Grumpy Old Man

What a shame that a meal together, actually talking and showing love for one another in ways that are not connected to recent purchases of electronic crap is not enough.

It is Christmas vacation—the day after Christmas 2008, actually—and I am indulging in television. 20/20 is on, and the story is about America's "meanness" and obsession with public videos displaying aggressive acts. In a little over a week I'll be 52-years-old, and I suppose that will qualify me as an "old man" in this society, but I simply cannot understand the general public's infatuation with conflict. Cheerleaders slapping each other around, videos of babies fighting at the behest of their [laughing] parents, cell phone footage of students physically assaulting teachers . . . heck, a colleague sent me a message today describing how she witnessed a Toys R Us customer in front of her get arrested for physically assaulting a cashier. What the HELL? I am sorry, but if you are grinning as you read this, I have to ask, what is wrong with you? Why do you find physical human conflict so entertaining? Are you vicariously living through these poor emotionally stunted people who act out childish aggression in public? Is there someone you want to hit? Are you suppressing years of anger that watching football and NASCAR simply does not assuage anymore? Or do you just like watching plebeians so far below you play out their pathetic life-as-a-reality show antics?

What are we becoming as a people, as a country? I do not live in fear; I live in disgust. It is discouraging enough to watch the news in November and December only to have talking heads tell me what a "bad" Christmas it is going to be if the public does not spend enough money buying more and more useless brick-a-brack. It is as if the American economy will collapse if I do not spend $2,000 a year on Christ's birthday. Growing up, I enjoyed Christmas immensely, but it was clear to me that the festivities centered on two things: religion and toys for children. I am okay with both of those things. But what has happened now? Those children have grown up to become adult children who still petulantly insist on toys. So, the chronological children demand cell phones, video games, etc., and their parents also demand the same things (adding diamond jewelry and/or flat-screen televisions on which to watch violent street style fighting or play World of Warcraft.

We are mortified by the prospect of India and China financially eclipsing America, but what do we have to offer the world anymore? Our biggest exports are also our obsessions: entertainment, fashion, and sports. Funny thing, though: So very few Americans will make careers in these fields leaving a nation of people who can do nothing but demand everything. Then all of the people who will never become sports stars, videogame designers, or professional singers will incur staggering debt in order to watch their heroes in flat-screen 5.1 or ululate madly along with karaoke style video games. In their spare time they can actively hate Indian students who excel in math and science while alternately loathing Hispanics who "take their jobs." Oh, yeah . . . these proponents of a wall at the Mexican-American border still want to pour out of their megachurches and head for 50-cent tacos at local restaurants staffed by Mexicans. If Hispanics "go home," where will the cheap tacos come from? I guess we want to have our chips and eat them, too.

I smiled when I saw a recent Wal-Mart commercial for either Guitar Hero or Rock Band. The angle? The entire family was finally together in the same room enjoying themselves. Even the baby was left in a high chair to bang along in time to the music. Am I the only one who thinks this is sad? What a shame that a meal together, actually talking and showing love for one another in ways that are not connected to recent purchases of electronic crap is not enough.

Of course, it is hard to text message, eat, and talk to your mother, father, and or siblings at the same time.


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