“That Was the Week That Was” was an NBC satirical newsmagazine which was broadcast in 1964-65. The chorus of show’s theme song:
That was the week that was, it’s over let it go. Oh what a week that was, That was the week that was!
Now, insert the word “Country” where the word “Week” was. That’s what I’m talking about, and Sully and Katie are part of it. And Obama’s doomed economic plan, the Republican’s doomed-to-hell economic plan, the suburbs, GM, Thomas Kincaid “paintings”, and many churches, among many other iconic and traditional things and ways of life in America. That was the country that was.
Hang with me here; it will all come together a few paragraphs from now.
1. This may seem like it has nothing to with anything here, but it does in a huge way, and that’s why I list it first:
Sully Sullenberger, pilot of U.S. Airways Flight 1549, and the man who successfully landed a disabled jet on the Hudson River last month, is NOT a hero. He IS one heck of a pilot- seasoned, calm, utterly professional, highly skilled, and a real asset to his profession, his race, his family, his community, and his nation. The other 154 passengers on Flight 1549, and their families, love him very much. But he is not a hero. He was doing the job he had trained for and practiced and he did it very, very well. (I’m convinced, after hearing Sullenberger speak several times, that he would agree with everything I’ve just said.)
But media types began the “hero” labeling immediately, with hopes that hero worship at the glass and plastic home altars would follow. And we, the media sheep, believe our shepherds, and begin genuflecting. Katie bragged at some dinner last night about how she “won” Sully’s first network interview from the other networks.
Two sub-points here, call them 1a and 1b. Ok, 1a: Television stories need exclamation points at the end of as many sentences as possible! They need heroes, not boringly competent people. Just as they need berserk monkeys, octo-moms, and Kim Jong-il. Television demands words writ simply and large and images drawn in bright, shiny colors. They need heroes and more of them, so they manufacture them by finding individuals who are extremely competent at their jobs, or who play football well, or who are under six years old but know how to dial 9-1-1 when necessary, or who are a dog that barks and alerts firemen to an unconscious child, or who are a cop and gets shot. The media needs these people because I guess we (the American consumer) need them, too. People who watch X-treme Games, or Jackass, or Real Time Videos of Real People Being Injured are beyond staying tuned in through the commercials for a report on anything resembling normalcy. Who wants to see great golf tee shots when they can see a wrestler fall heroically from a high-lift into the turnbuckles, to his death?
1b. Katie, nobody outside an extremely small circle of network insiders gives a rat’s rear about who got the interview first, when, or ever. Nobody except the fellow word-spitting clowns on the local news desk remember, care, or wanted to know in the first place who “broke” a particular news item. It, like 99.9% of everything, doesn’t matter! It matters only when you’re part of a culture that believes everything must be won, or lost; that believes for everything that goes wrong or merely not right, there is someone/something to blame; and that believes winning (whatever the game is) is all that ultimately counts.
2. Just as we need bigger-than-life heroes so we may sate our need to vicariously tickle our egos, we have also- being good Americans- sought for too long, that which is too large and too much. For two decades, the suburbs have been growing absurdly fast, filling with homeowners mesmerized by the 300 cubic feet of empty overhead space in the dramatic entryways of crazily huge homes sitting on zero-lot lines, available for nothing down and a first year ARM of only 2%! We have bought cars that are too large, pets that are too expensive, clothes that are too quickly out of fashion, computers that are too old at six months, too pricey college educations that are no longer worth a million extra dollars over a lifetime (as high school guidance once mouthed without critical thinking), too expensive tickets to too many sporting events, concerts, and too many meals out because we’re too busy to stay home and cook, and now the whole too-high hill of too-high hopes is falling. In avalanche fashion.
Jenga! Jenga! Jenga! We’ve been playing a game of pile-’em-as-high-as-you-can, and while there are lots of criminals, we are all guilty. The pile had to fall. The money I made with IPOs in the 1990s- money made without my doing a single thing!- was part of the fall. The credit I’ve used to buy things I didn’t really need, or didn’t really need to replace- that was part of the fall, too. Sure it’s easy to shout red-faced and angry at the Enron parasites and the human cancer Madoff, but I in my tiny way added to the mess of Jenga tiles now covering the table and the floor, spilling out the front door, and out onto the street. I helped make the mess and you did, too, and there is one more huge mistake we can make together, if we let the traditional people-with-answers come up with the answers we desperately need; namely, this:
We can pick up the pieces and start trying to build them back up again, just like they were.
In normal life situations, cleaning up the mess and starting over would be the right thing to do- in some cases, perhaps even the heroic thing to do! But normalcy as we knew it, as we may soon be pining for it, as we may demand it from a selfish, narrow, screw you standpoint, normalcy is gone for the rest of our lives. (That’s a prophetic statement on my part- a statement born of feelings, guesses, and some basic understandings of human behavior and spirituality; it is not a statement born of formal economic training or knowledge. It’s a statement born of eyes wide open, rather than one formed with mind tight shut.)
I’m afraid the stimulus package has been written and fueled by too many people who believe we can make the country that was into the country that is, again. Even those who oppose the stimulus package are opposing it with a set of tools fashioned with Americo-centric blueprints drawn by social Darwinists who were sitting on natural resources that would never run out, with a great labor supply of people who would always be happy with what they were paid, and who considered the whole world to be an American franchise.
That was the country that was, remember that. It’s over- let it go! It was bound to fall, and has. We- literally- can spend the rest of our lives bemoaning, regretting, blaming, and finally dying unhappily. Or we can begin to rebuild, like the pioneers whose blood flows in all of us who are Americans. It can be similar to what was, and probably must be. But it cannot be the same. We cannot merely build a new economic Petri dish in which new Enron and Madoff bacterial slime might grow.
Oh, what a country that was…!
(I’ve got some ideas, incidentally, which I’ll write about here in the next day or two. Those ideas, your ideas, our ideas, are what we must start discussing, sharing, modifying, and bringing into being..we must plant seeds of trees we will never eat the the fruit of ! Some of us may even have the opportunity to be real heroes in doing so [the unheralded, self-sacrificing kind]. Go ahead, break that news!)