a few months ago i saw the movie “the ides of march.” last night i watched “the war room.” the former is a fictionalized story of the inner workings of a presidential campaign. no one comes out smelling exactly clean. i felt sad when i saw it. the latter is a film documenting the story of bill clinton’s 1992 election. with live footage and seemingly deep access to the most central figures and offices of then governor clinton’s run for office, this movie demonstrates the inner workings of an actual presidential campaign. it also made me sad. for some similar, and many different, reasons.
things have changed drastically in 20 years.
in watching the movie of the 1992 election here is what i noticed:
teeth whitening strips had not yet gone mainstream.
there was a “news cycle” with a “going live” time. if something broke at an off-air time it didn’t break on air for several hours.
news stations didn’t have constant running banners at the bottom or top of the screen.
campaign workers gathered around conference tables full of newspapers, notepads, and pens.
there was no emphasis (NONE) on caffeine or energy drinks to keep campaign workers awake. even in the final hours.
possibly because no one was busily keeping themselves “caffeinated,” there was real, honest, and heart felt emotion and exhaustion.
there was only one mention of email.
desks were remiss of computers (for the most part). those that existed were huge.
phones audibly rang. with a ringing sound. every time someone called.
people answered them. even without knowing ahead of time who was on the other end.
phones had cords.
phones were tethered. when bill clinton takes a phone call in the war room he can’t simply walk out of the room to hear the person calling. he has to “shush” everyone in the room so that he can hear. the concept of privacy was different.
those phones that did not have cords were huge.
people spoke into their phones. only. no one typed on a phone.
people were dependent upon other people for information. (e.g: bill clinton had to call his communication lead to find out how he was doing in the polls rather than simply checking online.)
in 20 years the ways in which we interact with each other, our “staffs/teams/groups of influence,” current affairs, the media, our phones, and, therefore, with the world, have changed drastically. in reflecting on these changes i feel sadly certain that we look more at screens than at the eyes of real people. we type far more than we write or speak. we select who we will and will not talk to, when we want to, where we want to, how we want to, thus removing the flexibility that “messy,” outside-of-our-exclusive-control relatedness with others deepens within us. it feels as though we’re less about working as a team and more about having individual experiences within the proximity of a group. we are constantly caffeinated (i know far too well about this myself) and rarely depend upon people in our own proximity to get information.
i want to make no judgements here. only observations. and internal commitments to determine which of these cultural changes i want to get on board with and which i, intentionally, want to resist. if i am truly wanting to maintain relational depth and flexibility as core values, the “war room” of my life must reflect movements and strategy that allow these to blossom and it just might be that caller i.d., voice mail, and constant internet access may not be strategies that help me win.