Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Dog Ate My Television

It's been more than a month now since I sequestered myself under the bed - slunk off to catch fish for a while and then, like a migrant laborer, off to work the pecan harvest in Kansas, unwilling to drive along the blogistrada among a local punditry intoxicated by the current campaign cycle. Weak of me, perhaps. Truth be told, I just crawled back out into the light of day thinking it must be the seventh when it's only the sixth. In any case it's all nearly over. I'm still trying to decide whether to vote for Crossroads GPS or Priorities USA Action. Running out of time, I know, but running out of time is what I intended to do when I crawled under the bed.

"We buy previously owned politicians"

I have probably, in the course of this dreary and acrimonious affair, seen no more than three campaign ads on television. This is not as inhuman a feat as it may seem at first blush, given that I haven't owned a television this last quarter-century. This singular deprivation has the advantage of sparing me all the silliness of both the election cycle and the "holiday" season. For the same reason I don't see campaign ads I also don't have to listen to Christmas carols, unless I inadvertently open one of those godawful electronic Christmas cards and am illegally assaulted with a tinny rendition of "Do You Hear What I Hear?"  (Now I think of it, I'm going to get one of those little lapel pins that reads "Ask me about my 'War on Christmas'.")

Christmas card depicting human playing with dinosaur

The only time I really miss having a television is during the running of the Tour de France, the pharmaceutical trade show that occurs each July in France, whence the name. It isn't as though I never watch television, which in the modern American landscape is as ubiquitous and unavoidable as second-hand smoke at a Russian Orthodox pig roast.

I spend enough time watching the telly in hotel rooms to understand that I still don't want one and that much of what passes as political commentary these days is often just the geniuses at MSNBC assaulting the geniuses at Fox News for some recent idiocy, and vice versa. The media has increasingly become its own news, which allows what was once called "the Fourth Estate" to studiously avoid examination of any difficult civic and international issues like sane gun laws, sane energy policy, climate change, anti-Islamic bigotry in evangelical America (cf. sane gun laws), unlawful surveillance of citizens, unlawful undeclared wars, or in general anything it didn't take away gratis in the free tote sacks they hand out to reporters at a White House press conference.

It used to be that politicians could just make up some sentimental stuff about morning in America and be elected, then reelected . . . 

They could remain, in a word, gentlemanly, if a bit short on ideas. Nowadays gentlemanliness is a liability and what they make up is generally any ad hominem nonsense just short of matriphagia*, for example. (*Cooking and eating your mother. OK, but it ought to be in the dictionary, someone has done it before.)

That our political candidates should be short on ideas at such a critical juncture is many things - pathetic, dismaying, unpardonable. The fact that we have a vice presidential contender who thinks Ayn Rand was a philosopher simply points up the utter collapse of public education, something I meant to mention earlier.

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