What happened to our leaders?
Like many Americans, on October 3, 2008 my world changed. That afternoon, Congress had passed the Emergency Economic Stabilization Act of 2008, also known as the Wall Street Bailout. Like many Americans, I had written Congress, had called the Congressional switchboard, had done everything I could to let my voice be heard. But my government had not listened. I grew up in the 80s, at a time when kids were still taught America was a good idea, because we were a free people with a voice. That Friday I discovered, along with many other Americans, that I no longer had a voice in my government. Somehow, now I was no longer a member of We The People. On paper I was, but in the unwritten evolving “Constitution” of Congressional precedent, Wall Street and special interests were The People who mattered now. Standing there in my kitchen, washing my dishes, watching my kids play in the dwindling daylight, I felt small before the face of my government, and I felt a deep solidarity with all those people who had called the Congressional switchboard with me.
But unlike many Americans, I happen to be a college professor who researches how to understand and model complex systems. My doctoral work dealt with how metaphor and narrative model complexity in economics and neuroscience. All very wonkish to be sure. This work earned me an invitation to research and lecture at the Joint Forces Staff College, Norfolk VA, on how military commanders can lead, understand, and model complex operational environments in real time.
It was my days working in development and movie production in Indie Hollywood that first convinced me of the power of narrative. Narrative is not only found in literature books, or movies themselves, but in days on set, in the hundreds of production details, in shot choices, in schedules, in actor issues, and all financial decisions that go into making a feature film. Complex systems are understood through narrative.
During the week that followed the passage of TARP, I reviewed the news coverage of the Bailout and sensed parts of the story were missing. DC and the media all said that TARP was necessary, but was it? Really? Why had TARP encountered so much opposition in the House when all the power brokers supported it? Why had the Bailout failed on the Monday vote? Why did it pass so easily in the Senate? What changed the minds of those who flipped their votes to support it? Who were the people on the inside who were actually fighting the bill? What did the power brokers do to stop them? And why aren’t those who fought the Bailout getting to tell their side of the story?
The more I researched the data, spoke with eyewitnesses, and reflected on what I know of the way complex systems behave, the more a conviction arose in me that a complex political battle had been fought inside Congress, one that did not easily fit parties or political organizations. In an atmosphere of great panic, a powerful few, with much to lose, used the system of American government to save themselves. Those who fought them were actually taking the stand that we, so many of us, were asking them to take. Given my background in both film production and complex systems, I realized I had the available resources to understand this battle and work with other filmmakers to bring the inside story of this monumental event to the big screen.
Now, after two years of extensive research, including off-the-record interviews with the eyewitness congressman, staff members, and other witness, my production company is partnering with Advent Film Group, a Virginia based production company, to produce RED SEPTEMBER, a theatrical feature film recounting the inside story of the fight against the 2008 Bailout of Wall Street. As George Escobar, founder of Advent Film Group explains, “Other movies about the Bailout are focused on Wall Street. RED SEPTEMBER is the only film centered on Congress. It shows clearly how Congress, not Wall Street, caused the financial crisis. Going into the 2012 election year, this movie will be a powerful rallying cry for voters who seek to rein in Congress and the President.”
Consistently, in off-the-record interviews, I heard the fight against this bill was the most bi-partisan cause that Congressmen could remember. RED SEPTEMBER tells the story of this great bi-partisan fight for our country. Current polls show that the debt is the most important issue on the minds of 2012 voters. Recently Democrat and Republican leadership negotiated to cut 38 billion dollars from the budget, but it turned out that actual cuts, without the funny math, amounted to only a few hundred million. Another budget cutting proposal currently offered by Republicans will cut 6 trillion from the budget, but that 6 trillion is only from what President Obama wants to spend over the next ten years, not from the actual budget. Given the looming debt crisis, many are wondering why the government is not taking decisive action to get its financial house in order. Even Standard & Poors is threatening to downgrade the rating on US sovereign debt. After watching RED SEPTEMBER and seeing how many of these officials behave under pressure behind closed doors, the current political absurdities will make a lot more sense.
The production of RED SEPTEMBER will be fashioned after two classic films: APOLLO 13, depicting the intensity of a crisis, and MR. SMITH GOES TO WASHINGTON, demonstrating the courage necessary in doing what’s right for the people and by the people.
My partners and I expect RED SEPTEMBER to resonate with the Tea Party and many independents. We’ve been careful not to water down the economics of the Bailout or the financial crisis. Like the recent film INCEPTION, RED SEPTEMBER respects the intelligence of the audience. Some in the media have popularized a caricature of the Tea Party as an anti-intellectual, anti-academic, hick movement, but the concerns of the Tea Party are far more intellectually defensible, and I think the film will show that.
