So you may have heard that Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey® Circus has retired its elephants and without them, the show will not go on. Apparently, they were a favorite attraction–a linchpin guaranteeing ticket sales to offset rising operating costs.
So that leaves us with only one greatest show–our 24/7 media, with the political arena as its economic linchpin. And you thought the clowns were scary.
Try this on for scary:
“bread and circuses”. The American Heritage® New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2005. 29 Jan. 2017. <Dictionary.com http://www.dictionary.com/browse/bread-and-circuses>.
No surprise we refer to our 24/7 news coverage as the Media Circus then. Turn on the television at any given time, and someone is at a news desk is fomenting divisiveness, which is a pleasant way of saying, stirring the shit pot.
But this is neither a political post nor a critique of the media. Instead, I just want to know what the hell happened to decency and civility?
Last I checked, we call ourselves the United States of America. United–as in we have some things in common besides continental geography. Here’s a quick list of some commonalities:
- We celebrate our country on the Fourth of July with a cookout–maybe even fireworks while waving Old Glory in the warm summer evening.
- At least one person in the family tree is or was a veteran of our armed forces–we may have even lost a loved one to war. Freedom isn’t free.
- We believe passionately in certain causes and/or candidates.
- We vote. Locally and nationally.
- We can be kind to others. Sometimes, even when driving.
- We participate in religious services and/or other community activities that enhance our lives and maybe even those of others.
- We care about beauty and life, so we plant flowers and feed birds, stray cats, and squirrels. We don’t litter.
- We pay our taxes and live with a guiding moral compass that points north–toward others.
Or maybe…just maybe…we’re just complete dicks.
In which case, here’s a quick and dirty list of possible commonalities. Check and/or modify all that apply to your own special specialness:
We use the summer holidays as an excuse to gorge and guzzle. When amply lubricated, we shout over others who disagree with us, then call it a night after someone experiences bodily injury from fireworks–actual or metaphorical. Extra points when the cops, fire department or EMT’s are dispatched to the location.
- We support the military, but reserve the right to determine the level of our support based on our own personal, immutable knowledge of world history, politics, foreign relations and/or diplomacy. Screw Leo DiCaprio. I’m the King of the World, damn it.
- We vote. And expect everyone else to vote for the exact candidate of our choice or they are obviously stupid flipping idiots. Or we don’t vote. Why bother? System’s screwed anyway. They’re going to get their woman/man in one way or another.
- We take social media posts as an invitation to eviscerate “friends.” Or we repeatedly post inflammatory things about a cause or candidate.
Extra points for bombarding others with political emails that they in no way requested.
Also, if someone has the wrong bumper sticker on their car, we give them a special salute when passing.
- Church? Temple? Mass? Freakin’ hypocrites…besides, the kids have soccer practice every weekend.
- We care about beauty and life. Beautiful houses. Beautiful cars. Beautiful clothes. A life everyone else will envy. If we litter, it is because someone else is being paid to clean up after us–we’re actually keeping (insert gender or cultural heritage) off welfare this way.
- We manipulate the system to reduce our tax liability or to evade our debtors. We collect from social programs when we are able to earn income but choose not to. Our moral compass points south–to ourselves.
Say it ain’t so…
We enjoy certain inalienable rights as Americans. The Bill of Rights (the first ten amendments of the U.S. Constitution) guarantee these to us. But our founding fathers didn’t have Facebook. They didn’t have MSNBC. Or Twitter. Or Fox News. There was no email. No 24/7 media. No cell phones thwarting face-to-face interaction with others.
Hell, fast-forward from powdered wigs and muskets to the country’s bicentennial in 1976–we had three TV channels, and when they went off the air after midnight, they closed out the broadcasting day with our national anthem, The Star Spangled Banner.
I’m not suggesting we go backward–only that we take into consideration the effect of a constant barrage of negativity, fearmongering, and anger. It’s not healthy for us as individuals, and it’s not healthy for us as a country.
Case in point: I saw a piece this past week from the Daily Beast (out of the U.K.) in which the writer berated American Taylor Swift for being too neutral (the writer’s word was spineless) with regard to the inauguration and the Women’s March on the following day.**
Too neutral? She’s not running a damn campaign. What happened to Ms. Swift’s right to be a private citizen?
I didn’t realize that being a singer, or an actor, or a musician, or any kind of celebrity required one to preach one’s politics and, in essence, tell half of your potential fans to go shit in their collective hats–whether they are of the ubiquitous pussy-variety recently spotted in D.C. or something a tad more demure.
Or has our culture of posting everything from our daily bowel movements to our child’s report card created a culture of over-sharing and, in effect, subversive bullying?
Or maybe–just maybe, Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it. When in Rome…
The other night, my hippie son John, age 25, listened to me lament the meanspiritedness of late on social media and among people who call each other friends and neighbors–to say nothing of the constant barrage of negativity via the media.
He reminded me of a little bit of (condensed) history.
- Malcolm X converted to the Nation of Islam as a younger man, and was featured in a 1959 documentary called The Hate that Hate Produced with Mike Wallace. In 1964, Malcolm X returned from a pilgrimage to Mecca with a new attitude of embracing his white brothers. He was assassinated.
- Martin Luther King, Jr., a Baptist minister, used his God-given eloquence and nonviolent civil disobedience as a prominent leader in the Civil Rights Movement. He won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He turned his focus to desegregation of housing in Chicago. Poverty and Vietnam were two more of his causes. He was assassinated.
- President John F. Kennedy Jr., was a champion of Civil Rights, signing into federal law equal employment opportunity in the federal government, the Equal Pay Act of 1963 and the Fair Labor Standards Act to ensure the rights of all persons regardless of race and gender. He practiced what he preached and hired African-Americans in leadership positions. He was assassinated.
- Jesus Christ. To me and millions of others, Lord and Savior–to others, just a poor Jew born to a carpenter. Nevertheless, Jesus preached (a) Love God with all your heart; (b) Love your neighbor as yourself, and; (c) Love your enemies. He was assassinated.
Not a good prognosis for anyone trying to spread peace, love and understanding, eh? But a person can hope for a better future.
After an extremely contentious election year, can we just take a step back and breathe? Maybe smile at a stranger? Have some faith that things will either get better, or this too shall pass and life will go on since the pendulum always swings both ways. Moreover…
- Can we practice kindness?
- Can we think before we hit “post” or “send?”
- Can we step back and not go into attack mode with “friends” or “friends of friends on social media?”
- Can we be proud of our own choices without impugning the choices of others?
- Can we conduct ourselves with integrity and be respectful of others?
- Can we take a cue from the demise of Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey? Or maybe Abe Lincoln who knew a thing or two about uniting a divided nation…
My bad. He was assassinated.
So let there be bread and circuses. And when the last of the old pachyderms exit stage left and the economic linchpin follows, the tent will fold in upon itself, snaring us all in its ropes and tarpaulin and mythology.
From the Heart on My Sleeve to Yours–God Bless America,
Hot Flash Suzi
*all references to elephants (in text or photo) are to the actual mammal, not the political symbol.