Television today is very different from the medium of the 1970s and 1980s. Ecosystems burn and people gather in search of positive change. Yet news programs are more interested in, as writer George Monbiot recently observed, “the dress the Duchess of Cambridge wore to the James Bond premiere, Donald Trump’s idiocy du jour, and who got eliminated from the Halloween episode of Dancing with the Stars. The great debate of the week, dominating the news across much of the world? Sausages: are they really so bad for your health?”

As we move from one spectacle to another, be it fictionalized, serialized, or politicized, it behooves us to take 10 seconds or, in this case, just over 10 minutes to remind ourselves of what a force Television is, and what a unique enterprise each of our communities represents.

 

This weekend, millions of people will wander out into their physical communities, roaming from home to home, as they meet one another briefly in the annual ritual of “Trick or Treat”. The origins of the ritual are all but forgotten, as children race from door to door to grab as much candy as possible, barely pausing to glance at the face and person that are attached to the arm that offers the treat. Parents idle distractedly on the pavement outside, worrying about the work week past, or the chores awaiting them in the next couple of days. The brief but wondrous opportunity for connection and community interaction is lost in our collective impatience and self-centeredness.

It used to be that media, whether televised or printed, served as a utilitarian resource for our individual and collective edification. We would reference several newspapers, as we developed an opinion about one issue or another. We would look to our television for the latest images and coverage, trusting in a relatively objective perspective, or balanced programming that ensured transparency whenever objectivity was not possible. I still own the letters my grandfather wrote to his sister in the 1930s and 40s, as he led the Allied Correspondents through Europe, covering the War. His distaste for Hitler was not hidden, but he always balanced his contempt for the man and his minions with insights into how and why the German populace might have been convinced to follow such an unholy agenda. To listen to and socialize the opinions of others is not a weakness, but rather a manifestation of one’s own strong convictions. What are ideas worth, if they are not tested?

Today’s media, instead of serving our community of diversity, so often collaborates with our own prejudices, that it compounds the memes within which we exist.

Whether our media is a servant to our citizens, vice versa or, worse still, whether both become servants to a culture devoid of useful information or humanity, is still a matter of choice. For now.

Veteran’s Day seems the perfect day to repost this entry from over six and a half years ago, with perhaps an addendum at the end:

It seems that the hype over this Middle East sortie is taking longer to warm up than the last one (1991, or somewhere around there – for those who feel compelled to refer to their archived TV Guides. It was under “Desert Storm”, usually after “Friends” or “Just Shoot Me”, depending on what channel you were watching…).

Regardless of how our digestion of these next days/weeks/months comes to manifest itself, I’m concerned about one particular issue, among several…:

For those who think “Pro-Choice” means pro-abortion, the following might prove confusing:

I am Anti-War. I think that most of the world is Anti-War. There are few people on our planet who relish the prospect, and welcome the promise, of impending war.

I am NOT however Anti-Servicemen-and-Women.

I’m saddened by the inability of some Europeans to separate US Government policy from US citizens traveling in Europe (see “French spitting on US citizens abroad”, and “Germans cursing at American athletes abroad”). There was a time when Americans at home were unable to separate US Foreign Policy from the individuals sent to enact said policy, regardless of their personal beliefs. The Vietnam War was an era when scarred young veterans returned home to the collective abuse and scorn of their fellow citizens. It was a time when we forgot that our servicemen and women do not have all the liberties that we have. They cannot choose who they want to fight, or when. Their job is to protect our liberties, and they do this by surrendering theirs for the duration of their service…

So, regardless of what happens abroad or- God forbid – here at home, please remember that whatever your views on war may be, the only stand that seems fair and honourable, when it comes to those of our servicemen and women who go forth into battle in the name of our freedoms, is FULL SUPPORT AND RESPECT.

Rail against the right-wing administrative machine that sets draconian policies and makes us ashamed to call ourselves American, but don’t shame our nation further by repeating the mistakes of our past. Welcome our troops home with warmth and love.

I am proud to report that European sentiment toward servicemen and servicewomen has improved considerably. As one British gentleman put it in a piece on today’s NPR, “Don’t get me wrong: Support for troops is undying”.  The gentleman goes on to add, however, “It’s just they shouldn’t be out there because, I think, the whole policy is all wrong. We just shouldn’t be there.”

Young adults today have grown up knowing nothing but conflict with the Middle East. We value the sacrifice made by our young troops, but so many do not see the value in the work they are sent to do. There are no easy solutions, no clear-cut answers, not even a lucid argument that puts our minds at ease. We are once more mired in a conflict that is seen as largely American, when in fact the struggle is global. Our allies “support” us, in some cases only grudgingly. The sacrifices made by their troops are all the more painful to them, as some among them believe they should not be involved.

I wonder if the dying swan of print media, still unmatched when it comes to investigative journalism, is hard at work trying to find answers to the following heavy questions?:

  1. Should we really not have gone in to Iraq at all?
  2. Should we leave Iraq NOW?
  3. What are we doing in Afghanistan, and how long should we stay?
  4. What should we be doing with respect to Pakistan?

But above all others, there sits one question:

What are you DOING about it?

Are we, politicians and citizens alike, doing all we can to ensure that we participate in the pursuit of a firm and lasting resolution to the conflict? Are we supporting our troops, not with once-a-year pleasantries, but with ongoing action of our own? If you believe in withdrawal, what are you DOING about it? If you believe in an increase of troops, what are you DOING to support that position?

On Veteran’s Day, I wonder how many of us still think it is enough to simply stand on the side of the road, while the funeral cortege passes by.

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