Fox has canceled 24, its counter-terrorism drama. The show debuted in November 2001 featuring Jack Bauer as a fearless, selfless, and sometimes reckless undercover catcher and killer of bad guys. The final episode will run in May. A movie is under development.
On Sunday, April 11, HBO introduced Treme, a post-Katrina New Orleans neighborhood. The ensemble cast includes, “an eclectic group of locals — among them a trombone player, a chef, a civil rights lawyer, a disc jockey and a displaced Mardi Gras chief — as they struggle to repair their lives after the storm.” (New York Times)
Sic transit homeland security?
The Emmy and Golden Globe Award-winning 24 features a covert Counter Terrorism Unit. But there is really only one hero. “When Kiefer Sutherland’s 24 superagent barks “Dammit, Chloe–we’re running out of time!” America’s ass is about to be saved in some new, heart-stopping way.” (Entertainment Weekly) Assassins, kidnappers, suicide bombers, bio-terrorists, nuclear weapons, sundry colleagues, adversaries, and victims co-star.
Treme is not saved, but neither does it succumb. The levee breaks are called a “federally induced catastrophe.” MTV’s Ben Collins tells us Treme is about “death, resilience, and broken hearts.”
“Treme uses sound and imagery to suggest that even the worst damage and disruption can’t extinguish the joie de vivre, and that is found in the pearly gleam of fresh oysters, the high notes of Antoine’s trombone, the crunch of barbecue, a glistening bottle of French wine, the feathers on a Mardi Gras costume and, most simply, laughter.” (New York Times)
Last Friday I told residents of a dense urban neighborhood they should not depend on much official guidance or help in the first 72 minutes of a local emergency or 72 hours of a wide-spread emergency. About one-third were astonished. Others were pretty sanguine.
Those who were astonished insisted someone must be “in charge.” Surely there’s a courageous and capable Jack Bauer nearby.
The majority did not expect a hero to save them. But they quickly recognized their own lack of readiness. “Not knowing each other is our greatest vulnerability,” one participant offered. “No offence, but I don’t know if in an emergency I would trust information from anyone in this room,” another said.
In Treme the neighbors come together around a shared love affair with music. In too many American cities (and towns, villages, and more) neighbors do not come together at all. They share a place and that is about all they share.
The good news is that the neighbors-in-name-only whom I met last week seemed to enjoy being together and agreed there was good cause to meet again. The risk of disaster gave them a good excuse to do so. I had the sense they would have welcomed almost any excuse.
We need our Jack Bauers. He is a flawed, but well-intentioned guard-dog. Even more we need herds that are less like sheep, more like American Bison. Or even better: neighborhoods of full-fledged neighbors who know each other and – despite all our eccentric differences – care for each other. This is the foundation of resilience… and, probably, the Republic.
In the Neighborhood: The Search for Community on an American Street by Peter Lovenheim
Governing the Commons by Elinor Ostrom
The Idea of Fraternity in America by Wilson Carey McWilliams