Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Out of Touch Again

Barack Obama’s inauguration did not thrill me. Michael Jackson’s death did not cause me grief. Could this mean I’m out of touch with my fellow Americans? I’m feeling that way more and more lately, but it started when Elvis Presley died in August of 1977. I’d just moved to Maine and I noticed people were shook up. “The King is Dead” declared headlines in local media. “Hmm,” I thought. His music never did much for me and Elvis was considered a has-been where I’d come from in Massachusetts. Having known many who ruined their lives with drugs and/or alcohol, I looked at his death as simply another in a long line. Thirty years ago “The King” died, and last week “The King of Pop” met his maker.

I felt it again twenty years after Elvis’s demise when Princess Diana died. I looked at her death as just another traffic accident that killed someone I didn’t know, but people around me were profoundly affected. When I noticed a neighbor had been crying, I asked what was wrong. “I watched Princess Di’s funeral this morning,” she said, and I figured there was little I could do for her. I wrote a column about how alienated I felt while witnessing the prolonged, melodramatic hand-wringing of those around me. It wasn’t well received, and it’s likely this one won’t be either. Oh well.

When I saw images of Reverend Al Sharpton doing the bump and grind during a memorial service for Michael Jackson the other day, I had to turn away. This is the guy ran for president looking like a washed-out Elvis impersonator. According to a CBS New report: “[Sharpton] and Director Spike Lee urged the audience to revel in Jackson accomplishments and disregard what they characterized as negative news coverage of the star.”

Yes, ignore the bizarre surgeries, the evidence that Jackson was a transgendered child molester. He was a king. Although we crave a king or a princess to look up to, we can turn on him or her if we perceive flaws. The ancient Irish would only accept as a king or queen someone who was physically unblemished. Maybe it was easier to believe the king really was perfect if he looked that way. People wouldn’t perceive his peccadilloes when he posed in royal robes. But if he should lose a fingertip or scar himself, the illusion would melt away, he would be dumped, and a “perfect” leader put in his place.

About six years into his administration, Americans focused on George Bush’s blemishes and there were more than a few. Eight years in, his flaws were being magnified daily and people started believing that if we could only find the perfect king, our economy and everything else would be fine again. That was certainly true on the first Tuesday of November last year when we elected Barack Obama president. He posed as the rightful king who would put things right and 53% of us believed him.

Returning to my original question - am I out of touch with American culture? Yes - large swathes of it at least, and I don’t want to adapt myself either. That I’m “in it, but not of it” describes my position best, I think. I’ll never be part of the collective hand-wringing or keening that goes on around me when some iconic celebrity dies prematurely. I won’t join the starry-eyed, hero-worshiping throngs enthralled with the new king either. Am I cold? Unfeeling? I don’t think so. Instead, I’m thinking too many people around me are immature, easily manipulated, reluctant to grow up - and that segment of our population has temporarily become the majority.

Some portion of them, however, will mature when they realize their newly-elected perfect king cannot put everything right again, that it was childish to think he could, and that he’s making things vastly worse instead. It will be a heartbreak to face up to this, but recognizing it and dealing with disappointment forces us to grow up, right? That’s the hope and change I’m waiting for.

Though I try to avoid it, saturation coverage of Michael Jackson is all around me, and there’s still his funeral to deal with Friday. Guess it doesn’t matter that our economy is sinking fast in spite of the trillions we’re borrowing and printing to stimulate it, that Iran is in revolt against its Islamofascist terrorist government, that North Korea is trying to touch off another war, that the dollar is collapsing, that communist Cuba’s ally Venezuela is threatening militarily action in Honduras, that Congress is trying to deepen our bankruptcy with socialized medicine and an energy bill to fight a non-existent climate threat. None of that is as important as the death of a cultural/sexual/racial freak.

Yeah, I’m out of touch. It’s the only way to be these days.


Jason D said...

I cried during the Presidential Inauguration this year.

aliledar said...

Boy, do I ever agree, Tom, and I'm truly glad to be out of cinc with the culture around me. It's just too bad the flock is so large. Princess Di worship was absurd. She was a quite ordinary, not very smart person, Obama worship is also absurd, and in my opinion, racist. He's not ordinary or stupid but he IS hugely naive and socialist. Michael Jackson worship is simply pathetic, as was he.
Thank goodness for you to articulate our 'out of touch' stance!!!

Anonymous said...

I could not agree more. We are NOT a country of shallow idol worshipers. Many think like you; few have the ability to express it as well as you did today.

I agree with Jason D. - I cried too on Inauguration Day, for our country.

Anonymous said...


I couldn't agree more! Sadly, the GOP is part and parcel of that pop culture we live in.

We have no other home than reason, common sense, faith and the Constitution! We still seem to be a minority, but as Sam Adams said: "It does not require a majority to prevail, but rather an irate, tireless minority keen to set brush fires in people's minds."

So, we will have to find our way beside and beyond any of the present political parties and without all the monkey politicians and sock puppets in office right now.

Your blog is an important part of that movement!


I took the liberty to lift this entire piece and publish it on the Blog of the Constitutionalists.

Anonymous said...

This country is history, Tom. I believe it is too far down the tubes to be turned around now with the current administration that is destroying it. The ... at the top doesn't believe in liberty and capitalism. He believes in a totalitarian dictatorship and is doing all he can, as fast as he can, to accomplish that. Why do you think our embassies around the world have been told to stock up on the local currency, wherever they are? The dollar is going to be discarded for a world currency. That is the next step in forming a one world government with ... at the top! They have to destroy the dollar first.

Harvey in North Baldwin

Anonymous said...

I cry when I drive through North Conway and see the man with the walker relearning how to walk after a stroke using the sidewalks of town..I cry when I see a stressed out Dad trying to be the best that he can be for his's the real rather than the surreal that makes my eyes water...Thank you Tom for identifying our culture fraud. As for our current political state..Iran is ripe for change(soooo exciting),Cap and Trade is the biggest fraud of our countries history and I am not keen on a member of the government being in my hospital room with me..send in the clowns..1st 150 daize..frightening! Laurie Bartlett N.H.

Anonymous said...

You are a voice of sanity and hope in a time of great concern for our culture and our country. The latest real or contrived "news item" or celebrity news drives the drivel of the main-stream-media. Intelligent discourse is side-lined to make way for the sound-bites of the pseudo-science.

Please keep up the great commentary.

Anonymous said...

Another beautifully written column, Tom! I was not impressed with all the tv coverage of Jackson's death. It was impossible to find reports on any other news in the world! While there are certainly fond 80s memories of Jackson's talent, that's about as far as it goes for me. He was just another talented guy who went off the deep end.

Personally, I am more saddened over Billy Mays' passing.

And yes, Jason D, I cried with you on that day, (and at least once a day since) LOL.


Nathan Pitts said...

If P T Barnum were still alive he would have Michael J stuffed and displayed in his freak tent.

The fact that millions of Americans went ga ga over this freak of nature is telling.

Where are our priorities, or do many of us have any of them anymore?


Dawn H said...

Look at it this way, you may be out of touch with these yahoos but you're not alone. There are more of us out there then you know.

Is there a support group out there for us out-of-touch outsiders?

Anonymous said...

Hi Tom,

Your students are very lucky to have you for a teacher.I hope your effot is apptrciated.
The only fault I see with this artle, is I did not write it!! Thanks Tom, Without your objection. I willpost it on The Lamoine Informer.
Bob Sharkey, Lamoine, Majnes