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Sunday, May 1, 2016

Ross Rambles: Journey into the wasteland

Friday, May 16, 2008

I've spent a lot of time during the last couple of months lying on the couch watching television. I haven't had the energy to do my usually preferred activity of reading.

I suppose this has something to do with the fact that a couple of months ago, a Sioux City medical team ripped open my chest, pulled my heart out and made modifications to it, as Sioux City medical teams are prone to do.

Anyway, my extensive viewing of television was an experience I had not had for a long time and don't plan on repeating soon. People don't seem to understand when I tell them I really don't watch TV. I go months at a time seeing nothing on the tube other than an occasional rented DVD.

Watching hour after hour of television was like compulsively touching a sore tooth with the tongue, a painful activity that can't be stopped. I don't even have cable, so there was no escape from the wasteland of standard network fare.

I was never quite desperate enough to watch some shows that seem to be popular with every other person on the planet such as American Idol, Dancing with the Stars and Survival.

I did watch several cop shows dealing with laboratory based investigative techniques. These include three CSI shows as well as several others.

Only slightly more reality based are network news shows.

During the evening time slot in which the nightly news airs, the only alternative is the Simpsons. This is a choice between frivolous, mindless entertainment and a cartoon.

I prefer print news over broadcast news and find that the best depth and perspective is provided by weekly news magazines such as U.S. News and World Report (my preference over the flashier but less substantive Newsweek and Time magazines). It seems that the more immediacy that people demand in news reporting, the less depth they are willing to accept.

The coverage of this election season has been a low point in broadcast news coverage. I think even the network pundits have to be rethinking their preference for the trivial over matters of substance. That preference for the trivial was evident in the last debate between Obama and Clinton moderated by George Stephanopoulos of ABC News.

As noted by one humorist, the 16th question posed by Stephanopoulos was prefaced by the statement that the economy was the most important issue facing the country. If it was the most important issue, why did it take 16 questions to get to it?

At the start of the debate, Stephanopoulas probed extensively about embarrassments that have nothing to do with important issues and very little to do with the character of the candidates.

At the time of that debate, Clinton's faulty recollection of exiting a plane while supposedly under fire was fading as old news so the bulk of the probing questions regarded Obama's former pastor and Obama's statements supposedly indicating elitist inclinations.

First, I don't think Rev. Wright's paranoid and racially divisive comments should be ignored. Obama's long association with such a person is worth noting but Obama should be allowed to disavow the rantings of his former pastor.

We need to keep the history of bigotry in perspective. People who openly express racist ideas should be immediately challenged. Mostly they are, at least in this predominately white Midwest area, but it hasn't been long since most whites felt it was impractical to challenge every racist comment they heard. Racism was merely dismissed as ignorance rather than challenged as the destructive force it was. More enlightened people showed a tolerance toward racist colleagues and family members that the racists would not grant to others.

The urban black relationship with bigoted peers has likely been similar although it hasn't reached the same condition as currently exists within the white community.

Because of a history of racial discrimination against blacks, black leaders have been caustic in criticism of practices that most, but not all, whites either explicitly or tacitly approved. Blanket criticism of whites for practices that not all whites approved of was never fair but it was understandable.

If anything good has come from the recent controversy involving Rev. Wright, it is the developing consensus that no form of racial bias is acceptable. We need to move beyond silent acceptance of such bias and Obama has indicated a willingness to do so.

The criticism about potential elitist attitudes by Obama has even less substance. This requires an examination of a person's innermost feelings, an examination that is both difficult and irrelevant.

Does the Harvard-educated Obama feel superior to the less educated masses? Perhaps. Do we care? I, for one, don't.

Past icons of the Democratic Party may or may not have had elitist feelings. Perhaps FDR who was born wealthy, smoked cigarettes in a long holder and sipped martinis, felt a paternalistic condescension toward those who preferred whiskey with beer chasers. It doesn't matter.

There are many issues facing whoever will next assume the presidency that do matter but those issues will get little attention as long as journalists have mentalities more appropriate for covering celebrity gossip than political campaigns.