I was struck by the thought of millions of Americans having an "Oh no, Mr. Bill" sort of moment. "'Lost' not going to be on? My life is over; not worth living." I don't know what "Lost" is. I've never seen it. Nor do I intend to begin watching it now, or ever. What I can say, however, is that the final knell of any hope this country might possibly have entertained -- with "entertained" being the operative double-meaning term -- was clanging loud.
My many years now deceased mother got upset -- actually, VERY upset -- when I once asked her a knock-knock genre question: "What's the difference between a 7-year-old and a 77-year-old?" The answer that got my 80-something mother so ticked off: 70 years; that's it -- 70 years is all.
I posit, now manifestly proven by the hordes of Palinistas, Tea-Party folks, registered Republicans, Fox viewers, and Limbaugh-Hannity-O'Reilly-Beck-et al fans is that, contrary to a widely popular presumption, in fact we do not grow either more responsible nor so-called wiser as we march through the years. For all inclined to disagree . . . show me the palpable evidence. Put it on the table. Let's examine the facts; not your preferences, the facts, the raw data. Simply because you are now wizened and as a consequence may want to believe something does not make it so. (By the way, wizened, from whence "wise" is drawn, does not refer to an enhanced sense or keenness, it means withered, shriveled.)
Last summer I was sitting on the patio, having a beer with a neighbor. I made the remark that one had to be congenitally stupid or morally treacherous, forgetting the Palin half, to have voted for McCain.
In support, I said that all that was necessary, assuming one gave at the outset the merest part of a damn about being informed, was to go to the net and Google "John McCain." Within some fraction of a second would pop up on the monitor attributable resources aplenty of the Arizonan's misstatements and duplicities.
Go to YouTube and you could see and hear him telling saying one thing to one group, then something else again to another. (I'm thinking most vividly of what McCain said he had told his North Vietnamese captors, to mislead them of the names of his squadron mates: the starting lineup of his favorite team, the Green Bay Packers. While in Pittsburgh, however, and conveniently so, his favorite team in the POW anecdote became the Steelers. I'm also thinking how he had held that he and his present wife did not begin dating until he'd filed for divorce from his first wife, although Phoenix court records told an entirely different tale.)
Bob replied, "When I get home from a long day's work, the last thing I want to do is sit down in front of a computer. I want to relax." "Bob," I said, "you're retired, and have been for several years." Bob then got up and left.
A few days ago, an elderly woman, a member of the 55+ community where I live, said she thought "Sarah Palin was neat." By that the lady was not commenting on the ex-governor of Alaska's hair or clothing styles. I replied to the woman how tragically misinformed she was; both she and Ms. Palin. However, unable to maintain a conversation that stretched beyond a middle-school level of sophistication, the woman turned away. Nor did I pursue her on the issue. It is just not possible to have a discussion of any merit with a person with a lamp-post curiosity.
I reported some weeks ago, during the time when Obama was locked in discussions with his top-level advisors over the pending troop-level increase in Afghanistan, how another senior woman here opined that she'd "rather fight them over there than here." Regardless that she'd never confronted anything in her life that was much more perilous than a complicated recipe, she felt secure to utter something that was clearly both stupid and thoughtless and unforgivable. But that is to be anticipated from someone who devotes hours every day to the food channels. What more could be?
Most of us have seen at least one of Jay Leno's "Jay Walking" segments wherein the late-night host goes onto the street to interview passing Angelinos trick history and civics questions, questions like, "In what century was the War of 1812 fought?" And they're stumped!
Dana Perino, Bush's White House press secretary after Tony Snow fell too mortally ill to continue the post, giggled embarrassingly -- and quite rightfully so -- when she said, "I knew the Cuban Missile Crisis had something to do with Cuba . . . and missiles."
A few weeks ago, Kris Long, the male anchor for the local Palm Springs television news, remarked concerning this Senate's Christmas Eve session, that the last time the chamber was in session on a Christmas Eve was in 1963, working on the "Vietnam buildup." While the year was correct, Long's history was completely wrong. The session had nada to do with any buildup in Vietnam, something that Kennedy had staunchly opposed, and that was not taking place . . . in December 1963! The chamber was in session because of the change in power, from Kennedy to Johnson, that was necessitated by Kennedy having been assassinated only four weeks prior.
You might have thought that just about everyone had heard about the JFK assassination, and that it occurred on November 22, 1963. If that's what you thought, stand corrected.
No news anchor nor White House press secretary should be entitled to hold the position unless they are at least minimally high school level history proficient. The American public has an inalienable right to expect and demand that those delivering the news have some basic modicum of intelligence and that what issues from their lips can be somewhat relied upon.
This past week, ex-mayor of New York City, Mr. 9-11, Rudy Giuliani, told ABC's Good Morning America host, George Stephanopoulos, "We had no domestic attacks under Bush. We've had one under Obama." And Stephanopoulos let the glaring misstatement pass unmolested. That followed on the heels of Perino's unchallenged statement to Fox's Sean Hannity, "We did not have a terrorist attack on our country during President Bush's term," and GOP strategist Mary Matalin's comments to CNN's State of the Union host John King that the Republicans had "inherited the most tragic attack on our own soil in our nation's history."
As if the nation's collective memories are as challenged as conservatives want everyone to believe they are (I think they are. But that's no excuse.), I will cite only three facts that will hopefully not fall into the challengeable column:
Fact 1.) The 9-11 attacks took place on September 11, 2001.
Fact 2.) They're frequently referred to as the 9-11 attacks or the attacks of 9-11 because they occurred on September 11 of 2001.
Fact 3.) George W. Bush had been the president for MORE THAN EIGHT MONTHS on September 11, 2001.
The parenthetical travelog above was admittedly an off-on-a-tangent aside, but one added for emphasis of the theme here: The Righties truly do want the public as misinformed and bent toward their spin and lies as they can manage, but it's a quest that is successful, whenever it is, because of a three-way conspiracy that includes three very willing parties: the Righties doing the spinning and telling the lies, the nation's news agencies and media that's interested only in ratings and subscribers, and a public more concerned with indulging itself in mind-numbing entertainment than engaging any personal pursuit of the truth.
Not a one of us can control the level of depravity to which Righties will descend in their chase for power. Nor have we any control over how vapid and shallow and uninformed and corrupted of journalism's basic standards the corporate media will seek escape to. That leaves only us. And we have almost unlimited control there.
That we have almost unlimited control to decide our sources of essential information is the good news. The bad news, at least for a democratic republic, is that the overwhelming majority of Americans would much rather tune into "Lost," or some other equally insidiously inane television program, than hear what the President of the United States has to say. Nor is it the disinterest in what the president has to say that is telling. That deficit of interest in the State of the Union address, no matter who the president is, is symptomatic of a national attitude concerning the quest for basic information that is perilous beyond measure.
We don't have to be Lost. That's a choice every one of us voluntarily makes. Just remember, the lives we live and the futures we leave to all who will be coming behind us depend to both lesser and greater measure on those very specific decisions.