Two nights ago, millions of us awaited the season finale of our absolute favorite show, “This is Us”. Then, hours before it aired, Twitter went wild with the “breaking news” that Rachel Maddow had been given a copy of a Trump tax return. At last we were going to learn if the Liar-in- Chief was as rich as he claimed. If he actually paid taxes. But what to do? Both shows were airing at 9PM EST, and it felt like an existential choice. Which one to watch? Which one to DVR? I expected both shows to make me weep, but I opted to watch Rachel first as the Trump Tax Returns was also a continuing saga I’d been following for months.
And best I knew, no one was supposed to die.
In between commercials, I noted that social media was blowing up. “This is Us” was being tarred as the worst episode of the season. “Did they use the same writers? I don’t feel like I’m watching the same show.” Others felt duped. We’d been led to believe we were going to finally find out how Jack died. Why Kate was living with such enormous guilt that she couldn’t stop comfort eating. Instead, we learned how Jack and Rebekah met. Yawn. How could the writers we’ve come to love and trust deprive us of what they promised in the previews? Seriously? Jack wasn’t killed in a drunk driving incident? What about all those beer cans in the front seat?
And over at MSNBC, viewers were equally incensed. We were led to believe that Rachel was going to give us the smoking gun that would bring down the fat bastard. Adios Trump Regime. “You’re fired!” Instead, we got a paltry 2-page summary from 2005 that showed Trump’s income was sizeable and his tax burden appropriate. Even worse, Donald Jr. was ecstatic. Thanks Rachel. You proved what we said all along. My dad is a successful businessman. A real Honest Abe.
How could it be that our beloved Rachel fell into a Trump trap? Our nightly hero was too savvy for that. Surely she knew she was being played. Could even be that Trump himself leaked the return, as he had leaked endless other stories. We hadn’t seen this much fury since Trump announced the Muslim travel bans and millions protested in the streets.
But after watching both shows and reading the attacks, it gave THIS IS US new meaning. We are now a nation that feasts on winners and losers. Life is nothing more than a sporting event and at the end of the day, if our team hasn’t advanced, it is painful beyond words. In fact, we are now so accustomed to the hype and hyperbole, so certain that those who don’t share our point of view are the enemy, so completely convinced that only we are right, we’ve actually all lost our minds.
Remember when we got wild as kids? We were told to calm down and go to our rooms. Usually at a high decibel with a few threats thrown in for good measure.
It’s time to go to our rooms.
On Tuesday night, Rachel Maddow did what she does every night. She presents small facts, mulls them over for their possible implications and then connects the dots in a way that only she can. Soon, we see the big picture. Understand that the 20-minute drive through the “A” block isn’t just meandering but taking us to a real destination. Like a great professor, she slowly and methodically explains what the average student will miss.
In that seemingly boring tax return, every line item posed a question that would require further investigation. Where did all those millions come from? Were they tied to Russian oligarchs? Organized crime? And if Trump paid his fair share of taxes, was he now going to change the rules to prevent that from ever happening again? Was the point of him winning a trip to the White House so that he could leave rich as Putin? Rachel never claimed she would bring him down on Tuesday night. Only that she’d been given a new tool with which to start hammering. And as her devoted fans know, this uber smart and tenacious journalist will not rest until the last nail hits the coffin. So need for Rachel shaming. If ever the story of the Trump tax returns comes to light it will be because she led the charge. Not in one night. But over time. Rest assured.
As for the season finale of This is Us? Many fans have called it an epic failure. And I would agree that the episode was a let down (full disclosure: out of boredom I zipped through it). But the writers did what they’d done all along. Shared a multi-layered story that crisscrossed between time periods, reminding us that both our past and present are driving the car. We go nowhere without the memories that shaped us. Did we want closure? Sure. Did we expect resolution? Totally. And yet, now we’ll have much more to learn in Season 2. Maybe get the answers we hoped for like the ones we want in our own lives.
I’m not sure that time heals all wounds, but I do believe it gives us greater clarity. Who among us has not looked back at a difficult challenge and realized that the outcome made sense? That hard as it was to live through, we landed where we were supposed to?
My hope, the one that lets me sleep, is that we will look back on this time in history and see the wisdom of the Universe. Nauseated and troubled as I am by Trump, the false prophet, sitting in the Oval Office confusing Tweets with Executive Orders, I believe that when he is removed, voters from both sides will take a deep breath and say, okay we can do a lot better than this convicted felon. That the point of the exercise was to remind us that despite the angry and painful rhetoric, we do have common goals. United we stand…
Of course, only time will tell and hopefully sooner than later. But, don’t despair. We are strong. We are determined. We are smart. We are good people. This is us, indeed.