Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Open Letters: Fan Edition

Have you ever written a fan letter?

I have not.

I have composed them in my mind, many times, but they've never made it onto paper, not once. Every one, of course, begins with "I've never written a letter like this before..." because I haven't.

So, here is my first foray into fan letter correspondence....kind of an Open Fan Letter if you will.

Fan Letter #1: Aaron Sorkin

Dear Mr. Sorkin:

Although I have never before written a fan letter, today I had the opportunity to re-watch an episode of West Wing - Isaac & Ishmael, and I was compelled to reach out to its author. This episode, written to air shortly after 9-11, was offered as a play where familiar characters could depart from their existing storylines to pause and reflect upon the new world order through the eyes of high school students visiting the White House. I sit here, within 20 miles of the site of the World Trade Center, now nearly 8 years later, and with this episode I can feel myself return to the same sense of chaos and fear that was rampant in late 2001. I felt my stomach clench, I felt the need for answers to the eternal "why" question, and I felt helpless in the face of an overwhelming and unseen force.

But my correspondence is driven not by fear, but by the hope you somehow infused into that little one hour play. Slowly and painstakingly you pieced small puzzle sections together to give me history, to give me theory, to give me perspective, and to give me the light back at the end of that very long tunnel. You skillfully used each character to provide a unique perspective - CJ, the champion of the CIA and facing a return to the battle between personal freedom and security; Sam, the terrorist historian who pointed out that it has NEVER succeeded in its objective and has instead strengthened opposition; Abby, who brings the episode title into focus with the biblical history that underlies the fundamental difference between Arab and Jew and the stresses of a common people with an ultimate divide; the President, who gives the true definition of martyr (vs. the "dumbass murderer") and offers that a hero who would die for his country or ideals but would much rather live for it is really what we need; and Josh - always my favorite - who points out that accepting pluralcy - multiple coexisting and conflicting ideas - is the ultimate way to fight fundamentalists and extremists of all types.

Juxtaposing all of this is having Leo part of interrogating a potential terrorist suspect who also happens to be an Arab American working in the White House. This cautionary tale about guilt by association, guilt by stereotype, guilt before innocence can be proven, was prophetic as we embarked upon year after year of blurred lines between standing for our ideals and hiding behind our fears.

Thank you Mr. Sorkin for using your talent to explain the inexplicable, to comfort the inconsolable, to caution the radical, and to quiet the chaos...if only for a moment. And lastly, thank you for writing something with such staying power that while it allowed us to find hope in a terrible time, it also evokes enough feeling eight years later to ensure we never forget.

A Faithful Fan

1 comment:

Pat said...

Excellent review. I do recall this episode and wish they would run this as a special following 9-11 every year.