Human-to-human communication in the United States has also faltered greatly. People who would rank as the vilest of trolls on any Internet chat room are now on the air as TV and radio hosts, spewing forth hatred and even barefaced lies. These talking heads do this, of course, to make money, but the effect it has on the average listener is nothing short of devastating. It is devastating to a population not educated to think analytically; it is devastating to a people who above all need to open up communication with each other, not close it.
Intelligent discussion on American TV and radio has now taken a back seat to a sort of childish one-upmanship. Its no longer a question of who can thrust and parry their opponent into a corner through the use of beautiful English phrasing and logic; its now a question of who can belittle the other with snappy (but rude) one-liners. This has affected the mainstream population in its daily affairs, in that the ordinary people come to believe that this is the way to win an argument. Substance and logic all take a back seat to name-calling.
The worst culprits are the talk radio show hosts. Average America doesnt know what is involved in becoming a talk show host, but trust me, just about all of these people are no more or less intelligent than you or I. Of course, they keep up on current events better than you or I could: Its their job. While we are putting in a good eight or ten hours of work each day, these guys are brushing up on current affairs. As a result, it is very difficult to challenge and defeat them in an on-air discussion especially when they have control of what goes on air. So to call up a talk show host and try to argue a point and win is akin to pushing water up a hill: It cant be done. I know. I worked as a talk show host for many years.
Thus, in modern America, talk show radio and TV is not about debating the issues of the day. It is a forum for a megalomaniac to make himself or herself look better to an audience that doesn't know any better, and to belittle opponents in front of other people. This never happens in Japan. It doesnt happen because the structure of the Japanese language does not lend itself well to interruption when someone is speaking, and also because the Japanese are polite. But I suspect that it never happens in any other country excepting the United States.
This childish behavior is especially damaging to the psyche of the American male although women seem to be affected by it also (witness so-called "soccer moms"). It seems that winning is everything. Whatever happened to the saying, "Its not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game"? I know that this phrase does not apply to todays American male. The verbal one-upmanship is insidious as it begins to creep into other areas of the American psyche. It becomes contagious and is damaging to civil discourse and civil behavior all around.
Imagine a guy with an average vocabulary and no gift for repartee. What does he do when he has been belittled in public for no real reason? He probably holds it in, until one day when he raises his fists.
In Japan, I have never seen a sports game especially so-called "pick-up games" break down into fisticuffs. Have I seen this in America? Have you folks in America seen this? Yes, far too many times (do I even need to ask?). The last time I witnessed it was in California, when a so-called friendly basketball game turned into a hockey game and a bunch of guys started punching it out over some foul. You would have thought their lives depended on the outcome of that game. It was embarrassing. I was out on the court to get some exercise. I didnt care if we won or lost. I certainly wasnt interested in getting hurt, or injured, or hit. I walked off.
Americans today have become some of the most childish, self-centered adults I have ever seen.
A recent trip to Crawford, to visit Camp Casey before it really got into full swing, allowed me to see for myself another slice of American life. I had brought my video camera and eight hours of tape. I was going to make a documentary to try to explain to the Japanese public what was going on there in Texas. (Japanese news will rarely show anything critical of a foreign government especially the government of the United States). I wanted to capture the sights and sounds; the atmosphere of a real American-style anti-war demonstration. I had really hoped that I could make a documentary that would show the Japanese just what the average American is thinking.
When I came back to Japan, I transferred the video tapes to the editing machine and I watched in increasing despair. Im sure I can get the average Japanese to understand what Americans are all about and what they are thinking. Im sure that if I ever do finish this documentary (and Im wondering now if I want to), the Japanese will understand more than they want to understand about America. They will watch it and think: "Americans have gone completely nuts." I would have to agree.
Cindy Sheehan and her movement are quite understandable. Cindy seems like a level-headed woman with plenty of common sense. Its the others who have jumped on the bandwagon who seem crazy. Not all of them, of course, but it did seem a bit like a circus full of freaks. And those freaks were fully represented on both sides of the fence.
Even worse than (some of) the anti-war group were the pro-war people they seemed like they were really crazy. (I only saw six at most even though the next days newspaper reported 250.) I talked to one woman who claimed to have "just arrived from Baghdad." She was lying. I could pick that out in a second of talking to her. Her English level was that of someone who had been in the United States for ten years. Yet there she was, claiming to have "just arrived." (Well, okay, I suppose everything is relative, especially in a country where it is now acceptable to out-and-out lie to get what you want.)
There was another guy playing a guitar or trying to and singing, "How many ghosts did you make today? Aiding and abetting the enemy, how many ghosts did you make today?" (Bet you a donut he hasnt a clue as to the meaning of the word abetting). I suppose a few off-key choruses of this song wouldnt have been so bad, but this guy went on to play straight for at least six hours in the blazing sun without a break. Perhaps that would explain his behavior hes suffering from cooking his brain in the hot sun for too long.
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