January 23rd, 2011 11:52 EST
Americans Have The Grit, But The Media Don't Have The Guts
But the media don`t have the guts
Icebound and holed up with old movies earlier this week proved to be an unsettling experience. The America to which we`re accustomed, the America to which Hollywood has accustomed us, is breaking up before us like pixels in an electrical storm.
Our famous, reassuring suburbs have become problems; we can`t afford the copious quantities of pricey gasoline they demand or the ever-increasing property taxes. The malls they spawned have zapped Main Street and created a vast market for Chinese goods that we can barely afford.
The factory-like high schools have become a source of our indebtedness. Their students can`t afford a decent higher education and face futures of flipping burgers and pouring lattÃ©. The Dusters and Malibus have been supplanted by Japanese cars. Our industrial might has been exported to cheap labor markets.
Hollywood no more depicts the American reality than the news media. Our denial is almost as complete as a blanket of new-fallen snow. In a full-scale confrontation with an industrial giant like China we would not have the ability to sustain a war, the ability that brought mighty Japan and Germany to their knees. Our newscasters continue to spout nonsense that offends our common sense. If only we could build more houses, they keep saying, never mentioning that fewer and fewer of us can afford them.
The Main Street that pervades American movies is a ghostly remnant of its former self, bled dry by impractical malls selling goods made by exploited labor overseas. Gasoline prices are again climbing, but almost no one is talking about how nonsensical our transportation ideas are.
Where has Hollywood dealt with the now prevalent idea that unionism and the American way are incompatible? Where has it dealt with the predatory lenders and the developers who have corrupted town after town and city after city, building where they shouldn`t, endangering our water and sending local taxes through the roof? Where has it dealt with the misconceptions that every day Factcheck.org and others struggle to correct. For example, a DSL repairman today intoned to me that forty percent of our national budget goes to foreign aid and that`s why our economy has gone to hell. I told him foreign aid in fact is less than one percent of the total. He then went on to complain that welfare cheats were bankrupting the country. Never mind our defense budget, our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, or our confiscatory property taxes. He believes what liars have told him because their lies massage his prejudices. When have you last seen a television program do what Factcheck.org does?
The camera isn`t telling us who we are. The camera is like the drunken sailor beaten to a pulp and lying in the gutter telling his mates that he`s all right. We`re not all right, but the camera keeps on telling us we are.
We`re arguing about gun rights, socialized medicine, big government, and any other distraction the politicians can cook up while we can`t pay our taxes, can`t send our children to college, can`t afford to get sick, and certainly can`t afford the dream life portrayed in those old movies.
As the great ice storm approached our Hudson Valley I listened to an Albany newscaster telling her listeners knowingly how essential to their lives the latest housing statistics were. Not one word about who is going to buy those houses. You don`t have to be a genius to figure out something is wrong with the picture she was peddling, lecturing her audience about the meaningfulness of housing starts and sales while ignoring the fact our jobs are going to hell in a hand basket.
Whoopee, the stock market is climbing! Whoopee for whom? The one percent of our population that is getting richer while the rest of us are getting poorer? And why is the market doing so well? Could it be because Americans are working more for less? Could it be because payrolls and benefits are being cut? Could it be because our jobs are doing fine in China? Isn`t this news?
What America are the newscasters talking about? What is Hollywood talking about? The most promising television this season, to my mind, is Showtime`s Shameless, because, like Upton Sinclair, it is showing how bad things are and how essentially decent we are. It shows us getting screwed and making the best of it. It could be called true grit. We have the grit even when Hollywood and the other media don`t have the guts to tell it like it is.
Djelloul Marbrook is a retired newspaperman. His second book of poems, Brushstrokes and Glances, will be published by Deerbrook Editions on December 20, 2010. His first book of poems, Far From Algiers, won the Stan and Tom Wick Poetry Prize from Kent State University in 2007 and was published in 2008. It won the International Book Award in 2010. His novella, Artemisia`s Wolf, will be published by Prakash Books of India in December. His novella, Saraceno, was recently published as an e-book. His story, Artists Hill, adapted from the second novel of an unpublished trilogy, won the Literal LattÃ© first prize in fiction in 2008. The pioneering e-book publisher, Online Originals (UK), published his novella, Alice MIller`s Room, in 1999.
Del`s book, Far From Algiers: http://upress.kent.edu/books/Marbrook_D.htm
New review of Far from Algiers: http://www.rattle.com/blog/2009/05/far-from-algiers-by-djelloul-marbrook/
Artists Hill, Literal LattÃ©`s fiction first prize: http://www.literal-latte.com/author/djelloulmarbrook/
His blog: http://www.djelloulmarbrook.com
His mother`s art: http://www.juanitaguccione.com
His aunt`s art: http://www.irenericepereira.com