When summing up the year now fading, the catch-all phrases that generalize a common view don’t work. It was neither the best of times, nor the worst of times. In our fragmented politics, the center does not hold, and moving out to the edges of the frame doesn’t hold us together, either.
Lots of e pluribus, not much unum.
We can see that in Congress, where the Affordable Care Act, i.e., Obamacare, was adopted by a Democratic Congress without a single Republican vote in the House or the Senate, and Donald Trump’s Tax Cut and Jobs Act, i.e., the Republican tax reform legislation, was adopted by a Republican Congress without a single Democratic vote.
The president plays to his base, using technology to leap over the institutional media, and the Democrats play to their base, leaving the rest of us to parse the truth from millions of tweets, active and reactive, a fragmented picture of where we are, if not who we are. No warm fireside chats unite us, but a lot of angry tweets and nonstop punditry do divide us.
“Saturday Night Live” parodies Mr. Trump accentuating his yellow hair, but it’s hard to catch the essence of the man in a satirical skit. He doesn’t give us enough time between tweets to take him as seriously as we should. He requires a portrait by Picasso or a Cubist rendering, with features flying off in several directions to capture his unique style. The same is true of the culture. We crave unity, but we unite only in our bubbles, where never is heard a discouraging word. Only the brave step out of their bubble to take an X-ray of the body politic.
Pinocchio, the puppet with a tell-tale nose, has been brought back to the culture, but instead of putting old woodenhead in an instructive tale for children about the peril of telling lies, he’s become a symbol of the politicians and press retailing partisan talking points as if they were the news. President Trump decries “fake news.” Kelly Anne Conway describes such news as “alternative facts.”
Taking stock of the events of the swiftly receding year, we should recognize how deeply we err as mere humans, abetted by the new technology which puts the passage of events on steroids. It’s exciting, but it’s exacerbating the thinking process on which the functioning of democracy depends.
Since today’s college students make up the first generation for whom the digital keyboard replaced pen and ink, it’s natural that they look to their medium for the message. They should understand they’ll need more than a little help. The smart ones are taking classes in “media literacy,” trying to avoid the latest traps in the dissemination of information. With no Socrates to question assumptions, a team of four college students earlier this month created an electronic program called Open Mind to question the validity of sources.
THE I GENERATION ...
IN THE INTERNET THERE IS BUT NO DIRECTION, UP, DOWN, IN, OUT, -- ONE IS NOWHERE YET SEEMINGLY EVERYWHERE - LOST IN MEANING AND LANGUAGE. MUCH LIKE ALICE IN WONDERLAND AND THROUGH THE LOOKING GLASS.
A MAZE, THE LABYRINTH ... IN SEARCH TO THE END OF THE INTERNET -- LIKE THE GOLDEN BALL FALLING INTO THE POND - SEEKING THE WAY TO A NEW WORLD-ORIENTATION. IT'S THE LAND OF THE SHEEPLE, WHO POINTS THE WAY?
SOCIAL MEDIA? "THE GUIDE" TO NEW-HORIZONS, A NEW-ORIENTATION DEVOTE OF MORALITY, IMMURE WITH THE "WISDOM OF THE MASSES", INITIALLY PROFOUNDLY FAMILIAR THOUGHT TOTALLY UNKNOWN, SURPRISINGLY BECOMES STRANGELY DEVOID OF REAL PEOPLE AND EMPTY OF VALUE.
This might offend traditionalists who revere Gutenberg and relish a variety of print sources from their own reading, but to many young adults of the i-generation Open Mind sounds like a reasonable start for someone willing to flee his bubble. The winning team’s prize is an audience with congressmen. Second prize should be an audience meeting at the White House. The rest of us should pay close attention to their progress, if any, in the new year. We can all use a little help.
IS THERE BOWLING ALLEYS IN MECCA?