As Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders “surge” in recent polling, the famous serenity prayer came to my mind. I find myself wondering if such candidates represent the wisdom of knowing something can be changed or a lack of necessary serenity – and what role media plays in all of this.
Both candidates represent an effort to change the status quo, but can it be changed?
Sometimes change is not about the possibility, but the methodology. A super hero movie saves the world in a couple of hours, directly and forcefully, but real life is rarely that straightforward. Trump and Sanders both look like “super heroes.” They look good and say all the right things. What’s left but to show up for the climactic battle and beat the bad guys? Oh sure, the final battle will be full of deceit and trickery, twists and turns, but if we just believe in our heroes hard enough they will prevail – after all, they always do in the movies.
However, consider that in Star Trek, Captain Kirk was never suited for for anything above star ship captain, and in Superman story and after story Lex Luthor would always use media to cast himself in the hero role. Even the movies understand things are not always as the appear at first blush.
Simply put we cannot let our desire to change the status quo overcome our judgement on how to do so. In this case we need the serenity to accept how we have to change things. The kind of change the nation needs will not be handled in one final climactic battle or election. No, the kind of change this nation needs requires far more patience and fortitude than that – it will come as the result of thousands of small victories, not one big one.
The serenity prayer has been adopted by Alcoholism Anonymous. It speaks to those struggling with alcoholism in part because it helps them focus on the immediate and small battle of not taking the next drink instead of the big problem of “overcoming addiction.” The problems our nation faces are similar. We cannot change it all at once, but we can win the next small and immediate battle.