Onward Big Bird
Despite having made numerous headlines toward the end of the 2012 presidential election cycle, Big Bird is not one of the angry birds to whom I am referring. He isn’t angry at all and it is fair to say that should Big Bird ever have to publicly address the prospect of he and his friends hypothetically having faced eviction from Sesame Street as a result of a “PBS no more” he still would not speak ill of the person, should he have been elected and perhaps in a moment of false bravado, and in an attempt to flex his fiscal restraint muscle, proposed to do away with the federal funding of the PBS collective. Yet this fine-feathered yellow fellow (an unlikely Zen-like pacifist) helped many find their voices and gave a huge boost to the liberal media over the course of the next several weeks, having underscored a long-coming battle without even having to say a word; for some, Big Bird was big news, as even the “birds” among us are capable of organizing an unlikely and impressive united front to protect or to destroy, despite a propensity toward sidelined-ness and a passive persona.
Through the Hitchcockian imagery of the taxidermous birds housed within Norman Bates parlor, and as illustrated in famous lines spoken to ill-fated Marion Crane of Bates’ taxidermy hobby- in the movie Psycho: “I think only birds look well stuffed because they’re kind of passive to begin with.” -Norman Bates. Alfred Hitchcock aligned a stark contrast between the petrified, passivity-defined birds in Psycho (taking an exception to the paradoxical looming Owl in the corner of Bates’ parlor) and the infamous, rage-filled, homicidal birds of “The Birds”
Photo: Courtesy of hitcharchives.com
It would seem a similar convoluted metamorphosis has taken place here in American and to use another retro-reference- a Twilight Zone; a sort of “Dyspolitical America”, a location, somewhere between low information (and always high propaganda) television and the instantaneous, hyper-connected endless highway of forwarded emails, threads upon threads on social media,Twitter, Reddit, Facebook, etc. The internet universe seems to span as far and wide as the actual universe; Through this particular form of media, information travels at lightning speed, firing just as fast as our own brains’ synapses, moving through invisible pathways, as impulses do through neurotransmitters; to share news, events and politics that happen in real time.
However, through the fast filter of their messengers, everyone becomes an “expert” and the information is often scary, intangible, and usually comes in the form of untruths or half-truths used as “social cred” currency to buy a First Amendment reaction from someone, with the ultimate goal of pinning one group of Americans against another. In the United States, there are no Government-imposed country-wide social media blackouts, like there are in other countries (as there was just a few weeks ago-in Syria, Nov. 28th 2012) with the exception of citizens making Presidential/political leader assassination references through symbols, threats, or displays; those do get the attention of the FBI (it could be argued, however depending upon which region of the country these hostile threats are made, that the local and state governments will sometimes look the other way). All things considered, it would be fair to say that periodicals, newspapers, and books are not among the information “trouble-makers”-that make today’s Americans instantaneously and sometimes irrationally angry at America. That isn’t to say a good, controversial book hasn’t created an uproar or inspired legitimate (One should be careful with that word, eh?) anger, or inspired book burnings and bannings, but books are labor intensive to most, require measured thought on behalf of the reader, and most (not all- as it’s not necessary to point out some doozies) subjected to actual publication standards, and lack instant gratification- The instant gratification many seek when they read social media memes and posts similar to this one:
Today, and over the course of the past few years (technically, 4 years and some change-pardon the pun)- many, half-asleep at the wheel, sitting on the sidelines in our political process- are finding themselves having been suddenly jerked awake through the immediacy of taking in information/misinformation about the real things happening in real time; radical public education policy proposals, the possibility of an assault rifle ban and universal background checks the Affordable Care Act (whichever side, for or against) and moreover, inundation of a constant stream of imagined “enemy” demands and perceived threats: “They’re taking over!” “We’re losing our America!” All sides say this of another. Each side gets angry at the other; the red birds fight the blue ones; the yellow birds fight the black, and on and on and on. Fast and furious instant information turns us into flocks of angry American birds.
