Be Afraid, Be Very Afraid
“They are given to all kinds of marvellous beliefs, are subject to trances and visions, and frequently see strange sights, and hear music and voices in the air. The dominant spirit, however, that haunts this enchanted region, and seems to be commander-in-chief of all the powers of the air, is the apparition of a figure on horseback, without a head.” Washington Irving , The Legend of Sleepy Hollow
You will no doubt notice if you've watched TV or been to the movies of late just how many “un-deadly” creatures are afoot all across the American mediascape. Of course since the time of the silent film the undead have been an entertainment stable. From F. W. Murnau’s Nosferatu, to the many incarnations of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, which is being totally bastardized in the NBC, Jonathan Rhys-Myers -produced TV series. To the totally outlandish current version of the Sleepy Hollow myth, not to mention HBO’s True Blood or FX’s American Horror Story- Coven TV is fascinated these days with all manner of bloodletting. Why?
Fear of “the other” is good business. The Walking Dead Zombie-clan, the blood sucking vampire, might well be stand-ins for that leech of a neighbor that can’t find work and needs Food Stamps to keep from going hungry. Or the millions of undocumented immigrants, who must remain in the shadows, in the darkness, fear of being, exposed, burned by the I.C.E. They like many of the “tired and poor, yearning to breathe free," before them only want a better life for themselves and their progeny. To participate and contribute to the American experiment as did millions before them. But unlike those millions their skin is brown, other, not like us real Americans. So we scapegoat. We yank the social safety net out from under them. That same webbing that provided loan guarantees to buy that first home. Or the assistance to veterans in the form of a G.I. Bill, so millions could get a trade or attend college. We cry poor while C.E.O. pay quadruples as average wage earners stagnate.
We cry poor while politicians give tax breaks to corporations that have more money than God. We cry poor while the Pentagon budget balloons and Wall St. banks grow To Big To Fail. We cry poor while our infrastructure crumbles and prisons become a growth business. We are like so many Mr. Micawbers, or Ebenezer Scrooge. Perhaps as we enter this holiday season our thoughts should go to how Dickens-like Tale of Two Cities, America has become.
“… Copperfield, said Mr. Micawber… Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery. The blossom is blighted, the leaf is withered, the god of day goes down upon the dreary scene, and and, in short, you are for ever floored. As I am! “
The real Americans that gorge themselves on Roger Ailes’ Fox News, vote slavishly for the GOP even though, it would be in their best collective and individual interest to do otherwise. Those real Americans who while decrying the NSA spy tactics, revealed by whistle-traitor Edward Snowden, are salved by the knowledge that the Great Jihad from the east is being kept at bay. Subterfuge. The NSA isn’t worried really about Osama, or Ali, or Omar, but Juan, Jose’ and Luis, not to mention all the native-born Leroy’s in our midst.
Drive a stake through all their heats. When a steak for their stomachs through their own hard work and a level playing field along the way is all that’s required. But no, be afraid, be very afraid.
We were afraid in the 50’s & 60’s too, but our optimism about our ability to meet the challenges of the day outweighed the fear. Yet the fear persists perhaps because we are afraid to take a good hard look at how America, business, industry, education, politics, has failed Americans.
The Media as Social Mirror
As individuals within a society we’re always trying to gage where we stand. What is our position within the larger culture? What should we know and when should we know it? National elections provide that “mirror” in a way. Are they’re more people who see the candidate, their party, their ideology, their proposed policy prescriptions the same as I do? But elections happen infrequently. So that barometer is unreliable for day to day ascertainment of answering the question of positioning vis –a- vi s others in the society. The media however, the national media in particular, the arbiters of “culture,” hold up that mirror daily, giving us a glimpse of where we stand. We have a sense of ourselves as individuals, but also our sense of who we are as “social” beings.
It is extremely important that “minorities,” racial, cultural, linguistic, “others” see themselves as part of and not separate from the social fabric. We can all retreat into our own insular worlds of “private” or niche communications and media. But what provides the most benefit to the continued stitching together of the social contract is a vibrant, diverse and inclusive media. A media which allows for the possibility that each individual can see themselves reflected therein.
As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and he is us!