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Pay Close Attention to Those Behind the Curtain

In the “this isn’t really news” department we have had, this week, Katie Rophe’s ridiculous article about how female sexual fantasies of bondage spell the end of feminism (a Newsweek cover story no less), a fake war between mothers who work outside the home and mothers who don’t: a war that the media has loved to burnish even though most women in the US have great respect for each other’s choices. We also have a huge security breech by secret service agents and some military men, which is titillating readers because it involves prostitution. And of course we have the usual celebrity shenanigans involving models who are too thin, the possible dates of Ashton Kutcher, Ted Nugent’s awful behavior … you name it. The latest? Titty on T.V., which seems to be something for the courts to deal with.

Pay attention.

DON’T pay undue attention to the above.

Because it’s all white noise.

Those of us old enough remember the sound that used to come out of the television when stations went off the air. The rest of us must be able to call up the lull of the ocean sounds coming from a machine that blocks traffic noise or the sound of a spouse’s snoring.

That white noise is masking the real sounds our country and the world are making. The sounds of anguish and injustice, of starvation and deprivation, of cruelty and anger. Of the despair of unfairness butting up against deep and awesome privilege.

That white noise is too many of the mainstream media who are blocking the truth with a resistance to ferreting it out, who won’t counter outrageous statements with even a question, who can’t be bothered to do the research to refute even minor untruths, never mind major lies.

That white noise is gossip about who is marrying whom, who is leaving whom, who is doing what to whom. That white noise is debate about things that are not debatable, like the racism in this country, or the inequities in this country, or the way we feel no compunction about asserting ourselves to essentially clean house overseas when our house is filthy, filthy, dirty.

We have a presidential candidate, who after months of nonsense and positions back and forth on everything possible, is starting to show his true colors and those colors include a very big part on the war on women (which IS happening all across the country): it seems he does not support the crucial Lilly Ledbetter Act and wishes to defund Planned Parenthood for a start. And that is just a start.

We have a Supreme Court who seems to think that it is their duty to tell us which way the world will end. With corporations as sentient beings and the rest of us with no power at all. That sounds like a huge bang, not a whimper.

In the meantime, The Buffett Rule didn’t pass, and while its effect would have been more symbolic than financial, it might have, finally, sparked a real debate on tax laws. But, as the months roll on, still nothing of substance has been passed by the House or the Senate. And people do not know enough to blame a locked-up Congress rather than the president. Approval ratings for our Congress are down around 12%, but that is said with a shrug rather than outrage. And a marginal candidate is gaining ground because people are pissed off that the economy hasn’t improved more since our former president tanked it. But their anger obfuscates their reason. Our financial mess is not three years in the making; it is more than thirty, and no quick fixes will ever change that. Yet the country is willing to change horses in midstream on the off chance that we could get a bump in the market or gas prices could go down for a minute or something equally ephemeral and just as temporary would give us a lift.

In The Wizard of Oz we were told to pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. His weakness was bolstered by artifice. But our situation now demands that we push aside the smoke and mirrors, the magician’s tricks, the sleight of hand — that we simply not allow ourselves to be distracted by the noise being manufactured to drown out the real. The people behind the curtain are doing actual damage to our country and if we allow ourselves to be soothed by the white noise of their chicanery we will be the ones who suffer the consequences. The explanations are no longer as simple as a sincere wish to go home or the explication as to how a fraud was perpetrated. And those on the stage, behind the curtain, or in possession of the magic hat lose far less from their deceit than we do.

Most of us middle-aged and older are familiar with the syndrome of walking into a room and not remembering what we went in there for. Yet we can remember the songs played at our high school prom. Younger people, more used to battling several different kinds of media at once are, I suspect, also more able to tune out what is truly bothersome. But how to decide what is bothersome and what is useful? That’s our number one job now.

All our memories are selective, all the information we allow to take root in our brain is based more on desire than we will admit. Yet it is the huge, societal white noise that we must really begin to tune out. We have to filter out that hiss so that what actually matters can get through. We have huge decisions to make — decisions about the way this country will settle into the 21st century. If we don’t ignore the white noise, if we concentrate on the smoke and mirrors rather than what is behind them, we will indeed have met the enemy and he will be us.