If we hush the loud scary barking voices, stop listening to the meaningless chest-thumping and their empty echoes, we can begin to hear the small voices (voices without microphones and press conferences) discussing real problems. And it is those voices, while inaudible to most policy makers and budgetary committees, drowned out by constant barrage of disingenuous political leveraging on both sides, dollars spent on some entities in our country (or withheld from others) THOSE voices belong to many American children, and their families, past and present, who cannot articulate for themselves through lobbyist groups and campaign slogans, what it is they need. They cannot hold a press conference and devise a campaign to discuss what things like Sesame Street, Head-Start, First Steps, educational and social outreach programs mean to them; as this all pertains to the very telling choices made in this previous election cycle, not all voters may have known all the stark differences between President Obama’s and Governor Romney’s ideologies, but they do know who Big Bird is, and upon hearing that Governor Romney would have been willing to cut ties with one of the only few things seen as favorable among most American families, Sesame Street, and PBS programming, just for the sake and appearance of trimming “wasteful” spending, is at best, among one of the worst PR moves Gov. Romney could have ever made (perhaps one that signaled the beginning of the end for his campaign) and at worst, the best demonstration of strictly limited government, as it relates to role it will not play in providing American children and families (especially the poor and under-educated families who cannot afford cable television) with educational tools, not to mention, again, the liberal media’s dream as it created the ultimate “What if this man is elected?” prognosis.
After patterns of variable-ratio reinforcement via social media notifications, I care not to bore you with, that in addition to the “check, recheck” phenomenon for which those of us who use social media/email fall prey, I can only say that when we post/repost/comment/retort, equally-we become addicted to the androgen response, the unexpected exchanges, and perhaps our own anger, righteousness, etc. See: Anger as an Addiction Anger is an incredible motivator; Our posture changes, we stop slouching and we begin to sit upright. It can give a sense of purpose and sometimes false sense of entitlement. Anger makes us feel alive, and lastly, it gives those who choose to anger to define who they are- someone/something to blame if things aren’t going well in their lives, whether government or policies play a role or not. But what it robs from us, in return, is our sense of peace, and our valuable time, money, and energy spent being angry at something over which we have no control; it’s a lot like throwing sand at a bulls-eye; It accomplishes absolutely nothing, but it still feels good to throw it anyway. Snowballing political debate on facebook? Anyone? If that isn’t throwing sand, I’m not sure what is. But we still have real problems, here in America and all over the world, don’t we? -The continual Gaza strip bloodshed. Hamas strikes Israel; Israel orders airstrikes against Palestinians , the dreaded,and realized federal “Fiscal Cliff”“ The consequences of“Sequestration” – North Korea planning a ““Nuclear attack” on the United States. -The on-going Syrian government massacres of its citizens, women, and innocent children. http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/24/world/meast/syria-funeral-blast/index.html
Our own American troops are being killed, trying to create democratic infrastructure in regions that are anything but (democratic). There are Americans who invested all their savings and lost everything, not because they were lazy, not because they did not work hard enough, but because they lost the bulk of their pensions, 401ks, retirement investments, through Wall Street bankers’ recklessness and greed. There are Americans and American businesses having lost everything, their homes and towns’ infrastructure and who are now trying to rebuild their lives in the wake of disastrous storm of the century, hurricane Sandy. Hard-working Americans trying trying to decide which bills to pay, which bills not to pay, how to pay for groceries for their families when they aren’t eligible for food stamps or government assistance (housing, or Medicaid) because “they make too much” money. (What’s too much money when your family is walking the working-poverty-line tightrope and enough money for corporations and banks that receive billions in subsidies?)
The party of small government and individual freedom that seems now to only exist in the memories of those who, at one time, called themselves proud republicans, the pioneers of compassionate conservativism, has been replaced by……….something else; Abrupt and staunch Anti-Government Tea Party zealots, who no one really paid attention to until….(drum roll please….) President Obama was elected, the first time around, and whose Socialist! And Nazi! accusations and violent fulminations backfired the 2nd time around, Election 2012, and resulted in the loss GOP seats on Capitol Hill. and the presidency. The Tea Party gained giant momentum DIRECTLY as a result of President Obama’s election. And many of them- republicans surrounded by bushels of crazy talkers like (just to name a few) Donald Trump, Rush Limbaugh, Todd Adkin, Richard Mourdock, Sarah Palin, Michelle Bachman, Sean “I’m going to shoot any census worker that appears on my property” Hannity, Evangelical Frances –don’t let those teachers influence your kids with their evil textbooks” Swaggart (from Frances and Friends) appear be angry about the fact their party has been hijacked, too, but NOT more angry the following folks.
(See Part #2)