Tuesday, September 29, 2009

We Cannot Allow . . .

I have to be quiet about this where I live, but I think Glenn Beck is a loon.

I think a lot of the pundits on the right (and, let's be honest, on the left) are absolutely bonkers. No one else in the universe is better than stirring that kettle of crazy (cue the picture) than political pundits.

Or politicians. Or dittoheads who lean to the right or lean to the left. Anybody who can't stick a crowbar in their brain and open it up to another point of view, or see -- as anybody could see -- that the kids singing about Barack Obama in this Jon Stewart video are just that: kids singing about Barack Obama. My daughter used to sing incessantly this song about George Washington, to which I'd add, because it fit with the meter and cadence of the song, the following:

George Washington was a very good man,
a very good man indeed!
He called for his pipe and he called for his bowl,
and he called for his fiddlers three!

I've never thought she was being indoctrinated. Neither would I think that if she came home singing a song about Barack Obama. He does happen to be our president, you know. Kids are kind of interested in that. Hey, Barack Obama is our president. Neato. But to compare the singing of this song to Nazi indoctrination or the activities of the Khmer Rouge is beyond ridiculous. It even surpasses ludicrous speed. It's plaid, plain and simple.

And it makes you look stupid. Like this:

But back to Glenn Beck. I don't mind that people like him. That's just fine. People can listen to his show, buy products advertised on his show, and all that. Fine by me. Just don't make me listen to it, or insist that what he says is right. Because I don't buy it. I don't buy a lot of what pundits of his ilk, on the left or the right, say. It's their profession to make noise and to stay on the air and to stir up that kettle of crazy.

This kind of thinking and conuming, however, does little to promote the public interest. Here's what Woodrow Wilson had to say about such things:

I have sometimes reflected on the lack of a body of public opinion in our cities, and once I contrasted the habits of the city many with those of the countryman in a way which got me into trouble. I described what a man in a city generally did when ge got into a public vehicle or sat in a public place. He doesn't talk to anybody, but he plunges his head into a newspaper and presently experiences a reaction which he calls his opinion, but which is not an opinion at all, being merely the impression that a piece of news or an editorial has made upon him. He cannot be said to be participating in public opinion at all until he had laid his mind alongside the minds of his neighbors and discussed with them the incidents of the day and the tendencies of the time.

If we exchange the concept of truthiness for cities and city, we get close to what's going on today. We consume what appears to be true, that which has truthiness, that in which we already believe. And we close our mind to everything else. If we think schools are trying to "indoctrinate" our children with Barack Obama, and then we see children singing a song about him, whammo, we have what we're looking for. But it's all taken out of context. Ask the kids what they were doing, and they'd say, well, we were singing a song about Barack Obama. Some would have fun singing. Others would not. Some would get enthusiastic about the song because they get enthusiastic about any song, even one that their Daddy mangles by bringing in a nursery rhyme. But is this brainwashing? Not any more than the activity I performed most mornings when I was in elementary school: reciting the Pledge of Allegiance while standing with my hand over my heart staring at the flag hanging in the corner. Sometimes we sang the pledge. And sometimes we sang the Washing Machine Song. Neither meant I was being indoctrinated. It just meant I was going through the motions at school, with varying amounts of gusto, like any other kid.

So to those who think I should be worried -- to Glenn Beck -- I say, meh.

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