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Why This Election Year America Is Nurse Jackie

Is a nation of saints and sinners finally ready for some Mormon sobriety?

by
Dave Swindle

Bio

October 26, 2012 - 3:00 pm
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Last month in “Why This Election Year America Is Carmela Soprano” I lamented that in The Sopranos, one of the most celebrated TV shows of the era, the main characters remained as broken at the end as the beginning. Tony Soprano spent six seasons going to therapy to, supposedly, treat his psychological problems. It’s all for naught since Tony never grapples with the evil acts he commits and the suffering they cause for others. His wife Carmela also remains trapped in his criminal world, unable to grasp that while she lounges comfortably in a luxurious New Jersey suburb, others lie dead, their bodies hidden and forgotten as a result of her husband’s Mafia-style perversion of the American Dream.

I feared that voters would take a similar approach this election, ignoring the evil men who we now know shaped Barack Obama’s ideas and the bloody reality of their implementation. For all of the summer and into September I operated with the mindset of the 99%. With the legacy media cleaning up his messes, and the economy still not bad enough for most to really feel the pain, there was about a 99% chance of Obama winning the election. And polls aside, the mysterious variable of voter fraud weighed heavily on my mind with every new J. Christian Adams story.

In conversations with friends, I referenced more how we should prepare for Obama’s second term impeachment, rather than putting our hopes in the GOP establishment to avoid a repeat of 2008. And while my respect for Mitt Romney had grown considerably, I still doubted his campaign’s competence. (The yielding of Obamacare!) But a few unknown unknowns remained on the horizon as October began:

Obama bombing that first debate. Benghazi. Two weeks of trying to disguise a terrorist attack as a “spontaneous” response to a YouTube video.

A lot can happen in a month.

Last Sunday, on the eve of the last presidential debate, my wife April and I finished our successor show to The Sopranos, the third season of Showtime’s Nurse Jackie. By then my assessment of the president’s reelection chances had dropped to 66% — where it still remains today. The Romney campaign leaped to life as a shot of reality hit the American people in the heart. But is it enough to fully awaken America from the haze of a four-year hopenchange high?

Edie Falco, who played Carmela on The Sopranos, stars as Jackie Peyton, a 20-year veteran of the Emergency Room at All Saints’ Hospital in New York City. She’s a fighter, eager to battle hospital bureaucracy and push others to do what’s right for patients. In an age where we’ve all experienced the packed doctor offices often filled with indifferent staffers, a Super-Nurse Warrior like Jackie makes for an appropriate hero. Jackie’s greenhorn coworker, a Millennial named Zoey Barkow (Merritt Wever), sees her as such, declaring her a saint and her role model.

But Jackie knows her sins well. She might be the superhero in the ER but behind the scenes she’s addicted to prescription pills, sometimes steals to support her habit, and carries on an affair with Eddie the pharmacist. She also neglects her husband and their two daughters, both of whom have started acting out in response to her workaholism.

And in every episode new saints and sinners stumble into the ER and Jackie struggles to balance the scales, pushing ethical boundaries and soothing her guilty conscience with the thrill of saving everyone else’s life except her own.

And the statues of the saints watch on as Jackie retreats to the hospital’s chapel — her Temple — struggling to find a way out of the new problem brought courtesy of her expensive drug addiction.

Noah was a drunk. David was an adulterer. Jackie is both.

Not yet mentioned in the series, though somewhat implicit, is that Jackie probably has some variety of psychological disorder. The same biochemical combination in her head pushing her to risk everything to save a life also drives her to risk her marriage with an affair. Sometimes the gambles pay off, other times they explode in her face. One moment she’s flying high, the next she’s crashing and burning.

Where have we seen this recently?

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