Thoughts on a Schizophrenic Society
Such a Prudishly Crass Society
I was watching cable television about 5 PM on a Friday night, channel surfing between commercials on the Western station. Sandwiched between regular cinema programming were about several channels with what could legitimately be called light porn motifs. I then surfed through a confessional about phallic enhancement and a couple talking about herbal remedies for impotence.
Once I got out of that channel cluster, and went into the 200s, here and there came up infomercials on everything from how to buy foreclosures with no money down, how to get out of credit card debt, how to avoid taxes, and how to default on housing payments without hurting your credit. The talking heads looked just like those hawking natural Viagra a few channels earlier, and indeed were hawking the same instant gratification, sober faces advising radical conduct.
By the time I got back three minutes later to the Western channel, the Maverick episode was extolling the virtues of honesty and keeping one's word. Television, in other words, is a cesspool. To channel surf through it to find an old Western, one has to take an antiseptic shower afterwards.
Are We Victorians or Libertines?
I bring this up because I am somewhat baffled by the reaction to this week's news. Take poor Governor Sanford. The only excuse for the hysteria over his trip could be possible use of state funds for personal travel, or taking vacation time without logging it in, or unauthorized leave. All are serious breaches of professional conduct.
But "adultery" during a separation? This entire popular culture transcended fornication years ago when it decided that tampons, Viagra, and Extend were fair game for commercial television. Our children know more about sexuality than our grandparents.
Can one think of very many politicians who were not guilty of some sort of adultery-Ted Kennedy? John Edwards? Bill Clinton? Newt Gringrich? Rudy Giuliani? John McCain? In a California governor's race or during the Presidential primaries the oddity is always the non-adulterer. I am being descriptive not sermonizing.
Our greatest icons-Jefferson, JFK, FDR-at times conducted private affairs in a manner that this society would have sensationalized, a society that in fact is far more tawdry and without the decorum of the past.
I don't know the circumstances of the Sanford marriage, but the notion that a culture that has deified sex, only to become "shocked" in Casablanca- like fashion that an official would reflect contemporary values is surreal. If this were 1910 or even 1950, I too would be shocked; but once our culture chose to elevate sex to Olympian status, why does it insist on Plymouth Rock reactions to the logic result of its own values and emphases?
How Did Mr. Jackson Live so Long?
I am sorry Michael Jackson passed away, but baffled when sober commentators pontificate about what the "autopsy findings" will bring, and note his sometimes bizarre behavior. Does one think?
Again, with all due respect, it was hard to see clips of Michael Jackson in a normal mode-without the singer grabbing and/or pointing to his genitals or whispering in an infantile voice. (Another strange thing was to see Jackson on mainstream television at an awards ceremony gesticulating in a genital-obsessed fashion that apparently was just "dance" and good fare for senior citizens as if it were Ed Sullivan hour again).
I don't think many of us have ever invited small boys over for conversation in our bedrooms, or traveled with a small city across town. He seemed in a perpetual drug daze, whether holding a child over a balcony or wearing pajamas to court. That surely took a toll in addition to the travel and performance.