It is often in the smaller details of observation that the truth lies. A good example of this is the aftermath of the presidential debates, not the main conflict.
After the debate, family members of the protagonists come together on the stage and greet each other in camaraderie, an image that conveys far more truth than the differences voiced in the main event. Such imagery, which to the hardhearted might seem contrived, phony and sentimental, is to my mind, loaded with symbolism.
What I see is the power of the familial bond, not simply the genetic pull of blood relationships but the core value of the American bedrock, which is that we are all related by heritage, history and common ideals.
It sends the message that despite all the issues that divide us as Americans, we are united by the most basic of all relationships, family ties. These ties are overlapping concentric circles and they bind us together by blood, neighborhood, land boundaries, religion, a body of laws, personal and national history, and a shared heritage.
When I see Barack Obama and Mitt Romney locked in political combat, I see two boys yearning for the admiration of their fathers, clearly stated by Barack in his autobiographical book Dreams From My Father, and by Mitt yearning to show his father that he is living out his dad's dream of reaching for the presidency.
If ever there was living proof of the power of family ties, it is illustrated by this struggle for ascendancy, both children wanting to show the absent dad, the one abandoned by neglect, the other by death, that each of their offspring was worth the candle.
It would not be a leap of faith to suggest that the unprecedented intensity, energy and determination of these political combatants could be attributed to that motivation.
Such examples of the pull of a father's influence are in no way exclusive to the male gender. Parental influence is gender neutral and mothers have had a profound impact as well on both sons and daughters and in many cases, perhaps more so.
I have seen imagery of this power of family by blood and other defining circles of common interest and it has always moved me.
A few examples:
When President Clinton was exposed as an adulterer, at the very peak of his humiliation and embarrassment there was a picture of him, his daughter Chelsea and his wife, hand in hand, walking toward the presidential helicopter. It was a powerful image of family solidarity. Granted, it seemed contrived and manipulated, but as time has borne out, this family overrode its dysfunction and remained committed to each other.
When I lived in Wyoming, I often had to change planes in Salt Lake City, UT. Invariably, there were Mormon kids arriving home after their two-year mission abroad. Greeting them was always a bevy of family and friends loaded with welcome home signs and balloons. Religion aside, the young people arriving were enveloped in the embrace of these extended family greeters with smiles and tears. Including my own as a mere observer.
On television, in President Nixon's final days after resigning his office in disgrace he made a farewell speech referencing his love for his mother and her sacrifice on his behalf. In many ways, it was out of context but the president needed to invoke it to find the strength to go through the horror of his disgrace. What I heard was "Mother, I crave your embrace and comfort at this moment."
I suppose I could drill deeper into the subject of family by citing everything from Christ on the cross in agony summoning his Father, to a thousand examples of the meaning of family, but it is far too heavy a burden to carry in such a short essay.
Not to be part of a family, in the most basic of its definitions, is a form of exile. And my heart goes out to those who live lives of forlorn neglect outside the family unit. Indeed, a child abandoned by one or another parent has a tough row to hoe. Unless there is strong back-up, which was the good fortune of Barack Obama, the child invariably spends much of his or her life in limbo.
Note that I am neglecting to inform about the dark side of family ties, which often complicates relationships within the family circle. I leave that to Dr. Freud.
I know I appear to be straying far from the political debates and displaying a kind of sentimentalizing nostalgia, which Norman Rockwell made so vivid in his paintings. But I am trying to look beyond the obvious and to some, the corny, and get at the truth of things, which matters most in the end regardless of which candidate wins the toss of destiny.
Warren Adler has just released his 33rd book "The Serpent's Bite." Best known for "The War of the Roses," his masterpiece fictionalization of a macabre divorce turned into the dark comedy box office hit starring Michael Douglas, Kathleen Turner and Danny DeVito, Warren Adler quickly became the fountainhead of Hollywood screenplay adaptations, fueling an unprecedented bidding war in a Hollywood commission for his unpublished book "Private Lies." While "The War of the Roses" garnered outstanding box office and critical success with Golden Globe, BAFTA and multiple award nominations internationally, Adler went on to sell movie and film rights for 12 books, all noted for his character driven and masterful storytelling. Produced by Linda Lavin for PBS' American Playhouse series, Adler's "The Sunset Gang" was adapted into a trilogy starring Uta Hagen, Harold Gould and Jerry Stiller, garnering Doris Roberts an Emmy nomination for 'Best Supporting Actress in a Mini-Series.' "The Serpent's Bite" is now available as an e-book and hardback.