Monday, March 14, 2011
I'm sail thread. Show me you're more than silk.
SPEAK UP, JADED ONES. Never done this before. But there are a lot of unanswered questions in the posts and comments of the past couple of weeks.
I'll just make a few comments to sink the needle in.
I've been struck by how many of you -- even in trying to be optimistic -- are devoted to the idea that American "exports" are mostly negative. I think this reflects the overlooking of some key variables and a parochial viewpoint. The variables I didn't hear mentioned? The Internet, cellphones (Arab uprisings and their internal/external communications, anyone?), American Johnny-on-the-spot response to natural disasters, and the still growing number of families all over the globe who have one or more relatives living or studying here. The movies and TV shows you think are so disastrous in PR terms are probably communicating things you've ceased to look at -- the amazingly high standard of living enjoyed by even those who are poor in our terms, the amazing freedom to criticize the U.S. government and still obtain lucrative international distribution (Freedom!), the extraordinary technology involved in all our media productions, now taken for granted by us but almost miraculous to many in the global audience, and the enduring archetype of the maverick American hero, who doesn't have to submit to any authority to prevail and survive, if not prosper to an exceptional degree.
Besides which, our music is all over the world. Good, bad, or indifferent it speaks to the world's young the same way American jeans spoke to the children of the Iron Curtain countries a generation ago. You all take being American for granted. They don't. Why they're still trying to come here and live, even from countries who officially despise us and have aimed all their propaganda at discrediting our way of life. Every America-hating director, actor, and musician is actually making his despised homeland more attractive to all the people who know they don't have what the haters no longer see as a privilege.
What I meant by vitality.
A nod to Helk. He wants to discuss presidential candidates. I thought I'd opened the door to that, wide open, but nobody responded. So come out and talk. Don't just sharpshoot. Make your case and arrive at some valid conclusion.
Japan. What do you all think of the current disaster? I have a few prodding thoughts. Our own media and government tend to exaggerate rather than underplay emergencies for political ends. Our anti-Bush press declared there were 10,000 dead in New Orleans before it quietly conceded there were only about a hundred. In Japan, home of the most obedient, well organized, and homogeneous people on earth, the government has consistently understated likely casualties, dangers, and national impacts from the first moment. Yet with some notable media-distorted exceptions, we seem to have a talent for recovering from horrific disasters in places like Tornado Alley (and this week in northern New Jersey) with barely a peep. Who's exceptional? Them or us?
Nuclear plants. A 9.0 event that happens once in a couple hundred years is supposed to make us panic about the "China Syndrome" all over again. I'm guessing that wouldn't happen without the ratings-driven hysteria of the 24/7 news cycle, and Fox News is as guilty as anyone. Maybe more so. (Don't get me started on the fact-free incitations of Allyson Camerota and the shockingly nepotist promotion to International Correspondent of new college grad Peter Doocy, whose Fox host father can't even pronounce the name of Miyagi, Japan. We're supposed to take any of these folks, seriously?) What do you think?
Wisconsin. As ugly a display of nasty inter-party political combat as we've seen in years, but as far as I know, nobody got killed -- unlike the ongoing protests in Egypt, Jordan, Bahrain, Yemen, Libya, etc. A lot of marble got damaged in the capitol building and the place stank like the Superdome after Katrina, but only the rhetoric was actually homicidal. Do you feel ashamed or proud? Why?
World Leadership. The catastrophe in Japan has caused the publication of figures we haven't seen in a while. Did you think China with its billion-plus people was actually overtaking our economy? (Bet you did.) The proof of our decline. Turns out the three economies behind us in rank don't add up collectively to the GDP of the United States. And Japan -- even before the earthquake/tsunami -- had a national debt twice its GDP. I predict that once again, the world's weakest form of democracy, i.e., the parliamentary, will fall at the precise moment when it needs to lead firmly and without partisan favor. Which our republican democracy is expressly designed to enable, except when we have a cipher as president.
Okay. Enough. Discuss amongst yourselves. And by that I mean anything that strikes you as worthwhile. When the whole world seems to be falling apart and the president is invisible except for participating in a Gridiron roast, everyone else should be prepared to say a little something.
P.S. I just smacked Eduardo in the Comments, which I hate to do, because he came in leading with his chin rather than his own ideas. My smackdown is meant as an inspiration for him and the rest of you. "Open Thread" means talk about your subjects, not mine. I was only trying to stir the pot, not mandate the recipe for the resulting stew as one more reflection of me.
For the timid or for those who want a closing thought for their wise comments, I'm presently torn between two wildly discrepant posts, one on Evolution and the other on March Madness (meaning the combined insanity of this month's NFL lockout coupled with the conveniently sudden MSM consensus that student athletes, especially -- surprise! -- basketball players, should be paid for being subpar students who receive this one, against-all-odds lottery win of getting a chance at a college education they wouldn't otherwise qualify for.) You can end your comments by voting for one or the other of my post ideas. But I really hope you offer some coherent personal arguments on another topic first.
And I won't even promise I'll pay attention to the vote totals. Who votes for what, or doesn't, might make all the difference.