Seven score and a sawbuck ago, our president brought forth on this continent the Gettysburg Address, conceived in tragedy and dedicated to the proposition that men shall not have died in vain for the cause of the American republic.
We did this. All of us.
Although "leaders" is more of a formal term than anything else.
Tuesday, November 19 marked the 150th anniversary of the Gettysburg Address, when Abraham Lincoln reminded Americans that a way of life worth fighting and dying for must also be worth living for. But what have you done with that mandate, America? You've been given the greatest opportunity in history, but you fill your days with reality TV, racism, and -- worse than those two put together -- autotune.
Yet we as a nation harbor greater sins than LMFAO. Here are the modern behaviors everyone is guilty of, regardless of party, persuasion, or parish.
#4. Staying Misinformed
Yellow journalism is nothing new, but historically people only got subjected to it for an hour or two each day. With just a few major broadcasters, there was no need to pretend a day contained 24 hours' worth of news. Americans received a fairly accurate account of the world, or at least had an excuse for their inaccurate one.
But now newspapers are dying, the Internet only serves up information relevant to its secret profile of you, and Ouija boards still haven't made contact with Walter Cronkite. Sad, no? This has led to shoddy gimmicks like reporting "live" from the police station where they took the suspect five hours after the crime occurred, or its anchor counterpart, "breaking news" on a story that's already wrapped.
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And the weird thing is the mugging happened in Sheboygan.
Sure, you can still access real journalism if you subscribe to The New York Times, but understanding its relevance to you is expensive, since first you have to move to western Connecticut. For the rest of the country, it's hard to feign interest in a Lifestyle profile on what five bankers are having for lunch followed by an Arts bio of the world's last living six-toed ballerina. Turning the page, you read a Dining review that's mostly an apology for enjoying plebeian food. And every single one of those articles jams in an ill-fitting reference to Marcel Proust and his madeleines.
Come on, New York Times, I just wanted to know which parts of the world were exploding, and instead I'm reading the most awkward hip-hop profile piece ever, and I still can't tell what it has to do with Young Preezy's "M.A.D.E. Linez."
So TV news it is, even though TV is trying to stay competitive by becoming the worst parts of humanity, much as radio did before it.
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And then, since it's the Internet, someone pedantic would correct it as "Two Minutes Hate," plural.
The 24-hour cable news networks are, in order of ratings:
FOX News -- If FOX News were a person, it would be a teenager with an adult haircut whose dad bought him a DeLorean driving backward through time and complaining the entire trip. The only thing worse than FOX News is FOX News on fast-forward, because then you absorb three times as many lies before you can avert your eyes. The reason they're a TV network and not a tailor shop is that you can't sustain the new clothes trade with so few emperors these days. According to their business model, when owner Rupert Murdoch gets to hell, he'll buy it out and spend billions convincing the residents to pretend it's heaven.
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Here they report on Elizabeth Warren's tuition reform efforts.
MSNBC -- FOX might be a gaggle of dickheads, but MSNBC is the strap-on your girlfriend whips out during sex with no prior discussion. MSNBC is FOX News for the kind of liberals who only exist in conservative fantasies and liberal nightmares. You have to watch it 40 feet from the kitchen or all your gluten, meat, and dairy turn to arsenic, soy, and smug satisfaction. So long as three TVs in a building are simultaneously tuned to this channel, everyone inside is a spokesperson for Occupy Wall Street.
Or at least that's the untested theory, because nobody really watches this circle jerk. The only MSNBC personality who pulls decent ratings is Rachel Maddow, because she's the only one who isn't a cartoon. There's Chris Matthews, of course, but he's less a personality and more of a haystack someone trained to do verbal pratfalls.
If you want to see the real face of MSNBC, look at Ed Schultz, host of the electrifyingly titled The Ed Show. In the body of public discourse, Schultz is the goiter. He's sort of like Bill O'Reilly minus an audience that wants to hear a lump of bread dough grumble. The Ed Show is targeted at what I can only assume are very irate little men wearing socks and Tevas in Napa Valley. Nobody, not even Ed Schultz, knows what the purpose of his program is. He's the only man in the world whose mirror reflection changes the channel.
