Finally spring has come back. Flowers are starting to blossom, bears are waking up from their winter sleep, and across America people are also waking up to a new political reality that as always has a Californian connection.
They say that as goes California so goes the nation, and as goes the nation so goes the world. If California were an independent nation, it would be the 8th largest economy in the world, which shows the importance of California not just as an entertainment hub, but also as a leading business center.
That’s why when we started working on our documentary following the Proposition 19 campaign to legalize marijuana in California, we knew that whatever happens in California will resonate elsewhere.
But unlike the image of California in the media as being very liberal, the last few elections have shown nuanced results. In the last few controversial public referendums, Californians have been much more hesitant towards major social changes. Californians rejected marijuana legalization, they rejected gay marriage and they rejected ending the death penalty sentence. One surprising common denominator to these ballots: the entertainment industry was less vocal than many expected them to be.
It is a sharp contrast to the past where the entertainment industry proudly took on a leadership role in many of America’s major changes.
It’s not that people in California and in the entertainment industry care today less about social changes, but perhaps it’s that in our global world, we have all bought into the idea that everything is business. Self-help gurus keep telling us every day on TV shows that we got to leverage our own failures and successes, as if we ourselves are our own company’s stock, and in this business culture it’s unwise to express one’s political opinions. After all, in a corporate world, all of us want our own corporation to succeed, and political debate might alienate potential business, clients or work colleagues. This logic is even influencing people’s attitude towards endorsing political pages on Facebook since many feel it might seem too controversial to others if they see their “corporate” endorsement.
While avoiding conflict of political opinions has its reassuring side in the way of people looking for common ground with other people, by not discussing political issues out loud except with those you know totally agree with you, we are perpetuating stagnation.
Because solutions can be found only when both sides are forced to sit at the same table and find a compromise that addresses most of their concerns.
This month, with the coming of spring, an earthquake occurred in American politics and quite surprisingly it happened with an extremely controversial issue, marijuana policy reform.
The former mayor of San Francisco, and currently the popular Lt. Governor of California, Gavin Newsom, stated that it is time for a marijuana policy reform. This segment of Bill Maher’s show became an online sensation because Newsom is one of the stars of the Democratic party.
Another major headline was made when California politician and L.A. Mayoral candidate, Eric Garcetti, also came out in support of marijuana policy reform. Garcetti is in a close race at the moment so the fact that he took a stand on a controversial issue like this is indeed groundbreaking.
Another headline that quickly became a sensation and many posted and reposted it on facebook: Nancy Pelosi, one of the most powerful women in Congress, expressed support on the issue as well.
We’ve focused on three leading Democratic politicians because currently Democrats are in the top position in California. Yet on a national level, leading politicians from all parties are finding the courage to call for change on this controversial issue. For instance, in the last general election a few months ago, the Libertarian presidential nominee, former Republican Governor of New Mexico Gary Johnson, was one of the leading voices calling for marijuana policy reform.
Republican Kentucky Senator Rand Paul, who some predict will become a Republican presidential nominee in 2016, made headlines this week with his statement that: “The last two presidents could conceivably have been put in jail for their drug use, and I really think, you know, look what would have happened, it would have ruined their lives . . . They got lucky.”
But back to California. When major Californian politicians speak out about this controversial issue, it is obvious real historical change is happening in front of our eyes. Not just for marijuana policy reform, but for the idea of reform itself.
Question is, will the courage of leading California politicians also inspire the entertainment industry to take greater risks in expressing their real opinions on controversial political issues? Will political debate become fashionable at dinner tables?
Remember this spring everyone. Yes, there’s the Arab spring in the Middle East, but it could be an activist spring in America.