With my vision fading somewhat I do more of my reading on computer and watch more than my usual fare of cable TV coverage of things American.  I note the difference in focus of our news reportage from that of others, say the BBC or wherever things are actually occurring that impact on people generally.

What one notices in the American versions of ‘important things that all must know’ are weird sex and violence obsessions such as the latest shooting in a middle class school, deviant abuse or disappearance of a child or young teen, particularly egregious violent crimes — directed against the middle class (lesser victims may get a paragraph mention, if that, compared to the blaring headlines relating harms to the better off).  Mind you, I tend to read only the more reputable newspapers on line.  I hate to imagine the foci of local ones out there which I have occasionally seen while traveling or which one sees cited in an internet news round up such as those done by Google.

What comes through is something significant about the American character.  I was tempted to do a piece entitled, “Is Bush a Sociopath?”, but was dissuaded by my students.  Bush had caught my attention the year that he had presided over half the nation’s executions as the governor of Texas (37 of 74) and had been reported to have smirked and mocked the request of Karla Faye Tucker, first woman executed in Texas, that she be allowed to continue her healing ‘ministry’ on her Texas death row for women — she as a child had been raised by an addicted mother and only freed from her own addiction by imprisonment and a religious conversion that seemed to witnesses entirely genuine:


However, my students pointed out that one cannot do psychiatric diagnosis from a distance.  Bush may simply not be able to connect the dots between his own actions and the death and suffering they have been inflicting on thousands over there as well here of the families of those killed, wounded, and traumatized?  I am still chilled by his capacity to joke and smile happily at the most searching questions directed to him on such matters and what strikes me as an entirely false tonality of his ‘Jesus sermons’ on ‘staying the course’ and not ‘cutting and running’ and such as well as domestic matters that relate to the suffering and deaths of so many Americans on the home front deprived of medical care or decent minimum wages to support a family.

Back to the obsessions — manifestly Americans have some serious hang-ups collectively, if we are to judge by what ups the TV ratings. We are fascinated by violence and perverted sex — about every other entertainment program portrays murders and the pursuit of murderers.  The upshot is that there is actually a candidate out there recommending that teachers be armed.  Great — 3 of our 19,000 public schools have had recent shooting incidents — probably stimulated in part by the attraction of becoming a someone — even a dead someone — per the media frenzy that will follow the action — to go down in the history books as having done something at least rather than live out a sad and lonely life.  John Carr is at least now a SOMEBODY for the rest of his miserable life.  But can one imagine thousands of teachers running around packing guns to subdue unruly students?  One of my teachers would throw a book at our heads if our attention strayed — but that was in a British public school many decades ago.

And let’s not neglect the latest implosion of the Republicans over their Congressional Senate Scout master — yes, I meant Boy Scout Master.  When I was serving on an advisory committee for the ACLU some decades back the Boy Scouts came to our attention as a ‘religious’ organization playing fast and loose on a number of fronts.  No, we did not blow their cover – probably the same impulse as the Catholic bishops with their boy and girl molesting priests — reluctant to smear the decent majority just to expose the renegades.  But . . . ?

Americans seem these days to be running short on compassion and long on the desire to gaze, punish, and kill.  We have slipped a long way away from a community of people working to help each other following the Great Depression and the threat of WW2.  Brutally obscene things on the screen encourage too many apparently not to distinguish real killing facts from brutal hate fantasies.  How many Xs, Ys, and Zs did we kill today over there?  Our leaders seem to be quite proud of their ‘insurgent’ body counts while shy about showing us the coffins of our returning heroes — something out of whack there.

Perhaps others can sort it out better than I have tried to do with this early morning blast?  I am appalled as a once proud American by what I am seeing and hearing.

“A war is just if there is no alternative, and the resort to arms is legitimate if they represent your last hope.” (Livy cited by Machiavelli)

Ed Kent  718-951-5324 (voice mail only) [blind copies]

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