Redefining Reality


Donald Trump on season 13 of the All Star Celebrity Apprentice live finale – Getty Images

Michael Flynn's lawyers have told other defense lawyers in the ongoing Russia probe, including President Donald Trump's legal team, that they're no longer able to share information, a source familiar with the matter told CNN.

“What channel is this, Johnny?”

“CNN, dear.”

“Can we change to something else? I’ve seen this already.”

“Sure, Mandy.”

John Norton picked up the remote from where he’d laid it near his crotch, pointed the device at the new 55″ Samsung they’d fought long and hard for at Wal-Mart’s Black Friday sale last week, and pressed a button.

Trump criticized the NFL for the third time this week -- Friday's tweet took aim at the players and commissioner Roger Goodell. Trump wrote that Goodell has lost control and added that "players are the boss."

“Really, Johnny. Isn’t there anything else on?”

He took another swig of his Bud and rolled his eyes hoping his wife didn’t see. God, she was beginning to get annoying.

“Urp.” The belch tasted stale and he thought maybe six beers should be his limit tonight. “Lemme see.”

Once again, he invoked the video gods and changed the channel.

Actor Billy Baldwin snapped back at a tweet about Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) on Thursday, saying that President Donald Trump once “hit on my wife” at a Manhattan hotel. Baldwin also slammed the president as a “5th degree black belt when it comes to sexual impropriety allegations.”

“Nope, Johnny. Try again. This stuff all sounds the same.”

“Well what the hell would you like to watch, Mandy?” He was just buzzed enough to show how irritated he was getting.

“Something that doesn’t sound like this crap, dammit.” She was completely sober and didn’t need an excuse to express annoyance.

“Yeah, yeah. I’ll try again.”

Feeling his bladder beginning to fill, he hoped he could find something on the idiot box that would satisfy her before getting up to pee. 190 channels available through their premium cable provider and all of it nothing but crap.

Attorneys for former White House National Security Adviser Michael Flynn have informed President Donald Trump's legal team that they can no longer discuss Special Counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian activities during the 2016 election campaign, The New York Times reported Thursday.

“Oh c’mon, Johnny. You aren’t even trying.”

“Here then!” He thrust the remote into her hands. “You see if you can find something. I’ve gotta take a leak.” Johnny got up and waddled toward the hall, passing sour gas just as he turned the corner.

“Pig,” Mandy muttered under her breath. She looked at the collection of aluminum beer cans on the end table at his side of the sofa. Maybe she could convince him to cut down on his drinking and eat more healthy foods. Then she looked down at her own sagging gut. “Maybe it wouldn’t hurt either of us to eat better.” She made a mental note to look up “healthy diets” on the internet when she got a chance.

Then she turned her attention back to the TV.

Earlier this month, the Journal reported that Mueller was looking into a meeting where Flynn allegedly discussed a plan that would pay him and his son up to $15 million to kidnap a U.S.-based Muslim cleric and hand him over to Turkey's government.

She started to scan through the channels.

True to the theme that he’s been nationally talking about – or rather, taking a knee for – since last summer, former 49er Colin Kaepernick attended an “Unthanksgiving Day” celebration on Alcatraz Island.

“Just more junk.”


Former football player Colin Kaepernick

She kept clicking, faster and faster, taking just a second or two in sampling each channel’s wares.

“Nope. Nope. Definitely not. Nada. Zero. Gee whiz. Crap. More crap. Still more crap.”

Johnny walked, or rather lumbered, back into the living room. He sat heavily on his side of the couch causing it to shudder and momentarily loosening Mandy’s grip on the remote.

“Find anything?”

She turned to look at her husband. He was 57 years old. They’d been married for over 35 years. Youngest just left for college last fall so this was the first time they were alone together in decades.

He’d gained fifty pounds since the day they got married, but she had packed on about thirty. He was wearing nothing but a torn t-shirt and his boxers and she had on her natty old robe, the one he’d given her for Christmas ten years ago.

His breath smelled of beer and lost hope, his eyes were bloodshot, but somewhere behind that crooked smile was the man she’d fallen in love with.

“Yeah, I found something.” She looked back at the TV, pointed the remote at it like a handgun, and pressed the “power” button. “I found the off switch.”

With the boob tube (which is what they called it back when they were young) silenced, Mandy put the remote on the coffee table in front of her, a now purposeless accessory.

“You know Johnny, it’s still warm out. Why don’t we get dressed and go for a walk?”

“A walk?” The idea sounded more alien to him than Mr. Spock or Chewbacca. “What for?”

“Well, to look at the Christmas lights. They’re kind of pretty, and we used to go for long walks together to look at them when we were younger, remember?”

Johnny dug back into long unused portions of his brain and found a few sparkling jewels there still within the reach of recall. Johnny Jr. was eight, Jase was six, and little Sherry was only two. The family spent an hour after dinner each night walking through different parts of the neighborhood looking at the lights and the decorations. Johnny wasn’t very handy, so his lights were pretty ordinary, but some of the people a few blocks away really did a terrific job. The kids were always thrilled and their parents were so happy to see them smile and hear their little giggles.

“Uh, yeah…sure, Mandy. Just let me throw some pants on.”

“I’ve got to change too, Johnny.”

They both went into the walk-in closet in their bedroom and back to back, put on their warm clothes. When was the last time they undressed together (and not so they could go on a walk)? When was the last time they really were together?

John and Amanda Norton stepped outside into the crisp night air of early December locking the front door behind them. Mandy gently nudged her husband’s hand with her’s and he took it and held it. Fingers intertwined, they walked down the street, at first just silently admiring the beauty of the lights, but then talking excitedly about what they enjoyed about them. It felt good to do something real for a change and by the time they got back home, they decided to revive a few of their old traditions, the ones they used to enjoy together as a couple.

