The eternal struggle between pragmatism and idealism was highlighted in a beautiful monologue in an episode of The Closer from its second season in December 2006 written by series creator James Duff.
It came at the end of a two-part show about a Muslim boy in Los Angeles murdered by a KGB agent who had sold plutonium to Islamic terrorists, who have a cell in LA that includes the boy’s father, with the collusion of a rogue CIA agent. The boy was an unintended victim of the intrigue and had just been trying to get a sympathetic stranger’s help in getting a visa so he could play in an international piano competition–he didn’t know the stranger was his father because his mother had left her husband and fled Lebanon when he was a baby.
OK, so here’s the monologue from Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson as she and her team wait in the dark at the La Brea tar pits for the slain boy’s father and the rogue CIA agent to walk into the trap she has set for them:
Sgt. Gabriel: This whole CIA thing, I don’t know how much I trust them, how I feel about the people who work there, you know?
Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh Johnson: I know, it’s a gray area. I remember once hearing a speech about what it meant to be an officer in the CIA. And the man who gave this speech talked about the struggle to control civilization and how we’re always fighting the same fight and he used the Dark Ages as an example. And he talked about how on the one side we had the pragmatic King, who was greedy and power-hungry and basically took advantage of people whenever he could. And on the other side, you had the idealistic Church forcing everyone to follow the same rules, believe the same things, all that.
Neither the King nor the Church was ever completely right or wrong. Both sides ended up doing terrible things to get what they wanted. Really terrible things. But the point of the story was this: that this struggle from the Dark Ages had been going on forever. That the Church and the King might take different forms and philosophies, but that they would always fight each other, pragmatists and idealists. And that most times you’re better off standing on the sidelines and letting them duke it out.
Every once in awhile, one side or the other decides it might be better just to blow up the whole world just to get its own way. And when that happens, you can’t stand on the sidelines any more. You have to pick a team. And so, for tonight anyway, we’re serving the King.
In 2006, the King was Pres. Bush and the Church was Islam.
In 2009, we are in another type of pickle, since Obama is in the role of the King Greedy Pragmatist while he is behaving like the Church Coercive Idealist. This seems to me like the formula for totalitarianism when these two combine in one person. For the time being, when it comes to picking a team, it looks like pragmatism has no king and must go to ground as a resistance movement.