Why Are We Still Listening?
Copyright © by Len Holman, 11/13/11
Donald Trump is at it again. He and Gov. Perry have become the Denial Duo and they are milking the birther thing for all they’re worth. But why is anyone paying attention? Why is the CNN website still printing this poor, ignorant man’s words? Doesn’t this country have more to concern it than this non-issue? There is the Herman Cain story, or non-story, which Ann Coulter called a “high-tech lynching”—reminiscent of the Clarence Thomas hearings and Anita Hill’s scurrilous treatment by the panel. This supposedly happened more than a decade ago. Cain was accused of “inappropriate behavior,” which says nothing. Is this an important story for our republic? Do the news folks have to beat this like a pan of scrambled eggs? Is there nothing else of importance of importance going on in this country—or the world? What are we to make of the news folk manufacturing a huge story out of Sarah Palin’s boots or Obama’s lack of an American flag, when Haiti is still ravaged by the effects of an earthquake and devastating storm? When Syria’s president is killing his own people? When Egypt is teetering on the edge of What To Be? With the Gulf States sliding into anarchy? Should any time be spent on trying to define what an “exile” is and whether the Republican senator from Florida is one of not? Why are the media fixated on the fact that the Occupy Wall Street movement has no glossy handouts (with bullet points) to give to reporters? How much more of the Dr. Conrad Murray trial can we take without running naked into the streets, tearing out tufts of our hair and screaming in agony?
Of course, gossip is part of human DNA. There is no doubt in my mind that Homo sapiens had a lot to say about those linebacker-looking Neanderthal girls over the hill. Imperial Rome thrived on gossip. And today, there are places where the conversations and publications are about Jesus and Mary Magdalene, and are salacious under the guise of scholarship. We are certainly no different. But we live in a world filled with decisions which need to be made which are more important than whether Lindsay Lohan should go to jail for more than ten minutes at a time or whether Kim Kardashian made enough from the sale of her wedding to support all the African states. Herman Cain’s travails are no more than a blip on the screen of political and corporate life in this country, and not worth more than a bit of a pursing of the lips, a shake of the head, and a turning of the mental page. We listen to gossip and avidly devour every morbid and salacious detail because we are wired to do that, but that doesn’t mean we should do more than glance and then move on when there are some more pressing issues.
Imagine you are with your band, hunting for food, and one of your fellows begins a lurid tale about one of the ladies back at the camp, ignoring the movement in the bushes. Do you listen to every detail or do you pay attention to a possible attack by a bear? The ones who ignore the bear don’t make it back to camp. The way things are going in this country, WE might not make it back to camp. It’s not that sexual harassment isn’t an important issue, because it is, but I’m more concerned that Cain doesn’t know China has nukes. I guess he can always look up stuff on Wikipedia. The media throws this stuff in our faces and the viewer can almost hear the network execs giggling over the ad money they get. So a public which grew up on scandal and peek-a-boo media content has few tools for evaluating content of a serious nature, and we will eventually get what we have so poorly chosen. Our president is articulate and easy to look at, is tall and has a photogenic family and has said things many wanted to hear…but we took him at his slogans and that’s all. The inexperience showed immediately as he began. But there, we had no choice if we wanted to have SOMEONE in the White House who read books and knew which side of the map was north.
Now, there are grumblings that Obama hasn’t lived up to his promises. Listen, if your parents promised you a pony for Christmas and instead you got a pack of tube socks, what kind of explanation would make it all right? Money? That Christmas loan your parents applied for didn’t get approved? The weather was bad, and the alfalfa trucks couldn’t make it to your place and the pony would starve? Zoning ordinances prohibit ponies in your neighborhood? No matter how reasonable the explanation, no matter how true, you would be crushed, and a major part of your disappointment would be that you allowed you knowledge of the world to be overcome by your fantasies: you knew, in your heart of hearts, that the pony was not forthcoming. Obama oversold, we over-listened, and now we are disappointed. A fact beats a sexy headline anytime if we’re wanting a leader, but we are quickly, generation by generation, unlearning how to think critically. A while back, we couldn’t reach a consensus on whether fellatio in the Oval Office if OK if the economy was good, and now Bill Clinton does his shtick on “The Daily Show” and hawks his book and we’re all good. We don’t separate the wheat from the chaff and this is already coming to bit us and will continue to do so. Let’s decide whether Herman Cain deserves a hearing or a lynching. Let’s decide whether the tube socks aren’t such a bad idea after all.
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