Jerry Davich. | Jeffrey D. Nicholls~Sun-Times Media
Updated: November 3, 2013 6:10AM
On Tuesday, the federal government officially closed for business with no foreseeable path back to sanity. Or at least what is considered to be sanity in Washington, D.C.
The blame game is always in vogue in politics, but especially these days regarding the first government shutdown in 17 years. It’s obviously being used as a bargaining chip to counter “Obamacare,” another major news story in our country.
“These aren’t just games,” says an email I received from President Obama’s press corp. “Speaker Boehner is letting one faction of one party in one chamber of Congress sabotage our economy. They shut down the government, and now some of them are ready to push us past the brink by refusing to do something every American does — pay their bills. If this makes you angry, that’s because it should.”
Several other serious issues also make us angry, from local budget cuts and global terrorism to rising homicide rates and longer unemployment lines.
In Lake County, the new income tax has just begun, and in Porter County another suicide took place last week. In surrounding counties, the drought has endangered farm crops, allegations of political corruption linger and substance abuse remains a chronic problem. The list goes on, from Hammond to Malden and Michigan City to DeMotte.
So what are region residents and other American citizens talking about these days while complaining of being too bored or too busy, too hurried or too harried? What are we abuzz about at workplace water coolers, grocery store checkout lines and afterschool extracurricular activities?
The season premieres of the new fall TV shows, of course.
“Did anyone watch that new Robin Williams TV show?” one woman asked her friends while doing a training run over the weekend.
“It was just OK,” another woman replied. “But I’m giving it another week or two.”
Such conversations are taking place every day about our latest lobotomies, compliments of our beloved televisions. Oh, sure, we collectively voice concerns and opinions on the heavier issues of the day — Obamacare, a new income tax and the government shutdown — but only briefly so we can chat about something much more enjoyable. And understandable.
“That new Michael J. Fox show is pretty good, better than I expected,” one social media follower posted on my Facebook page. “But that new show ‘Hostages’ is too far-fetched to believe.”
Too far-fetched to believe? As if the story lines for most mindless TV shows are not too far-fetched, right? Yet we happily forget about plausibility when it comes to our escapist entertainment.
“Here we are now, entertain us,” Kurt Cobain sings in “Smells like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana. Our nightly nirvana is the prime-time reprieve we seek from newsy issues that are too complicated for us to grasp — the government shutdown, the Obamacare showdown, complex international conflicts, to name a few.
Instead, we prefer to bury our heads in televisionland’s pop culture quicksand, especially this time of year when new shows are unveiled with so much hyperbole. By doing so, not only do we get to join others by regurgitating new catchphrases, buzzwords and inside-joke laughs. On a deeper level, we also get to conveniently forget about our lives, our troubles and our ignorance about those weightier issues.
I’m not saying it’s wrong that we do this. I’m just saying it’s a fact of life and, possibly, a needed relief valve in our pressure-cooker society.
I, too, have already video recorded a slew of new TV shows that look enticing, if not possibly addictive: “The Crazy Ones” with Robin Williams, “The Goldbergs” with Jeff Garlin and “We Are Men,” which I found entertaining enough to already record next week’s episode.
And don’t get me started on all the NFL games I try to watch on a weekly basis. It’s as if my DVR is an intravenous line, continually dripping a steady cocktail of mind-numbing sports entertainment into my little brain.
Just imagine if we spent all that time (or even a part of it) learning more about those loftier issues we don’t quite grasp, or studying the nuances of timely news events that will surely affect our lives?
Just think how more informed we would be about, for instance, the Affordable Care Act, which too many Americans have no clue about, including its very name.
On Monday night’s “Late Night with Jimmy Kimmel” TV show, his staff asked a simple question to people on the street: “Do you prefer Obamacare or the Affordable Care Act?”
“The Affordable Care Act,” one woman replied firmly.
She was then asked: What is it about Obamacare that you do not like?
“I just think there are a lot of holes in it and it needs to be revamped,” she replied without hesitation.
Each person echoed a similar response, preferring the Affordable Care Act over Obamacare, even though they are the same thing under different monikers. What made the bit so hilarious — like most successful comedy — is that you know it’s so true about most Americans.
Then again, I wouldn’t be able to cite this rather embarrassing aspect about those clueless interviewees, as well as about us as a society, if I wasn’t watching another escapist TV show. As the old adage goes, thaaaaaat’s entertainment.
Imagine, however, instead of the federal government shutting down, our prime-time TV shows were shut down, even for a week. Talk about a revolution.
Connect with Jerry via email, at email@example.com, voice mail, at 713-7237, or Facebook, Twitter, and his blog, at jerrydavich.wordpress.com.