During the Ming Dynasty in China the Mongols were removed from the throne, literature became more important, schools were created, the justice system was reformed, and the Great Wall and the Grand Canal were also improved. But life here during the Duck Dynasty has not been as productive.
While the roots of this movement reach back further than just this past year, 2013 seems to have been the year when we paid for it.
I’m not sure when it became not only permissible but trendy for nearly every element of American life and culture to take a huge step down into the dumb basement.
If I had to pick a ground zero it might be argued that the election and then re-election of someone as obviously untrained for the Presidency of the United States as George W. Bush became a checkered flag for all the forces lying in wait to push us downstairs. When a nation’s leader appears to be an oaf uncomfortable with that country’s language and grammar, you can’t help but assume there now exists a stamp of ‘awesome’ approval on all forms of dulling and blunting of the national conversation (See also “Ford/Rob/mayor of Toronto”).
Step forward to 2013, and you have this: A cable television show that is essentially live action “Beverly Hillbillies” has a character who speaks his expectedly simple mind on the topics of gays and African Americans. But those statements were not processed as the trivial publicity exercise they were. Instead, they somehow qualified as an event in our national dialogue. Add to that an event of erotic dancing – again meant to function as advertising – labeled “controversial.” Now add the otherwise well-regarded Charlie Rose participating in a product placement for Amazon drone delivery (again, a stunt) on the otherwise well-regarded “60 Minutes” and you wonder if our next national moment is going to be deciding what to do in Syria by means of having a tractor pull.
This is where many of you might sense an over-reaction on my part. But in tribute to some of the hooey we were all forced to ingest in 2013, please let me present my evidence.
We know for a fact that one of our two major political parties uses outright lying as a means of controlling their messages since, without the lying, they would be completely without messages. So why are we concerned about free speech for hillbilly reality TV stars when we endure daily abuse of speech by those elected to run our government? Miley Cyrus is likely many things; none of those are “controversial.”
Hardly a rebel, she’s just getting your money the old fashioned and tragic way; by wiggling for it.
Along with the wheels rolling backward in 2013 there’s the event of suffocating the truth with cant and propaganda. Despite scrutiny of the tragic event there that rivaled the Warren Commission report, Benghazi continues to be a code word for “Those guys are hiding something.”
This sort of information bending is how we ended up with a House on Un-American Activities Committee and a monkey like McCarthy breathing fear into our souls. But come on, that was a half-century ago! Where is the 21st century intellectual progress that should accompany our use of sophisticated “Smart” phones? It’s one thing to observe that this Congress does nothing; it’s entirely another to look at how they might be moving us backwards.
Reality television is often labeled “a guilty pleasure,” a kind of chocolate truffle you know you shouldn’t eat but you do because you enjoy those blissful few seconds of gratification. But the relaxed standards of a “guilty pleasure” should never become the aesthetic of our entire culture. If CNN is “the most trusted name in news”, why is it now marshalled by the guy who made “The Today Show” synonymous with dreck? Do you really want the equivalent of Kathi Lee and Hoda telling you what’s happening during the next 9/11?
Which brings us back to truth and factual reality. Because of the softening of backbone represented in one way or another by the things I’ve cited here, it’s become the job of citizens to hunt and peck for the truth. Consider the tsunami of speculation and conjecture that flooded the banks of our information rivers immediately following the Boston Marathon bombings.
Consider any 24 hours of bilge on FOX News presented as “news.”
Consider that something your kids ate last night might be toxic, but you haven’t heard about that yet because the “top story” has been that a young woman rubbed her butt against a man’s crotch for the singular purpose of selling her music.
In 2013, there was no need to make lists of “Best” and “Worse”; there was more to be learned by having awareness of the blanket of banality that is blocking our view of just about everything. As Mulder used to advise us, “The truth is out there.” Now, could we please have some help finding it in 2014?