Tom Finneran: The Decline of America Continues
Tuesday, September 18, 2012
Honey Boo Boo is a big hit. Jerry Springer lives on. The Bachelor is starting its seventeenth season, indicating no shortage of American women who will publicly degrade themselves. Countless Americans continue to parade their dysfunction on television and cable shows demonstrating to the rest of the world a perverted pride in coarseness and vulgarity. Worst of all, most of these strange and nutty people beget children.
Observers the world over must marvel at this gross and continuous spectacle of ill manners and flaunted ignorance. As Americans, we like to think that we are an advanced nation, and indeed we are. As the world’s sole superpower since the demise of the former Soviet Union, and despite the emergence of China as a 21st century competitor, America is the best place on the planet to live, work, play, and raise a family. In my opinion, it’s not even a close call.
And yet, and yet, something is really nagging me about our society... I cannot even begin to fathom the fascination with freakish behavior. Nor can I begin to fathom the public broadcast and celebration of such personal dysfunction. Are people really entertained by these shows? Americans of days gone by would shun people whose repetitive behaviors were so disreputable.
And Americans of days gone by would have vigorously condemned those who would exploit such behaviors for profit. Today, apparently, the offer of “lights, camera, action” and some cab fare can draw all the screwballs of society to center stage. To me it seems that we are really making fun of pathetic folks whose desperation for 15 minutes of fame trumps any common sense they might possess. But they are merely pathetic. Those who would exploit such poor and pathetic souls are considerably worse—they are bullies, making a living and taking advantage of simpletons.
Just imagine that you are a young mother or father living anywhere else in the world. You have heard about America. You have heard great things about this rich and beautiful country—its freedoms of faith, and speech, and thought, its power, its wealth, its science, its leadership, and its example in an often cruel and vicious world. You might even dream about this land of ours just as countless immigrant families have done for hundreds of years. And then you see an image of “famous” Americans—Snooki, any one of the Kardashians, Honey Boo Boo and her family, or, heaven forbid, an entire episode of Jerry Springer. At that point, you would probably panic and become determined to shield and protect your child from such a sick society.
Perhaps I over-react. At my age that’s a distinct possibility. But at any age the question remains as to why anyone would parade or celebrate such coarse vulgarity. How about a celebration of virtues instead? Are the magicians of stagecraft incapable of celebrating fidelity, sobriety, courage, effort, perseverance, generosity, and kindness? Have they never heard of the seven virtues? Chastity, temperance, and humility are three of the seven virtues and, perhaps, the answer to my question lies therein. Can you think of three virtues which could be any more foreign to Hollywood than chastity, temperance, and humility?
You know, I’m told that country and western music continues to explode in popularity and I think I know why: The songs tell stories and the people in those stories often struggle and fail in sad and lonely ways. Yet, their struggles are the human struggles of living up to the old virtues and those virtues are the stars in their skies. They don’t glorify the aberrant. They know what’s right and they know what’s wrong. They like the ideas of faith, family, and patriotism. So we mock them and we celebrate things like Springer... Something’s very sad and strange about that.
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