I was participating on one of the interweb's many fast-paced discussion boards last night [a few nights ago] and one of the threads turned to Things We're Tired Of Hearing About. Yes, it's grammatically questionable, but it's perfectly understandable. As it has been acknowledged for close to a decade now, we live in a 24-hour world; we are inundated by news, sports, opinion, photos, videos, polls, and just plain gossip at all times. It comes by TV, radio, satellite, the web...probably by a site you've visited right before this one, or one you'll go to right after. And if it's opinion that's called into question, well then I'm as guilty as the next one for doling it out.
Under the category of Things We're Tired of Hearing About was the mother of 8, or 14, depending on what point the reporter was trying to make. (I prefer to call her Octopussy to her other Octo- names.) The Caylee Anthony story fell under the heading. Jessica Simpson's bulging belly did, as well. There were others; you can probably guess them.
All three of these "stories" disgust me for different reasons. In each case, I blame the media for much of it, but the amount varies. The most grotesque story of the lot, to me, is unquestionably Octopussy's story. When it became known that a California woman had dropped a litter of eight, every news outlet everywhere heralded this like it was reported the blast from the last trumpet. Of course, as everyone in the world now knows, this became a free-for-all when it turns out that she is a single mom who already had six kids, when it became clear that she's doing this with no money and less support from her family, and when - Oh, yeah! - it became clear that she's pretty much a loon.
Thank God for the media for bringing this to our attention! Truthfully, does anyone really care about this woman? Do you? Are you that perturbed that she's single? Does it really bother you that she will need assistance? Is your life so empty that you need someone like her to hate? The media thinks it is, so it's dishing out what you want - or what it wants you to hear. The big point that we all hear now is that she is trying to look like Angelina Jolie. Every news program shows reporters walking in the streets, showing their guy-on-the-spot with pictures of Octopussy asking the clueless masses who that is. And, lo, they all say, "Angelina Jolie?"
(You do know they edit out the vast majority of those respondents who answer, "That psycho chick in California who dropped a litter of pups a couple weeks back?")
She doesn't look like Angelina Jolie in the least. Fine, she's got puffy lips, but so do about fifteen other actresses I can think of off the top of my head. No, it's a media ploy to get attention to keep the story going. By keeping the story going they keep us talking about it - which I admit I'm doing, but I shan't do again after this. (And to be honest, Octopussy isn't the subject of this; she's more of a direct object - that's a little something-something for the grammarians out there.)
What makes this kind of media manipulation so annoying is that, in the 24-hour news cycle, we're hit by it at all times. We can't escape it; it's everywhere. To keep us glued to the news, they have to keep mentioning it. To keep us from getting bored with it, they have to keep varying the story. But while they vary the story, they burn us out on it much quicker. As such, as the media outlets pile the crap higher and higher, they're looking for that next palomino to back over us.
The Caylee Anthony one has bothered me for a long time, primarily because it's Nancy Grace that has been its particular harbinger of doom. To me, Grace is the worst kind of legal pundit. She spouts her opinions on legal matters at the drop of a hat, and they're always the same: "he's guilty!" She doesn't wait for evidence, or a trial, or even facts to get in the way. She's a shrill harpy that I would pay good money to watch fall off a cliff. By some estimates, when she declares someone guilty, she's right about 50% of the time. Guilty/not guilty = 50/50. Yeah, that's pretty good. She was right about that psycho Anthony chick, and pretty much everybody knew it. But it's turned Nancy Grace into a household name, and I hate that.
Worse yet, it's also brought this story out into the open and kept it out there. This is not the kind of thing that needed to be dangled in front of the public as long as it has. Casey Anthony is clearly a sick, guilty young lady, but it is her parents who have had to deal with protesters in their driveway. This isn't rational, well behavior by any standard, and possibly, just possibly, if HLN and Nancy Grace weren't beating the lynch-mob drum, this type of behavior wouldn't be happening.
With Jessica Simpson, one wonders, wow what horrible things has she done to be ridiculed so badly? Yep, she's put on weight. This one bugs the unholy out of me, because it is the same mentality, yet the complete flipside, that was used to justify the attacks on the young women on Gossip Girl and that new Beverly Hills 90210 last fall. They were "dangerously skinny," and Jessica is "a porker." But if you were to put them on the scales, you'd find there were maybe 20 pounds separating them. Yeah, by today's media's standards, these women have about a 15-20 pound bracket to fall into. Anything less or more and they're a figure of scorn or pity.
