Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Dear Cremomma...Please forgive me

Dear cremomma, we certainly are coming from different places aren't we?

You have an advantage over me because I haven't seen the "televised event" which you describe. I do think "chanting" is a better word for what I was doing than "yelling." I was chanting "Obama" in a very low voice on purpose. A few of us had been chatting with Mr. Rich off camera; I gave him an Obama pin which he accepted graciously and then I teasingly suggested that he wear it. He refused politely. I think the fact that he hugged me at the end (was that on camera?) showed that he recognized and respected my heart.

What my heart was feeling was this:
the amazement and pride all of us Obama supporters had in seeing each other for the first time in such unexpected numbers in a state which our own governor has written off for McCain.

It was as if the thirst of a long lonliness had been quenched. It was a joy unseen and unobserved but something we all felt. I just wanted to testify or as my daughter said, "to represent."

Please forgive me. I do stand by what I said in my previous reply to you: All television programming has been skewed to entertainment values and the selling of image and image-related products. Values are packaged and sold like commodities and many in the entertainment media are unwitting accomplices.

When presented in that fashion values which are a matter of the heart lose their meaning and in fact become weapons we began to hurl at each other in what some people call a "Culture War."

I believe this is what many Obama supporters mean when we speak of "change." We long to get down to the "common humanity" that we all share. Your defence of young John Rich is heartfelt and noble. What I mean by "noble" is that it is selfless. But please allow me to defend myself.

I am 65 and remember watching the Vietnam War on television, sometimes during our evening meal. I also remember watching television coverage of civil rights demonstrators getting hosed by huge fire hoses, assaulted by police dogs and beaten on their heads and bodies with billy sticks or something like them. I remember when Life Magazine devoted its cover to tiny square photos of the faces of all the America servicemen who died in the war. I remember when it published photos of flag-draped coffins being unloaded at the airport on its cover. I remember when Martin Luther King Jr. was murdered in Memphis. I was working for a southern newspaper at the time; it published the news on an inside page near the bottom. I first heard his "I have a dream" speech during the television coverage after his death. I saw and heard the horror and devastation of war on television; I witnessed the civil rights movement on television and came to grips with my own country's terrible shortcomings through television.

It was very, very difficult for me to hear a young man, John Rich, sing about that old, awful, killing war as though it were a good, even glorious thing. It was very difficult for me to stand by while he lionized an old man with old ideas because he got shot down while bombing civilian and military targets in an old discredited war. Because we no longer have the draft, John Rich is in no danger of getting caught up in either the war in Iraq or the one in Afghanistan. What value, aside from entertainment value (and perhaps propaganda value), is there in his effort to "raise up" McCain, a man who glorifies war and advocates more and more warfare, as a hero? John Rich risks nothing in this song. And I am forced to wonder what kind of songs he would be writing and singing if he were subject to the draft. What kind of audience would he have if all young men (and possibly women) in the United States were subject to the draft?

The draft was abolished after the Vietnam War. Today the burdens of war are carried by a very few military families. The Bush administration has been sneaking the bodies of our dead soldiers into the country under cover of darkness without any media attention whatsoever. Until recently most Americans paid nothing but hollow rhetoric and the cost of a few flag pins for the Iraq War. We weren't even encouraged to conserve gasoline until recently. But things are changing. The current financial crisis has much to do with the limited sacrifices our people were asked to make for the endless war Bush started and McCain favors. Our war debt is owned by foreign countries most notably China. This has weakened the dollar, formerly the world's standard currency, almost beyond recognition.

And what has the media been doing while our country has been going down the tubes? Not much. Not much at all. Television which used to report the news has become an entertainment medium almost exclusively, pandering to celebrities and their fans and refusing to endanger advertising profits by focusing on news (truth). What television does best is the cheerful nonsense Harry Smith and others package up in morning shows like the one being taped Tuesday morning in front of Belmont University. This sort of media fare is as hypnotic as a narcotic drug but instead of inducing sleep it has allowed us to cultivate our own "in group" fantasies which pit us against one another and keep real life and real reality at bay.

Guess what, Cremomma? Reality is back and it's not a show on MTV or any other television channel, that is unless it is smuggled in by an outlaw or the Chairman of the Federal Reserve Board, Ben Bernanke.