Tuesday, May 19, 2009

I Just Don't Think My Heart Could Ever Have Lived With That

This was one of the best pieces of dialogue I have yet heard on a television show; it's a conversation between Jack and Renee on the television show "24," the Season 7 series finale.


Jack: I can’t tell you what to do. I’ve been wrestling with this all my life. When I see fifteen people held hostage on a bus, everything else goes out the window, and I’ll do whatever it takes to save them and I mean whatever it takes. You know, maybe I thought, if I save them, I can save myself.

Renee: Do you regret anything that you did today?

Jack: No. But then again, I don’t work for the FBI.

Renee: I don’t understand.

Jack: You took an oath. You made a promise to uphold the law. You cross that line, it always starts off with a small step. Before you know it, you’re running as fast as you can in the wrong direction just to justify why you started in the first place. These laws were written by much smarter men than me. And in the end, I know that these laws have to be more important than the fifteen people on the bus, I know that’s right. In my mind, I know that’s right. But I just don’t think my heart could ever have lived with that. I guess the only advice I can give you is [intake of breath] try to make choices that you can live with.

Renee: I don’t know what to say.

Jack: [sad, meaningful look] Don’t say anything at all.


While this is beautiful in and of itself, as it shows the way that Jack wrestles with himself and with existing outside the law, I think this dialogue is a beautiful metaphor for many of us, whether as human beings or Jews. So much of Judaism consists of wrestling with oneself, with what one believes to be true as opposed to what one feels to be true. Of course, in this particular episode, where Jack is positioned against the President, who makes the painful choice to try her daughter in accordance with the law as opposed to protecting her from its full force, we see a different kind of heroism as well. The President sacrifices her marriage and family in order to try Olivia as opposed to destroying the incriminating recording; to do otherwise would be the worst sort of hypocrisy.

"But I just don't think my heart could ever have lived with that."

I think, many times, this is the struggle between the religious and non-religious Jew. The religious Jew is like the President, giving up her family, taking her daughter to be judged for murder as opposed to giving in to the human urge to protect her. Jack, on the other end of the spectrum, put the entire FBI operation into jeopardy when it came to him to protect his daughter, Kim. Granted, Kim did not kill anybody, and therefore was innocent, as opposed to Olivia, but this demonstrates their two different techniques and methods. I think, at least sometimes, those who choose to become non-religious do it because their heart can't live with being religious, in accordance with a law which seems cruel per our human standards.

And as for me? I see both Jack's side and the President's side, and I think there is heroism incumbent in both choices. Jack's heroism involves action where he is actually allowed to get the bad guys, while the President suffers privately, trying her daughter because it is right, and not because she morally disagrees with her (after all Jonas Hodges deserved death). I respect both sides and I always have. At times I find myself very torn; there is a lot that "my heart cannot live with" in Orthodox Judaism. And yet, I have never been as rash, hot-headed and action-oriented as Jack. Sometimes I break the rules, but most of the time I am like the President; it is a quieter kind of pain. I think a lot of our religiosity comes down to that- how much of us is made up of Jack, and how much of President Allison Taylor. There are those of us who work outside the law, but it is only our love that makes us do so, and then there are those of us who are bound and resigned to the law, although it tears us apart.


Honestly Frum said...

Nicely said. I believe that for instnaces of pikuach nefesh, as "Jack" deals with, it is mutar and encouraged to work outside the law.

Anonymous said...

I think, many times, this is the struggle between the religious and non-religious Jew. The religious Jew is like the President, giving up her family, taking her daughter to be judged for murder as opposed to giving in to the human urge to protect herUnless of course, the person is a religious molester, in which case they are (sometimes) protected.

jwiz said...

I was a bit disappointed by the finale. There were too many loose ends.

IMHO the President's decision to have her daughter prosecuted was the right one. It's her duty as President, the chief executive, to uphold the nation's laws and see to it that they are enforced--and that's just what she decided to do.

Jack on the other hand, was/is a "freelancer" (as opposed to a "uniformed" agent of law enforcement)--so technically he only has to abide by the laws on the books. However, that is if and only if, the powers that be (e.g. an Prosecutor) would want to press charges against him for his actions.

Anonymous said...

Terrorists dread the day in October that Daylight Savings Time ends. Jack Bauer gets 25 hours in which to kill them.

fear from love. said...

great post, i actually listened to that conversation twice when watching the finale. (obviously this isnt the place to focus on such things, but i thought the finale, sans the corny ending, was amazing in the way it showed us the way all the main characters in the show worked.)

but to focus on the lessons we can draw from the battles both jack and the president face we can gather alot from life, but you touched on the main point in the end in that you can find heroism in both sides, if the mission failed because jack went for his daughter you could'nt blame him as its his daughter what would you do. and if he didnt go after his daughter you would understand he is working for a greater good. in the case of madam president we see her sending her daughter down and we cant blame her working for the greater good but if she had protected her, there is no blame as what would we do.

but the issue with judaism is interesting the above spelling out of each characters dilemma is based strongly on "thou shalt not judge" who are we to assess the actions of others in very hard decisions, but within ourselves, we can judge. whilst looking at someone else is faltering, we are dan lekaf zechus, but with ourselves we have to be more critical, and it is a battle, sometimes we go against our heart, but the next step is to align our heart to emes, the one truth in this world, and its hard, and we will slip but ultimately we have to know the truth within life. we have to work to act accordingly, but if one is real with it, and truly real with it, your heart should be able to live with it.

when jack describes his choices when saving a bus of 15 people its a different decision to the ones we make in being an eved HaShem, they are both noble but with us we need to realise one is emes and one is sheker, and when you are real with it your heart should know its right, you can be sad, u can be heartbroken but if its for emes you will be able to live with it.

Anonymous said...

You summed it up beautifully. I loved Kiefer and Annie's chemistry in that scene.

David Dev said...

This may seem like an odd comment (especially as its more than a year after the post), but I came across this a year ago and found the discussion very intriguing on a moral level. I was curious to ask whether or not you watched the final season and, if you had, what you think of Jack and the President's actions towards the end of the season.