Most people live on a lonely island,
Lost in the middle of a foggy sea.
Most people long for another island,
One where they know they will like to be.
So begins the haunting tune from Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, which sings of fulfilling one’s inner hopes and dreams on a faraway island called “Bali Hai.” In the 1958 movie version of the show, the beauty of the number is nearly ruined by the cloying colored filters used by director Josh Logan, which gave the disturbing impression that paradise might need embellishment.
But in a way, this is a tale of our own time and place. For there is a large segment of our population who live their lives — and insist that the rest of us live ours — in a kind of fairytale land where wishing will make it so. These folks live on their island constantly, and they so surround themselves with their fellow dreamers, that they are insulated from seeing the world as it really is.
In past ages, it was mostly starry-eyed young people who inhabited these utopian climes; those who have not yet been exposed to the real world with all its scabs. But most of the denizens today are Peter Pan-ian liberals who declared in the 1960s that they had no intention of growing up. And, as long as they are in power, they don’t have to. They write the history books, they report the news as they would have it portrayed and they teach our kids that, as in Never-Never-Land, they don’t need to fret about responsibility as long as there are evil, rich grownups to be taxed to care for them. And if life really isn’t that way, it should be; and that’s the point.
This is what enables them to act with such certainty in matters where their positions have either been proved wrong or are mere theories. That is why they can believe wholeheartedly that man can cause changes in the climate; that taxing the rich will stimulate the economy; that the way to foster equality between the races is to favor one over the other; or that the murder of unborn children is somehow liberating to women: because in the islands of their minds, that’s the way it should be.
The people who populate this island culture have as their anthem, the song “Imagine,” written by another lost boy who counsels them to believe in “no religion,” “no country” and “no heaven.” Given these high moral strictures, it’s not difficult to see why they are having trouble in the grownup world, where the Captain Hooks have become distressingly more real in the last couple of years.
This is why not only the policies of George W. Bush or Ronald Reagan must be derided, but the men themselves turned into vicious monsters. Because these men have intruded on their fantasy that if they don’t love and fight to defend their religion and country, others, like Communists or Islamists, won’t either. Given the horrific reality of the lengths to which our enemies will go to annihilate us, it’s not hard to see why the islanders have drawn some good people to their side. After all, who wouldn’t want to live on Bali Hai? As the 2008 presidential election proved, many folks thought they’d like to dwell there; but as the last two years have graphically demonstrated, real life must intrude into every Never-Land or Camelot.
During Republican administrations, we are often told by our betters in the media that a Bush or a Reagan is “out of touch” with the American people, that they are so sequestered away behind closed doors and away for the common folk that they are unfit to lead the country. How infinitely much more true is this of those who live their entire lives on the islands of lost boys and girls?
This question will become even more vital the nearer we get to November; do we want representatives of the real world, or those who dwell in fantasy land? Of course in the world of fiction, there is another island which may provide a more helpful example of our current plight: remember, on Gilligan’s Island — where paradise was not all it seemed — the supreme goal of the castaways was to go home.