Mastering the art of storytelling to drive change.

Should our country crash? Is that what half of America is saying? Lessons from “Airplane!”

12 / 17 / 2019

About halfway through the spoof “Airplane!”, when it looks like the crash is imminent, they cut to newscasters around the world predicting the tragedy in different languages. Even a cameo by Pat Sajak.

Then the directors cut to a news debate show where an arrogant blowhard speaks condescendingly to his female opponent – then turns to the camera for the deadpan punch line:

“Shanaaah! They bought their tickets. They knew what they were getting into… I say, let ’em crash.”

Like the rest of the writing in Airplane, it’s a cleverly ridiculous line. Airplane was a totally original comedy, lampooning just about everything about 1980 American culture.

When I watched this the other day (for at least the 10th time), it made me think of American voters. More specifically, the deep split of American voters when it comes to this president.

Americans have been cleaved by partisan affiliation almost since the beginning of our country. The irony is that it wasn’t supposed to be like this.

Hamilton and Madison warned the new nation about this in Federalist No. 9 and 10. George Washington chose not to affiliate with the Federalist or Democrat-Republicans. Yet in another irony, Hamilton and Madison led each party respectively – while our first president was still in office.

When we chant the Pledge of Allegiance, when we sing our national anthem, when we get on our feed and applaud combat veterans being honored at a ballgame – we do this as Americans. The words and sentiment are very clear; “we” love “our” country, and “we” love the real warriors who sacrifice on behalf of all of “us.”

We also vote. Well, some of us. A pathetically small proportion, actually. I digress…

When “we” vote, “we” are doing something together that is uniquely American; for this country was the very first where citizens elected their leaders democratically in a constitutional republic.

The sum of “our” votes determines “our” leaders. Those points in time – when elections have concluded — are not supposed to be the end of the “we” mentality. In fact, quite the opposite. “We” have elected the people amongst “us” to govern on behalf of all of us.

So back to current day, and our current president. “We” have elected him. Some readers will cringe at that sentence. They will say: “I did NOT elect him! He is NOT my president!”

Well, “we” did elect him. And he IS our president. And if ya don’t get that, ya don’t get our system.

The United States nearly became two different countries during the Civil War. Lincoln prevented that, almost single-handedly.

Some folks think that we should actually split the country now along ideological lines. My friend Jack Crittenden writes about this in a serious way in the article “Divided We Stand” (

That’s not going to happen, at least anytime too soon. So we’re stuck with each other.

Fifty-percent of the country thinks that this president should be impeached and removed from office. The other half does not.

That fifty-percent favoring removal is a very high proportion. But not high enough to scare GOP Senators more than they fear the president and their potential primary challengers. So Trump will probably survive.

That means “we” will have created a new precedent in terms of what “we” are willing to allow our president to do when it comes to personally orchestrating foreign interference in our elections.

On TV lately, people have been quoting Ad nauseam Ben Franklin’s famous reply from the final day of the 1797 Constitutional Convention – because it is ageless.

A woman named Elizabeth Willing Powel says to Franklin: Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?”

Franklin replies: “A republic – if you can keep it.”

The “you” in that sentence means “us.” We.

So when that pollster calls to ask for your opinion, or far more importantly, a blank ballot presents the choice – choose carefully.

If America’s constitutional republic ultimately crashes, it will have happened because of “us.”