Michael Snyder, Advent co-founder, has said, “This story is critical because the Bailout gave rise to the Tea Party. The Bailout is also widely recognized as America’s watershed moment toward overt socialism. It opened the door to trillion dollar deficits that now plague our economic future. RED SEPTEMBER shows what we must do to reverse our course.”
Nevertheless, this project has caught the attention of conservative activists, actors, and investors. They’re attracted to RED SEPTEMBER because it shows the solution and the choice for the next generation: either restore America to what the forefathers intended for their children, or sell it and enslave them. “Investors have been calling even as the final offering paperwork is still being finalized,” Snyder explains. “We’re on a fast-track schedule to get funding in place for a summer 2011 production start. We want RED SEPTEMBER to be a tipping point for electing true leaders in 2012 who will defy the corrupt forces of Washington and defend American liberty.”
The 19th Century political philosopher Alexis de Tocqueville wrote, “A democracy cannot get at the truth without experience, and many nations perish for lack of the time to discover their mistakes.” What Tocqueville observed almost two hundred years ago is equally true today. When democracy forgets its experience, it forgets the truth it discovered. The ramming of the 2008 Bailout of Wall Street through Congress, against the loud protests of the American people, slap-startled American democracy to the reality that Washington no longer represents the People. Rather, it steals from them. This knowledge led to protests and a change in the balance of power in Congress in 2010. But the momentum toward corruption, big government, entitlements, bailouts, etc, is so great, that only the concentrated effort of the American people over time can change that momentum. But democracy can forget its experience. If it does, no matter the party in power, momentum against these evils will halt, and America will return to her self destructive course. To sustain a long war, we must remember why we fight.
We need leadership.
Who in our government has the courage to look directly upon the festering face of our debt crisis? Upon the complex vascular structure of political issues that feed it? Who has the courage to lead us clear of it? America has had great leaders before. What would that kind of leadership look like today?
The first step is to remember our history. This is why I believe RED SEPTEMBER is so important at this moment in our history.
Historical fact supports that George Washington was a great leader. We need not be suspicious of that even though we live in a cynical age. There really are great women and men. If we want great leaders, we must be faithful to remember the faithfulness of great leaders who have gone before us. Especially given the cultural importance of history and of accurately remembering our history. History is a story, and our history is our story. Because our history is a story, and because our current reality flows out of our real past, it is vitally important that we tell it right.
This is because values are meaningless without stories.
Courage. Justice. Sacrifice. Faithfulness.
Without stories, all virtues are just words. Look at them. To see them each on a page, followed by a period, makes the eye stumble. Each is nothing without a person acting, and a person acting with courage, or faithfulness, is part of a story. Values are not intelligible without stories. To destroy our nation’s values, an adversary must change our traditions and history, and, specifically, make our citizens either forget our history or believe the values of our forefathers no longer apply.
Those who would undo and overtake our nation are doing both. It’s not enough to preserve the memory of our history. Cynicism in the present will make us treat our true past as mere legend.
In September 2008, America learned irrefutably that we no longer have a government by the people and for the people, and we will live with the consequences of that month for years to come, as this film illuminates. But what America doesn’t know, is that in that great struggle, we did have leaders with the character of our forefathers. Leaders who were willing to put their security and sacred honor on the line for the People. The nation needs to see that our national character is not a legendary folk story. There are people like that today. And if we are faithful, we can be that nation again. But we need to see what that character looks like in the 21st Century.
And there were people who demonstrated that character in real recent history. If we want to be a nation of people with this kind of character, we must remember with esteem those people who demonstrate the values and character of our founders. And if we who love America, and the values of our founders, do not call “honorable” those who live out those values, who will?
Those who name win.
If we cannot name this kind of virtue and character as “honorable” in our present day, we by our silence cede the initiative to those who want to “change… our history….” If we let our values only be the stuff of legend, we rob them of their power to give a spine to our next generation, and we make men without chests. As C.S. Lewis writes, “We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst.” It goes without saying that honor is worthy of praise. But when many shame what is honorable, noble character is all the more praiseworthy.
Motion pictures are irrefutably the most vivid way to mass-communicate narrative. And narrative (history) establishes values. If we want to have people like the founders, like Washington, in the future, we need to show our nation, especially our young people, in the way that resonates with our culture, what that kind of moral character factually looks like in the present, and that it’s possible to lead as that kind of character-driven leader in the real world.
If you want America to have those kinds of leaders then believe in RED SEPTEMBER.
To learn more or for interviews, visit: www.RedSeptemberMovie.com or contact Michael Collender at 626-214-8920, or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Mike Snyder can be reached at 540-338-8023, or email email@example.com.