The Ongoing Wonderful Life Thread

by Brad Nelson   11/24/13
Man cannot be a religious creature, or a good creature, unless he has a sense of gratitude. Democrats instinctively (perhaps unconsciously) know this which is why they stoke grievance and dissatisfaction amongst their constituents.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is certainly a feel-good film. But it is far more than that. It is a slice of the American Dream and of the American Character. If it is not always as it should be, in practice, it is what we aspire to.

It is common in some parts of the worlds for life to be cheap. Dennis Prager has a saying: There are two types of people, the decent and the indecent. I suspect most of us delve into a little a both. But there are clearly indecent people. And a people can be made indecent by bad values, bad politics, and just bad bad. This is the legacy that Obama and his ilk are leaving us. Bad.

Obama doesn’t love this country. Leftists don’t love this country. For them, it’s not a wonderful life. It’s a miserable life. It’s a racist, sexist, homophobic life. That’s the poisonous lens through which they parse everything, and they have plenty of the lower-tier useful idiots who inhale this doctrine like second-hand smoke and regurgitate it in many forms.

Anyone who has ever lived has had portions of their life be shitty. And some lives may be that way on balance, through little or no fault of their own. The idea of “It’s a Wonderful Life” is therefore sometimes seen as a monstrous mockery of this hard reality. Atheists do not not believe in God as much as they are angry at the very idea that someone could have handed them their shitty lives as some sort of divine plan.

One can sympathize with this point of view even while understanding what a dark dead-end it is.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is infused with a perfume of existence that is like a silver bullet to Leftists, atheists, and those with wounds, real or over-emphasized, who define themselves by those wounds. Howling at the moon can too easily become a way of life.

But “It’s a Wonderful Life” is the opposite of a howl. It is a mixture of ethics, character, community, and charity that is incompatible with those who nurture a sense of grievance, victimhood, and thus are left angry and ungrateful. George Bailey is just one example of one life. But this story could be told with a thousand different characters in that role who have lived quite different lives. But the same situation remains: Shall we define ourselves by our troubles?

A little angel called “Clarence” reminded George that he was more than his passing wounds and disappointments. He was allowed to see his life with new eyes. No one has to deny the hardships, the true injustices, and just plain bad luck. But it’s easy to become defined by them.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is the intersection of art and risen humanity. It’s more than just a movie. It’s more than just passive entertainment. It is a glimpse of a noble human spirit that is noble because it refuses to be otherwise, even if it has every excuse to be otherwise.

And sometimes we all need a shove in the right direction so that it can be thus. There are so many vulgar, poisonous, dishonest, and dreadful things pulling us in contrary directions. And just as there are many George Baileys, all with different life stories to tell (and to overcome and to appreciate), so there are many types of Clarences. Maybe it won’t be an actual angel that gives you perspective on your own life. Maybe, indeed, it could be something as novel as an old movie.

“It’s a Wonderful Life” is a movie that matters. And given where we are now in this culture, it is art such as this that can give us inspiration not to give up or give in. It’s not that we’re surrounded by Mr. Potters. If only. Such people can be dealt with. We are surrounded by much worse, by much darker forces than an old skinflint.
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Brad Nelson

About Brad Nelson

I like books, nature, politics, old movies, Ronald Reagan (you get sort of a three-fer with that one), and the founding ideals of this country. We are the Shining City on the Hill — or ought to be. However, our land has been poisoned by Utopian aspirations and feel-good bromides. Both have replaced wisdom and facts.
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11 Responses to The Ongoing Wonderful Life Thread

  1. Timothy Lane says:

    Ironically, we’re under attack by those who use the Potters of the world as their excuse — even as they work with those same Potters in mutual back-scratching.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      Yes, that may be so. And the Left would replace Bedford Falls, not with Pottersville, but with an authoritarian one-party regime masquerading as a social Utopia. Perhaps the name would be an Orwellian “Pleasantville.”

      Bedford Falls is a typical functioning friendly little town, but it is no Utopia. People have to work and struggle, live and love, suffer loss and regret. But they do so within a framework of decent bonds, something that separates Bedford Falls from a libertarian Utopia, which I think would end up looking pretty much like Pottersville.

      Charity, decency, sacrifice, integrity, gratitude, truth, and self-responsibility are the glue that hold Bedford Falls together. Before decency itself was considered corny, if not outright oppressive, America was full of these little towns. And when decency leaves, you inevitably get Pottersvilles…or Detroits.

  2. Kung Fu Zu says:

    It is curious how different people can view the same piece of art differently.

    For me, “It’s a Wonderful Life” is, at its essence, a story about how we should view success and what is really important in life. In order to do this, Capra uses extreme characters to represent two vastly different ideas of success. The one idea, materialism, is encapsulated in Potter. The other, lets call it spiritualism, is encapsulated by George.

    The movie’s message is that materialism, as exemplified by Potter, is a fool’s pursuit. For all his wealth, he is a lonely man who has no family or friends, at least we don’t see any, and is loved by no one. And there are signs that he knows this. He rarely smiles and then only when he thinks he has bested someone, as when he thinks he has corrupted George with his offer to hire him. In his heart, he is unhappy.

    George is Potter’s opposite. Someone who has made choices not based on material gain, but on basis of an inner moral compass. These choices have not been easy and have led to a crisis of belief and loss of bearing, which requires heavenly intervention to correct. George is given a miraculous opportunity to see the world as it would have been without him. This journey opens his eyes to his real success and shows George, along with the audience, what should be truly treasured; service to others, love of family and friends, helping one’s community and God’s Love.

    I understand the use of black and white characters for the story’s sake. It’s simply, as I have grown older, I prefer a somewhat more nuanced approach.