Why do we care? Some don't; I don't. I think that Jessica Simpson is still a stunning woman and I'd rather see a woman with more curves than visible ribs. But I also admit that that is nought more than personal taste. No, most people care because theyre told they must care. It's out there! It's in the media! She's too fat! That one's too thin! Dear God, you must care! Baa, they respond. Baa! I care!
Enough of that.
In the midst of this particular Things We're Tired of Hearing About discussion thread came a group who were tired of hearing about the Miracle on the Hudson. There were two sub-groups. One said, "Yeah, they landed the plane. So what?" The other said, "God saved them. Get over it."
If I could have climbed through my screen with a baseball bat in hand, I would have. And I would have thumped everyone in both sub-groups. Stupidity's borders hold no bounds for me.
Yes, the Miracle on the Hudson - the landing of US Airways Flight 1549 into the Hudson River - has been discussed frequently, and for good reason. How often is it that we hear of something that could have gone - that should have gone so wrong, end up so well? We don't. Even in the 24-hour cycle, we just don't hear it. So, yeah, I'd like to hear about it a little more. Tell me something good, mister.
But here is my caveat, and it is a non-negotiable one: do not tell me it was in God's hands. Do not take the credit away from those dozens of people who acted in unity, as one, and give credit to God for everything that went right. Don't do it.
By the time the air-traffic control tapes were released late last week, and we heard "Sully" Sullenberger's voice on the radio as he calmly told them that he'd had a bird strike in both engines and they'd probably be going down in the Hudson, it was clear that he was as calm and in command as we'd heard. But what we hadn't known was how calm and professional the air-traffic controllers were. We had no idea that the tower at Teterboro Airport in New Jersey was getting ready to allow Cactus 1549 to crash-land on their tarmac. We didn't know that these people were under such stress that, though their voices didn't break over the radio, they occasionally called the flight by incorrect numbers. We didn't know these things, but we do now.
What we know now is what we've learned over time, and all of it is good. We learned that before Cactus 1549 went in the water, NYC helicopter pilots were already moving to rescue and calling for assistance. We know that the ferry operators turned their boats to rescue, telling their passengers that they'd be late. We know that private boat owners moved to assist. We knew that day that, almost without exception, the passengers and crew of that plane acted as one, looking out for each other, taking care of each other. We know that Sully did the impossible, something that had never been done before, something that's not even taught in training. When you lose two engines, you crash. He just did it in a way that earned him a spot in history.
When I think of all that should have gone wrong, I then think of everything that went right. I realize that every single bit of it was because of human hands. From Sully's impossible task, to the sheer calm competence of the air-traffic controller, to the people at Teterboro who agreed to take the flight on their runway and certainly knew it was going to crash there, to the pilots of the helicopters and the ferries, and even to the passengers who stood on the wings over the Hudson and helped each other out of the stricken aircraft and into the cold air, where they stood together, unhurt, it was human hands that made this happen. God's hands had nothing to do with this.
Please, stop giving credit to God for humankind's fine work that day. If there was ever a time to give credit where credit is due, it was then and now. That was not an Act of God. It was an Act of Humanity. I still call it the Miracle on the Hudson and think it was. It's just that I think that any real miracles come from the greatest force we know, and that, my friends, is Humanity.
Now that I am ready to open the First Church of Humanity (Orthodox), I'm going to ask that we, as our first dogmatic act, consider a change in our behavior. Let us consider Media - the killer of its own children - to be one we must watch. It's not necessarily an enemy; it did bring us Cactus 1549 and it's brought most of us together. But she is a fickle mistress and must be watched.
Let's take what it tells us with a grain of salt. Let's not be led to believe all that we hear. Let's not let our opinions be formed by all that is Media. Let's feel a little pity for the woman in California with 14 kids; there must be something amiss inside her. I swear now to never again call her what I called her at the start of this post - which was four days ago. Let's feel a lot of pity for the parents of Casey Anthony. They don't deserve to have people protesting on their lawn. They've lost a grandchild and don't want to admit that their daughter is almost certainly a murderer. Ask yourself: could you admit that? Let's agree to let them be. They have a much bigger right to their grief than this "grieving nation" does. And, please, let's admit that the young female actresses and singers in this country are human, and if they put on a bit of weight, or get too skinny, they should be allowed to deal with this on their own, without us pointing and making snarky or pitying comments.
As Humanity, the architects of the Miracle on the Hudson, we should be better than that.