Wednesday, May 14, 2008

We, as a society, are failures.

So, I've had to sit through another episode of the odious Idol program that Carren likes. (I watch, I comment, she rolls her eyes, claims I love it, but fun ends for me after try outs.)

They did a retrospective where the 16-year-old David Archuletta returns home to Utidaho (either Utah or Idaho, I don't remember). He goes to his high school, his local mall, and a couple other local places where people come out of the woodwork to squeal his name and get frenzied up in the best post-modern-beatle-esque prepubescent panty twisting since the British invasion.

Syesha was next, and turnout was somewhat less pre-egg dropping female, but still, plenty of folks lining the streets, police escorts, screams, cheers, and roses. of course, the obligatory high school pep-rally, which ended with her name being chanted over and over.

David Cook (the only one I think has any redeeming merit as an entertainer) is even referred to as his hometown's "favorite son" on the local news--Kansas City. There's the sobbing teens, the radio and TV interviews. To his credit, he did return to his elementary school and surprise his music teacher, and thank her. Then he threw a pitch at a royals game, had a miles-long parade, and cried from being overwhelmed.

All three were lauded by their local elected representatives and each was Proclaimed "insert entertainer's name here day" in their hometowns. They were given "heroes welcomes." Hero refers to people that, in the face of danger and adversity or from a position of weakness, display courage and the will for self-sacrifice, that is, heroism, for some greater good, originally of martial courage or excellence but extended to more general moral excellence.

Here's my point (and I do have one):

The American Public, represented by the general public in these three towns, are so hopelessly out of touch with what deserves adulation and exaltation that they choose these individuals to put up on pedestals and give heroes (or prodigal children's) welcomes. As a society, unless we can change this, we are doomed to fail.

How many of those same people show up for Veterans or Memorial Day parades? How many of these towns have their real local heroes--who wear them funny multicolored uniforms--come in to their radio and TV stations to ask them about the "ground truth" over there? How many hail these boys and girls as heroes, beyond a magnet on the car? How many have had their local mayor come and welcome them home when they return, healthy or otherwise? How many have been invited to return to their high schools for a pep rally, and had their principals and students chant their names?

This country has seriously screwed up where it places value. Name recognition takes precedence over competence. Being on TV is more desired than doing something that has global importance. Singing, singing, for mohamed's sake, is more praiseworthy than soldiering.

There was a time when actors and other entertainers were seen, as good as they may have been, as little more than scoundrels. With few exceptions, I've seen precious little to change that opinion. Why are schools letting these entertainers return, not to offer encouragement for the students to pay attention and learn as much as they can from their teachers, but to be held in esteem as people who've achieved "success" -- even though their success has little, if anything to do with what they learned in school.

Why aren't our schools having monthly hero visits from soldiers returning from theater, who can tell them how they applied what they learned in civics, social studies, history, ethics, or even the lessons on the fields of friendly strife--athletic fields--were applied in the house of an Iraqi family, or a meeting with an Afghan tribesman? Why aren't our schools holding rallies on Veterans day, where students are exposed to GENERATIONS of Veterans who can tell them about sacrificing for more than themselves. Why aren't our streets lined for miles with cheering citizens when we have a parade on Veterans day? And why are those parades full of everything BUT veterans? Car dealerships "donate" their latest-model convertibles (with the company name prominently displayed) carting around the local Ms. Elk Snout Festival amid a host of other local sycophants. What is usually curiously absent from these parades, are the veterans.
Local politicians and usually the local celebrities--newsies, radio "personalities," and maybe a generous contributor or two make up the "Grand Marshall" and Grandstand committee. Why isn't the Grand marshal the highest ranking area veteran, or perhaps the oldest surviving veteran? Why aren't their words of wisdom for the crowds gathered to see the units marching past them good enough for future generations?

We place value, as a society, where there is none. We hold in high esteem those who have achieved little, sacrificed nothing, and cast aside those who have sacrificed everything, and achieved more in 12 months than most will in their lives. We, as a society, have succeeded in passing on to our young the value of a dollar, but failed to impress on our youth what to value in life.

My indictment: the greatest generation failed to impress means for respectful disagreement on their young. This led to the Boomers being unable to impress simple courtesy and respect for others on their young These kids became the "X"ers, who, lacking the social skills necessary to behave around others, led increasingly techno-centric lives. Surrounded by televisions with 200 channels (and nothing on) an Internet where anonymity prevails and allows people to interact without any real repercussions for their actions, these "X"ers are now raising children who, seeing their parent's reliance on all things electronic, find their heroes and value systems on the giant plasma screens and world wide web.

The Brittany Spears Trainwreck is just as newsworthy to them as is Paris Hilton's twat lady business. Of course, Kobe (not the excellent beef) is even more important, as he has a shoe, a sports drink, a video game, and he plays some sport, too. Even more important is American Idol, because millions of people voted for them, and they are on TV, and they get to meet other famous people, like Ryan Seacrest (by the way, before Idol, who was this guy? Kato Kaelin's dirty pillow biter?) Xers are unfamiliar with the military, as the war that defined their parent's lives (Vietnam) was either a "you protested it" or "you fought in it but didn't talk about it" kind of war, and the military suffered heavily until The Great Reagan restored its funding and prestige.
Xers watched Desert Storm from their living rooms, 24-7 on CNN. Their kids play Army: The video game. Not a real big leap from CNN to Entertainment tonight (since both are mostly mindless drek, puff pieces, and manufactured news/entertainment) or from America's Army: the video game to Grand Theft Auto 4. This isn't real, this isn't hard, this is just a game and not important.

We are either sliding gleefully down the slippery slope, or spinning down the spiral, in a society which places entertainment value above all other values. We are disconnected from personal relationships, from each other, from anything outside our own individual spheres of influence, and are so horrified at the lives we live that we delve into entertainment as a means of escape. We try so often to escape that our lives become the pursuit of not happiness, but of fantasy. We emulate our entertainers, we call them our heroes, we keep a hawk's eye on them day and night, while those who serve a greater purpose (except by a very few, who are in their own right, heroes) go unrecognized, unappreciated, and forgotten (until gas hits $5/gallon.)


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