    Again, I recommend viewing “The Bishop’s Wife”. Not exactly the same, but it does deal with an angel, money and a question of what is important in life. Part of the nuance lies in the fact that it is a bishop who is presented with the problem of materialism vs. spiritualism and what choice he has to make.

    What makes the bishop’s problem interesting is that the materialism in this case is cloaked in something which has to do with the religious.

    It is also interesting as the person with the money is not portrayed as a greedy pig, but as a somewhat haughty, sad woman who develops into a kind patron.

    • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

      The one idea, materialism, is encapsulated in Potter. The other, lets call it spiritualism, is encapsulated by George.

      I agree. And we’re not at cross purposes. Many an essay of mine has noted what you’ve said. These various themes are not contradictory.

      George’s final message from Clarence (written in the book) was “Dear George, remember no man is a failure who has friends. Thanks for the wings, Love Clarence.” “It’s a Wonderful Life” is all about valuing things in a different way.

      But neither is “It’s a Wonderful Life” a socialist message. George Bailey runs a building and loan and he must make a profit. But he’s taking the longer view. Not only is he helping people with the dignity of owning their own homes, but he knows this makes them happy and healthy customers.

      I think “It’s a Wonderful Life” is rich with nuance. Part of the charm is that it appears to be a one-dimensional feel-good bit of schmaltz. But I think Capra goes way beyond that. Even so, the iconic characters such as Potter, Mr. Gower, and Old Man Bailey are stand-ins for various types or traits.

      Old Man Bailey is the stereotypical American male who suffers indignities time and again in order to provide for his family. Think of the coal workers who have to go down into that black hell to make a living for their families. It wasn’t quite that bad, but Mr. Bailey had to do much the same thing when dealing with Potter.

      And his son is full of all kinds of dreams and youthful energy. George Bailey wants to see the world. He doesn’t want to be stuck in this small building and loan. He doesn’t appreciate what his father has provided for him, as we see has happened with entire generations of American yutes. One can say that George Bailey was lucky in a way because he had maturity thrust upon him. Unlike so many yutes today who have expectations of living like a sophomore until the age of thirty, George Bailey was corralled by life into something much more mundane than an extended vacation from reality.

      And that eventually made him sad and bitter and led to the moment where he woke up (with thanks from a patient angel). No, my friend, I don’t view this movie as lacking depth. As I’ve said, I keep finding more substance in it every time I view it. But I liked your analysis. That is what this thread is for.

      • Kung Fu Zu says:

        Old man Bailey is my favorite character in the film. His relatively short part, leaves room for the imagination, but it is clear he is a good man with his feet on the ground who has not been embittered by life’s slings and arrows.

        • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

          Yeah, Old Man Bailey is great.

          And doesn’t he remind everyone of his own father or grandfather (or maybe even great grandfather, if need be) before the weak “touchy-feely” generation took over? The new norm for a “man” is to be touchy-feely, emotional, cry a lot, share his feelings, and to be involved in “consensus” instead of that nasty thing called “holding people to good standards.”

          None of that is to excuse fathers or men who are violent, brutal, insensitive, or take machoism to an extreme, as surely many do. But the opposite or corrective of the overly macho man is not the feminized man. It is the good man. As I think Bill Whittle said, we need good, strong men. And that is so true today.

          And Old Mr. Bailey is a tower of that kind of non-girly-man strength. He was a man. And George Bailey had many good qualities as well. But he became his best when he became more like his father — responsible, steady, and hard-working.

          • Timothy Lane says:

            I see what you mean. My father, as an army engineer officer (the facility he was working on was named Port Lane after he was killed, though I assume the new management has changed that), could be a very strict disciplinarian and was very much the handy-man (I still have some furniture he made). But he also took me to see Mary Poppins.

          • Kung Fu Zu says:

            I think one of the important rites of passage in a boy’s life is the moment his father sits him down and talks to him man-to-man.

            “when I grew up I finished with childish things”

            A few decades ago, before the Deweyan curse had finally wormed its way into the minds of the American public through the public education system, people were expected to mature and act like adults. The Left has undermined these expectations as they do not want adults in the electorate.

            It is the infantilization of America where Daddy and Mommy Government are going to take care of us all.

            • Brad Nelson Brad Nelson says:

              I think you’re exactly right, Mr. Kung. There was a time when people were expected to be adults. There was a time when children actually looked forward to not being limited to being just a kid but having all the rights and responsibilities of an adult.

              But now we seem to want to have all the rights of the adult without the responsibilities of an adult, including growing up and taking care of yourself which is the biggest one by far. A little sparrow emailed me something yesterday that said the World Health Organization reported that up to half the HIV cases in Greece are self-inflicted. Even if the numbers are wrong, apparently this is indeed happening in significant numbers.

              And this is the result of socialism. It shows you like nothing else the bad behavior the “free stuff” will always engender. That the socialists and Democrats have convinced people that their methods are “compassionate” is a testament to their marketing and willingness to lie.

              We are watching people being induced to become the sheep of the government. Two of those inducements are sex and drugs (so no, libertarians, don’t lecture me on how friggin’ smart you all supposedly are…you are just another brand of useful idiot). That’s very powerful. Rush was just talking today about how at Georgetown University (a Catholic institution) they have some kind of free dorm condom delivery service. How pathetic is that? And yet sex a is a great inducement if you mean to institute a cult. And Rush rightly said that the Left is a religion.

              It’s not an American thing to be a kook. The business of America is business, not ideology. Unfortunately because we have to refute and oppose the Left, we are somewhat sucked into this paradigm. But most of us just want this garbage to go away so we can live our own version of It’s a Wonderful Life.

  3. Glenn Fairman says:

    Every time a bell rings
    George Soros tugs his puppet’s strings……..

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