Tuesday, January 15, 2008

And now, Deep Thoughts...

After I dropped the girls off at school, Bobby and I had to drop off Rob's suit at the dry cleaners. We have a pick-up service, but it only works if you actually put the clothes out to be picked up, and I completely forgot to do that yesterday (never mind that the dry-cleaning bag has never been so full in the time we've used this service!).

Anyway, we were listening to the radio on our short drive to the cleaners, and wouldn't you know it, this radio station was doing their hourly celebrity smut/news segment. Today's report was all about Britney's latest court date. I wish I had changed the station. I'm really trying to cut out all this unnecessary "news" from my life. I don't care about Britney/Lindsay/Paris. I think Jamie Lynn's show should have been immediately pulled from the air. The powers that be--be it these girls themselves, the girls' parents, agents, or paparazzi--have turned these girls into role models for young America. And what awful role models they are! Do we want the new American dream to be "get your own TV show, shack up with your also-teenaged boyfriend, and get pregnant." Or how about "be an actor for a few years, party too much, go in and out of rehab--but be sure to go out shopping as soon as you leave rehab so the strangers with cameras can follow your every move--including the inevitable relapse."

This excessive paparazzi/tabloid coverage seems to be a chicken and egg thing: do they take all the pictures and publish all the tabloids because people really want this stuff, or do people just buy it because it's there at the checkout line every week? How could we break the cycle?

Do Americans really have nothing more to worry about than the current state of Brad and Angelina?

On Saturday night, we started watching The Queen. It's the movie in which Helen Mirren portrays Queen Elizabeth during the week that Princess Diana was killed. We stopped watching after about an hour. But in that hour, I was struck by the real interviews with mourners (the film intersperses real footage among the dramatized portions). These people were genuinely distraught. I'm not saying that Diana's death wasn't sad---most untimely deaths are sad--but the outpouring of grief seemed more appropriate for a family member or a close friend, not a public figure. Then, as the film showed the flowers accumulating at the palace gate, I began to get irritated. If these people thought Diana was such a great humanitarian, why not take the money they spent on flowers and donate that amount to one of her favorite charities? How much money could have been raised in that week?

On Sunday night, I watched a little of 60 Minutes as the children took their baths. Anderson Cooper was doing a story from the Congo. He was reporting on the rampant rape problem that plagues that country and its women. He ended the piece at a school. All of the students were women--most of them rape victims--and for most of them, this was their first formal educational experience. One woman, a rape victim who had been profiled in the story, was in the school with her infant daughter (a product of the eight months of constant rape she endured while held captive) and hoped to one day start her own business. Wow. My eyes were welling up with tears at the end of the story. The life these women have endured, and they're still smiling and hopeful. Don't my problems seem insignificant? And then CBS cut to commerical: Whiten your teeth faster with Crest White Strips!

Disconnect much?

Okay, I realize I'm getting very grumpy. I can see from my TV experience this weekend that people's priorities have been out of whack for quite some time, my own included. I can't make everyone stop buying the Star, or Us Weekly, but I can stop reading them in the checkout line. I can stop going to perezhilton.com and tmz.com. I can stop watching Extra and Access Hollywood. I think letting go of the celebrity news crap will actually be pretty easy.

But the larger world issues are tougher. I can't solve the problems in the Congo, but I can think about them. I can try to be more mindful of the world's issues. I can get educated about them. I could give the money I'd spend on an InStyle magazine to a relief fund.

I think it's an American trait to want to tackle a problem head-on. Just bring all your resources to bear on a problem and get it done right away. But when the problem is something huge, like the Congo, that's not feasible. And the feeling that one person can't change the world is discouraging. So how to begin? Ghandi once said, "be the change you wish to see in the world." Those are great words to try to put into action.

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