Sunday, January 30, 2005

Back to What's Important

Forget Iraq.   The vote went well, and it no longer requires our attention.  Forget Social Security.  Lot's of complicated numbers.  Boring!  Health Care for everyone.  I have mine, why should I be interested in that?  Starvation, AIDS and Malaria in Africa.  Isn't that Tsunami stuff under control?  That happened in Africa didn't it?  No forget all this peripheral stuff, we've got a trial to watch – the "Trial of the Century" (prescient title considering we're only 5 years in).  Michael Jackson, that's what I really want to know about.  That's what's important.

I was thinking of Frank Rich when I turned on the news early this morning.  What a relief, another of his Mediathons on its way.  Even BBC, my usual refuge from the narrow trivia found on Networks and Cable, failed me.  "The trial of Michael Jackson will begin this morning…" it told me.  Ugh.  If it weren't so infuriating, it would be funny.  Is this why we are bringing democracy to the unwashed so that they can bypass their miserable reality to follow months of Michael Jackson on CNN?  Perhaps my problem is that I've never listened to a complete Michael Jackson recording or seen more than a few moments of his famous videos, and thus don't comprehend his importance relative to those silly world events.  I know his sister bared a breast during the half-time show at last year's Super Bowl (which I also don't watch).  Was it the right or the left breast?  This is important isn't it?  I know it dominated the news for weeks last year and required decisive action by the FCC.

What is wrong with us?  To be sure there is no simple answer when facing a chicken and egg problem.  The media focuses on this beside-the-point, but millions watch it.   I don't really know who to blame.  One would hope that those keepers of our moral values in Washington would be pointing out that Michael Jackson's trial pales in comparison to the multitude of serious problems we face.  But perhaps they don't see this preoccupation with the irrelevant as so bad.  What better a time than to sneak through some further tightening of the Patriot Act, some further reduction in benefits to our beloved warriors and their food stamp using families (where did I put that yellow ribbon bumper sticker) or another denial of global warming (focus on the recent cold in New York, not the diminished ice caps at the poles).  Certainly we would expect some words of criticism of this irrelevance from the pulpits across America, but that might offend "viewers" sitting in the pews below.  Heaven forbid, let's not risk that.

I've been thinking a great deal about our situation these days.   One of the things that strikes me is that we have totally lost our sense of humor evidenced by, among others, this outburst.  Oh I know the Daily Show airs every night, but I'm talking about the official world.  Remember those photos and newsreel clips of FDR with his infectious smile; his "nothing to fear but fear…" in the darkest days of the Depression?  Remember those JFK press conferences filled with engaging dry humor directed both inwardly and outwardly?  You simply didn't want to miss a single word.  Gone.  Now we only shout and scowl or sanctimoniously invoke the Almighty as if our utterances were the sanctioned holy word.  And we devote our attention to important things.  Michael Jackson, thank your for being here when we need you most.

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