Household by household, apartment by apartment, families in trailer parks, and in homeless shelters, and in high rises, and in basements, and in every conceivable domicile and abode all across the city, the state, the entire nation, decided to do what Johnny and Mandy did. They decided to press the “off” button on their televisions, close the web browsers on their PCs, tablets, and phones, excise the glut of misinformation, innuendo, and lies that passed itself off as news and entertainment, and learn to live real human lives again.

They stopped believing in a President who pretended running a country was like producing a reality TV show. They stopped mourning the loss of a bitter and failed Presidential candidate who would have run the country as if she were a used car salesperson, promising the customer anything and telling them everything they wanted to hear, so that even though her lies were woefully transparent, her constituents couldn’t help but believe they loved her and would follow her, even like suicidal lemmings, over a cliff to their destruction.

The people stopped believing that politicians and celebrities could save them and give them a world worth living in and decided to take that power back for themselves.

With the pagan altars of the cable and satellite television companies abandoned and the hacks both in Washington D.C. and in Hollywood now justifiably ignored. Men and women learned to govern themselves instead. Soon, very soon, the old false gods faded away, rendered dust and mist now that their former acolytes decided that reality wasn’t a TV show.

A comment from Blogging_with_Bojana inspired this wee tale. She said:

You like changing history, don’t you?
I challenge you. Finish the story. If it weren’t for Trump…

Initially, I responded by posting a link to a story I wrote last year called If Only Time Would End.

But then I started thinking. My “summary” of Donald Trump’s actions as President is that he is running America as he did his reality TV show The Apprentice, as if he were entertaining people with is outrageous behavior, as if it were something we just sat and watched passively, getting our chuckles and our thrills out of the experience.

Except a nation isn’t a television show and we can’t “turn off” President Trump if we don’t like the programming, not with a TV remote anyway.

So I decided to author this whimsical story about two middle-aged people who, like so many others, have lost their way over the years and learned to become comfortable with mediocrity.

I gave them the ability to take back their lives, and I gave them and everybody else another gift. I gave the people the ability to redefine reality as something they/we can control and not something left in the hands of phony politicians and even more phony entertainers, some of whom pretend they are doling out facts instead of laughs.

Frankly, I’m tired of the lot of them.

doc brown television

Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox) in a scene from the 1985 film “Back to the Future.”

In thinking about how Trump relates to being President as if he were hosting a reality TV show, I thought about something Doc Brown (actor Christopher Lloyd) said in the 1985 film Back to the Future:

No wonder your president has to be an actor. He’s gotta look good on television.

This was Doc Brown’s revelation after coming across Marty’s VHS mini-cam and arriving at the understanding of just how influential television was going to become by the 1980s.

Decades ago, I took a number of film classes, and in one, I saw the 1958 movie The Last Hurrah starring Spencer Tracy and Jeffrey Hunter. Tracy played an aging Mayor in his final re-election campaign running against a young, charismatic opponent. Legendary film director John Ford masterfully presented a story about how the rise of television fundamentally changed the American people’s views on political candidates and who looked more preferable (something that bit Richard Nixon in the butt during one of his debates against John F. Kennedy when they were running for the Presidency).

I also tried to understand why reality TV is so popular (I’ve never watched any of those programs so am basically clueless). Resources included How Reality TV Works, Why do we enjoy reality TV? Researchers say it’s more about empathy than humiliation, and The real reason we love reality TV has nothing to do with watching people get humiliated.

Empathy aside, I can still think of dozens of things I’d rather do than watch a reality TV show.

As you probably noticed, I took swings not only at Donald Trump but at Hillary Clinton and Colin Kaepernick as well. Regardless of political and social leanings, I consider them all just a bunch of power and attention whores who manipulate the (sometimes) legitimate concerns of their audiences to inflate their own egos and pocketbooks (In addition to Kaepernick earning $39 million playing football, he’s gotten a $1 million deal to write a book, probably “with” someone who can actually write). I don’t feel sorry for any of them.

I took a bit of a whack at Black Friday and Christmas consumerism as well since it’s just another marketing ploy to manipulate the masses and separate them from the few hard-earned dollars they manage to hold onto after taxes and living expenses.

In “programming” the television shows Johnny and Mandy were watching at the top of the page, I consulted the following news outlets:

3 thoughts on “Redefining Reality

  1. Hey there,

    Thanks for mentioning me. 🙂

    I loved your dialogues. Very well done. Spontaneous and ordinary, without any attempt to mystify.

    As for the politicians mentioned, I agree with everything stated. All of this could as well be said about other world leaders. Your suggestion about Trump hosting a reality TV show seems perfect. What can a clown do but go on monkeying around in public?

    I also loved your message about redefining our reality and taking control of our lives instead of being controlled by politicians and reality TV shows. Remember Wag the Dog (1997) about the tricks politicians use to cover their own mess?

    Reality TV shows are made to be exciting, from the choice of their participants to the assignments they get, so that the viewer although shocked by it all, will remain seated until the end. They are meant to be scandalous, tackling our prejudices and picking issues we don’t always see eye to eye on. We then start comparing our convictions with the stupidities done and sentences uttered by the participants, feeling we are more honest, stronger or in any other way more superior to them.

    In a nutshell, much a do about nothing, like with politicians.

    So that you know, I accepted this challenge with myself a couple of weeks ago and switched off the TV and I can tell you I’ve been feeling much saner. So, let’s all do it for a change. I dare the rest of you out there to turn off your TV sets at least for a week so as to save our planet in the long run.


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