CNN -- Deserted by the right, then the left, the weary news network has tried to stay hip with holograms and touchscreens. If CNN still showed news, you'd get it without a political agenda, but the network loses half an IQ point every time they treat Justin Bieber's Instagram feed like news.
"Here's the magic wall bringing you 1951's most cutting-edge telestrator technology, annnnd we're all idiots now."
HLN -- This is CNN for mothers who like to angrily cluck their tongues and mutter something unintelligible about "those people."
Al Jazeera America -- Stands on a reputation for solid reporting, but still a good five years away from convincing Americans that watching it won't red-flag your NSA profile.
One America News Network -- I have no idea what this is, but it sounds like the mouthpiece of a totalitarian future state.
As you can see, it's hard to form a real idea of what's going on. You have to seek reputable news sources and be willing to mistrust the things you most want to believe ... so that you can confirm or correct their validity by testing them.
The only way you know how.
If you don't, you're left with whatever brand of panic the news networks want to sell us, and that leads to ...
#3. Stereotyping and Demonizing the Opposition
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Pictured: everyone who disagrees with you slightly.
Have you ever hung out with people who hold different opinions from yours? Enjoy that adventure, because in the future, your media exposure will become even more tailored to your tastes. And it will cost you the ability to see opponents as people, not platitudes. The only thing either side in any of the modern American debates agrees on is that the other guys are Nazis.
And if they're not Nazis, God forbid you criticize them for their actual flaws. For example, here is Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey and forceful personality, who -- whatever other criticisms you may level at him -- puts the fucking work in. He does the job he was elected to do, but he's known for his brash mouth. Can you guess what jokes get made about him?
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If lazy jokes were fat cells, you'd have enough about Governor Chris Christie to build your own Governor Chris Christie.
But forget public figures. Their whole shtick is to make you hate the other guys more than you hate them. Let's look closer to home. Who here has a relative that will make next week's turkey dinner tense?
Nobody? Seriously? No one else here is Irish Catholic?
Well, some of us have a cousin who won't stop preaching about the evils of the meat industry during the carving. Others suffer through a great-uncle's theory of how the Lizard-People helped Obama fake bin Laden's death. At my house, the family puts up with my Bull Moose Party rhetoric (platform: "Everyone is bastards") and my plan to replace most legislation with a computer that eats statistics and craps sensible government.
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Quick tip: If your Twitter bio includes your politics, you are this person in your family.
But these people aren't monsters. These are your relatives. You probably love them. You may even like them. Because they're yours. But it's more than just the bloodline, right? You know them well enough to know that whatever crazy stuff they believe, they're good people. Except for Great-Aunt Murgatroyd. She's only here for the whiskey, cruelty, and Jesus, and she's all out of Jesus.
I know this is hard to believe online, but almost nobody you'll ever meet is working toward the destruction of America. Your life probably isn't exciting enough to meet any real-life terrorists or Bond villains. All you can do is avoid the people who, on an actual, personal level, create harm and havoc. Just because some people believe we should close all the banks and go back to the barter system doesn't mean they aren't human beings full of laughter and tears and some kinks that would shock you but, hey, no judgments.
Go join a basketball team with somebody you like even though you disagree on stuff. Or start a band. Or do anything other than sit around fantasizing about how the XYZs are destroying this country.
But This Is the Hard Part:
Now we are engaged in an embarrassing civil war, testing whether this nation, or any nation, can long endure its self-obsessed whining and sniping. We are met on a great battlefield of that war, the Internet, to lay a final resting place for such behavior.
Remember that people out there -- even the ones you disagree with on the nerve level, and yes, even a lot of raging bigots -- have Thanksgiving with somebody who loves them in spite of themselves. Or because of it. People are a screwed-up species.
Try to see that human part and treat them as a person, not a faceless member of a group. If you don't know where to start, try stroking their hair, making suggestive jokes, and inviting them back to your hotel for a quickie.
OK, that's too intimate: a quickie, but no eye contact and no kissing.
Or dial it back to taking them on their own merits, not the boxes you want them to fit in. If you don't, you're refusing to associate with anyone different from you, and that's plumb un-American. You'll belong to the following class of jerk ...