Perhaps one of the most telling bits of cyber flotsam I happened to grab onto during my regular slosh around the internet was the video of Sen. Al Franken talking down "angry" anti-health care protestors.
What was so telling was that it showed how our country could conduct itself in Real Life as opposed to the Grand Guignol-style encounters portrayed in the garish, media contrivances advertised as "real life".
Here we have the once comic, now canny liberal Democratic senator from Minnesota, standing amid what has become a typical mini-mob of cranky, average white Joes and Josephines, who wear their patriotism literally upon their sleeves or t-shrts or hat brims.
We are expecting a gang-wedgie of the dweeby former SNLer or certainly an aural assault at the very least. This, what we are told, is what passes for citizens taking their government to task. Democracy in action! Power to the people! Confusion to the French!
But after a few tosses back and forth of the by-now familiar Republican talking points the tone of the confrontation takes an unexpected turn toward the civil.
And then, the quirky Jewish bleeding heart liberal ex-clown and the crabby Christian bagger-birther-deathers engage in a discussion in which both sides communicate their ideas in a way our grandparents and great grandparents were taught to in school and by athletes on cereal boxes (along with lessons on thrift, history, posture and penmanship). In the video, people actually spoke and listened, exchanged and bantered. It was like watching thought-to-be-extinct animals frolicking by a water hole, spraying each other, grooming, exuberantly building castles with their exotic feces.
I seem to have strayed. My attention span, you know. Hold on. Franken...deathers...feces...okay. Got it.
Quite by accident there was a break in the toxic clouds of manufactured controversy which seem to fill our screens throughout the 24 cycle of "news" and as Franken and Company conversed it all became clear:
It's the media, stupid.
We people, that is to say we citizens of the United States, have become so dependent on what our media tells us -- how to think, who to like, what to fear -- that the act of interpersonal communication of ideas is all but dead. It is as if people have become the avatars for the media and not the other way around.
Yes, real crowds of actual human beings assemble or shout or hold signs or "exercise their rights" or blah blah blah but as far as this most recent street theater goes they are only aping a shallow representation of civil democracy.
Which is why media-hyped events like, say, town hall rallies have little staying power beyond a few days of decibels. People positively bloom when watered by serious stimulation delivered in a serious way, as opposed to the canned controversies that are blared and streamed and tweeted and are about as meaningful as ring around the collar (not that that doesn't exist, but I mean, does it need its own infantile jingle that stays in your head for decades? Am I dating myself? Wanna listen to The Archies later?).
Which leads me to the question: "Huh?"
Well, first, it seems that screaming bromides won't solve anything. It's obesity, not deafness which is screwing our country up, among other perfectly preventable things.
Next, remember where and who we are. Remember America when it actually made a difference in the world? When its schools were first rate? When civic mindedness was the norm? When goods were manufactured with quality in mind as opposed to high-tech laptops which seem to have the shelf life of an apple sculpture left on a window sill? I mean, what the hell is that???
It's not that people need to take back government. I mean, they do sort of, but first they have to take back themselves. Regain their common sense and humanity and self worth. They need to look in the mirror (Figuratively. We can't all be in show business.) and realize that they are good enough, smart enough and that, gosh darn it, they like themselves. Hey Al! Daily affirmations! Talk about prescient.
Anyone on TV who starts screaming something about America or patriotism or whatever else they scream in order for real human beings to forget to communicate with other real human beings SHOULD BE AVOIDED. By all means go, congregate, bring dumbass signs if you must. But engage. Listen. Leave your guns at home (Jesus. That I even have to say that.), but bring your innate decency, the defining American resourcefulness, the compassion which seems to have been in short supply but which should fill the American spirit.
And then see what we can do together.