Right now it’s all about Roger Clemens, a dominating pitcher of his era whether or not you like him (I don’t) or think he’s a headhunter and assault artist with a baseball (I do). Clemens gets to put on a suit, parade himself before the United States Senate, and answer questions about the allegations he injected anabolic steroids and/or human growth hormones as a means to prolong his career and keep his presumed "edge." I’ve heard rumors of perjury indictments, bans, all sorts of mean and nasty stuff. And you know what?
I don’t care.
It was proposed to me that this whole fuss over Clemens and other sports figures is a diversionary tactic to keep our heads out of the real issues confronting us. What issues? Well, let’s see what you don’t hear much about anymore:
- A war in Iraq that one of our candidates, John McCain, said will keep us there for the next 100 years. Hey, didn’t that happen between France and England back in the 1300s? I’ll bet it did wonders for the economies of both nations. The Black Death was probably a useful diversion.
- The near-collapse of the American economy: joblessness (unless you think a job running a cash register can replace your $80K middle management job), the mortgage and foreclosure horror that is creating a downward push on the housing market, leading to even more homelessness. Speaking of which….
- The exposure of increasing homelessness among American war veterans from Korea on through the present Iraq nightmare, aided and abetted by a Federal government that is cutting back in all areas of aid to its men and women who fought its wars. Send them off to have limbs and minds shattered,then turn them loose on the streets to fend for themselves because Self-Help is the American Way. Where is Dr. Phil when you need him? Probably in Congress or the White House.
- The increasing number of eminent domain cases across the country, not for public works but so that people with too much money and an embarrassment of greed can expel poor working people or people on public assistance…who, by the way, also need places to live. I live in Shore New Jersey and we’ve got eminent domain being thrown in our faces.
- Remember Hurricane Katrina? New Orleans? Our beloved President certainly doesn’t, though he made all the right tsk-tsk noises. The city, according to all reports, is still a ruin, scheduled to be "rehabbed" so it’s population will be "Disney and whores."
- Finally, there are the images of ruin overseas. Iraq, to which we have made a mighty contribution. Darfur, about which nobody–here or abroad–seems to care a damn.
Integrity is so rare a quality anymore that it’s news when Steven Spielberg withdraws his considerable clout and financial resources from subsidizing the fiends in Bejing. Mia Farrow, faults aside, nailed it when she suggested that Spielberg could become the Leni Riefenstahl of the 2008 Olympics.
Why is integrity so rare anymore? Beats me. Maybe Jonathan Swift had it right about the moral status of human beings.
Maybe we are encouraged to focus on sports anti-heroes because it diverts us from looking at the real mess out there. The real mess here. Look at a Clemens or Pettitte taking the fall for maybe using HGH and we don’t have to scrutinize the venality that turns our cities into eminent domain Magic Kingdoms while the poor are shunted off to the next town over until that town pushes them out. Nice way to build family and economic stability–move your kid from one school system to the next, say twice a year, and park them in places they aren’t wanted and can’t be assimilated. We don’t have to look at the nightmare of the 21st century that is making uninhabitable large parts of the world. We can pronounce Global Warming a "theory" or a "hoax" while our weather patterns become demonstrably more erratic and unpredictable.
Susan Jacoby is presenting the theory in The Age of American Unreason that Americans have become incurious, easily led by the nose, defiantly stupid, knowing nothing about nothing, and proud of it. We elected one of our own. And we are proud of it. I suppose we are in the great traditions of civilizations through time that went into Hell by settling for public glitz and glamor in exchange for creating and maintaining a polity. So we substitute movie stars for music, gossip for a God that is not the public fabrication of our politicians, and the degradations of hip-hop for music that express aspiration instead of hatred. It’s nothing new but it’s not getting any easier to stomach.