“HOW ARE YOU GOING TO SAVE THIS COUNTRY?!” shouts the talking head on TV.
I’m at an American diner. The kind with fried food and waitresses who call you “sweetie.” There is enough saturated fat in the air to cause a coronary event just by breathing.
My waitress is a middle-aged woman named “Muffin.” I know this because it’s written on her nametag.
There is a deer head mounted on the wall above the stove. There are taxidermied bass fish everywhere. The coffee tastes like bathwater. The eggs aren’t bad. The bacon sucks.
A giant television is mounted just above the bar. The volume is blaring. The talking heads are discussing political things. Controversial things. You get the feeling the commentators are unhappy people. As though maybe these commentators go home each evening and strangle small woodland creatures to unwind.
“THERE IS NO WAY TO SAVE THIS COUNTRY!” says the commentator.
The talking heads are practically shouting at each other. Their voices are so loud that everyone sitting at the breakfast counter has no choice but to watch two grown men hash it out on national television.
I wish the waitress would turn this malarkey off, but Muffin, like everyone else, has grown deaf to this kind of shouting. This is America. Land of the free. Home of 24-hour cable news channels.
“I HATE THIS COUNTRY!” shouts the guy on TV.
The commentator’s words slap me upside the face.
Sure, I realize they’re just trying to boost ratings. Yes, I get it. They’re just shock jocks. But this doesn’t make sense to me.
I realize I’m old fashioned, but I grew up with World-War-II-era grandparents. I was reared by men and women who remembered the Battle of the Bulge intimately. These were people who bought movie tickets to watch Bing Crosby perform patriotic numbers that lasted roughly as long as dental school. These were people who spoke of Pearl Harbor with hushed voices.
Moreover, I personally experienced the 9/11 era. I remember a time when you couldn’t get away with spewing hatred on America without earning a bruise.
I was a young man when the airplanes hit the Trade Towers. I was in my early 20s when my peers were getting sent to Afghanistan to die. Everyone was American to the core. You didn’t hate your country; you bled red, white, and blue.
No, I’m not saying our country was perfect—far from it—but you didn’t “hate” anyone.
The man next to me at the breakfast counter points to the TV and says, “Can you believe this crap?”
“No. I really can’t.”
“Why do people watch this stuff?”
I don’t know.
Someone at the bar asks the waitress to turn it off. She obliges. When the TV goes dark, something magical happens. Conversation at the bar picks up tempo. People start to actually talk to one another. Laughter ensues.
My constituent starts speaking to me as he eats his runny eggs. We’re talking about real life. He tells me about his grandkids, about his career as a salesman for commercial sheet metal buildings, about his dog. And it’s rather nice.
The people on my right are talking about their upcoming plans for summer vacation. They’re going to the Florida Keys. They’re not married, because if they marry they’ll lose their Social Security. But they’re in a committed relationship. Sort of.
Even the waitress is chatting with the cook about her daughter, and how her kid is making all A’s in school—except in algebra. God love her. On the Eighth Day, Satan said unto the Lord, “I shall add the alphabet to math.”
After a few minutes, we at the bar aren’t nearly as tense as we were a few minutes earlier. Our collective blood pressure has gone down. We are almost happy. We are in good moods.
No, I don’t know how to save this country. But I know that turning off the TV is a good place to start.
stephenpe - April 5, 2023 11:04 am
Its like that ant thing. They say if you have two kinds of ants in a jar they are fine. Shake the jar and the go after each other. We have let TV shake the jars long enough. Get back to talking to each other. Real human interactions instead of passive one way “noise”. We love you Sean.
Leanne Christensen - April 5, 2023 12:25 pm
I couldn’t agree more. Bless you, and thank you, Sean.
Cheryl Thompson - April 5, 2023 12:30 pm
You are so right.
julieannhall - April 5, 2023 12:44 pm
Love, love, love this!!
Paul Alge - April 5, 2023 2:39 pm
Right on Stephenpe. When 24 hour news came along. Money got in the game. When I was growing up news came on twice a day. It was news on all three channels. Walter Croncrites report was the same as Huntley and Brinkleys. It was just a matter of witch station you could get to come through the clearest.
David in California - April 5, 2023 2:42 pm
Bobby - April 5, 2023 3:00 pm
Amen! I had a career in federal and state law enforcement for 35 years. Retired and now work part time as an attorney for an agency that deals with elder health care. Most of our clients have very little, but don’t complain and are so thank for what they have. Most probably think CNN is a cartoon network and Fox is an animal channel.
Dee Thompson - April 5, 2023 3:01 pm
Amen to that, Sean! Just FYI, if you know any lawyers or paralegals tell them to check out my newest book, Paralegal 411: Tips, Tricks and Timesavers for the Litigation Paralegal [on Amazon]
Vince - April 5, 2023 5:04 pm
It ain’t called the idiot box for nuthin!
Becky Souders - April 5, 2023 7:32 pm
Also, reading the newspaper doesn’t help much either. Preach, Sean Dietrich!
pattymack43 - April 5, 2023 9:17 pm
AMEN!!!!!!! The sooner the better!! Thank you for saying that!! Blessings to you and Jaime….