greater Tea Party attitude present in our politics? What will happen to the three-times-greater trade advantage we already enjoy in Latin America over China with that approach? Will the U.S. shrink in stature in the world map.

In that daytime drama, the Guiding Light's symbol was a lighthouse. If spoiler attitudes prevail, the beacon to the world could very easily become less than the glimmer of a Cub-Scout campfire.

Jose de la Isla writes a weekly commentary for Hispanic Link News Service. E-mail him at

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