Every day of the year we are reminded how divided America has become. We are divided along political, religious, racial, sexual orientation and gender lines and from there we are further divided into countless subgroups. The sad truth is we are hard pressed to justify calling ourselves the United States of America.
Thanksgiving should be appreciated as a bipartisan holiday. The origin of Thanksgiving is not based on politics or religion, and this year Thanksgiving coincides with Chanukah, reminding us that this is one of those rare moments when we can all come together as Americans to give thanks and like the early settlers, celebrate what we have in common – not what separates us.
Actual documents may not provide solid proof of specific details of the first Thanksgiving, but notes passed along through history describe the first Thanksgiving. In 1621, the new settlers from England and Native Americans came together to give thanks for the first harvest in the New World. That first Thanksgiving was celebrated by 90 Native Americans and about 53 Pilgrims. It is believed that Native Americans helped the new settlers survive in the New World and the settlers were grateful.
Pilgrims and Native Americans were two totally different groups with different customs, appearances and lifestyles. If those two groups could come together to give thanks – then I would think conservatives and liberals, whites and blacks, Christians and Jews, male and female and straight and gay can all come together on this Thanksgiving with the same spirit of unity.
Daily we are reminded through the media all that separates us, and it is through the accent on our differences that attracts attention for the media. It might not be sensational and it might not generate a lot of buzz on the airwaves, but it is important for us to step back from the harsh debates that separate us and take time to appreciate all we do have in common. We may see different paths to our goals of happiness, but we all essentially share the same goals in life.
Even if it is for just one day – Thanksgiving Day – let us come together as families, friends and as a nation for the simple purpose of giving thanks. It’s a human flaw to always think about what we don’t have in life, but it is an important human quality to appreciate all the blessings we receive. Look not at those who have more – look at how much you do have.
P.S. If we do come together this Thanksgiving like the Pilgrims and Native Americans did in 1621 – let’s hope and pray in the years to follow that we treat each other with a little more respect than they did!
The conventional vision of a traditional Thanksgiving gathering includes family and friends gathered around a table with a turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole, yams, pumpkin pie and whatever else is part of your Thanksgiving feast. The setting is one of reflection where thanks is given for the feast and the company of family and friends who are gathered at the festive table. But that thankful, peaceful image is far from the chaotic reality most experience at Thanksgiving dinner!
The ordeal begins with just getting there. If traveling by plane – a winter storm leads to delays and cancellations. This is also the time of year when amateur travelers board planes – many with kids who don’t know how to act on a plane. For the record, it’s not that society has become less tolerant of children – it’s that society has become less tolerant of parents who can’t control their kids while traveling. DO NOT let your child kick the seat of the passenger in front of them. DO NOT allow them to lie in or run up and down the aisle. And we all expect your children to be courteous. It’s simple – control your children or stay home! Other cultures do a better job than Americans when it comes to controlling children in public settings.
If traveling by car – prepare your children for the reality of the trip. With today’s phones, tablets, etc. and games, movies, Facebook and texting - no child should complain about sitting in one spot for hours - isn’t that what they do at home? If your child does complain about being bored – use that opportunity to teach them that life can be boring at times – learn to deal with it! Teaching kids to deal with being bored sometimes is preparing them to deal with life. You might actually use the opportunity of being together in the car to have a real conversation with your kids and give them a chance to talk to you. Make time to just talk with no distractions from electronic wizardry – and that means you stay off the phone, too! Talk about the trip, the sights and talk about America. Tell them things you think about and ask them what they think about. You might be surprised what your kids are thinking.
And then there’s the madness of the Thanksgiving dinner. The house will be crowded with family members, who don’t see each other often and family members that don’t get along. Not everyone in the same family shares the same views on political and social issues. Political ideology is thicker than blood!
Watch football, and if one of those commercials promoting Obamacare comes on during the game – run to the bathroom, check the turkey or do anything to stay out of the impending discussion that will erupt! Everyone will want to tell you what they think.
There are countless things that will inspire debates about politics at the Thanksgiving table… from the price of the turkey…to someone asking for “the rightwing” or the “left wing”…to the fact that the cranberry sauce is the color of conservative states! Relatives feel the need to set other family members straight on their political thinking, and the longer it has been since you’ve seen a relative – the more they want to set you straight. Beware – you cannot change their minds and they probably can’t change yours. So, admit that the only result of those Thanksgiving debates will be strained feelings and ill-will. No matter how right you think you are – and I’m sure you are right – DO NOT engage in political, social or religious debates during the annual gathering that is supposed to be a peaceful moment to be thankful.
Try to be tolerant of the relatives who feel the need to brag about their lives and their kids. And, though it’s terribly rude, try to tolerate even the family members who must talk loudly on their cellphone to make sure everyone hears their conversation. And since you can’t train their children during this brief gathering, and you can’t give them a lesson in parenting, ignore the behavior which makes it obvious they really have no control over their kids. Whatever you observe will make for a great conversation on the trip home.
In life, our expectations often supersede reality. Rather than envision that traditional, peaceful Thanksgiving setting with family, friends and a bounty of food spread on the table, be realistic. Prepare yourself and your family for the collision of differing personalities and opinions that you inevitably encounter once a year.
The phrase we use when a storm is approaching may be good to remember this Thanksgiving – “prepare for the worst and hope for the best!”
Passionate feelings lead to intense debates that often reveal an extremely judgmental society.
As the Saints and the Who Dat Nation anticipate the game against the arch rival Falcons in Atlanta, the mood before the game is decidedly different than what we were all expecting it to be at this point in the season. The Saints are on top the NFC South with a record of 8-2 and the Falcons 2-8 and tied for last place in the division. This was the year Falcons fans believed their team was going to the Super Bowl. The Falcons imploded, but that still does not take away the intensity of the heated rivalry between these two teams and their fans.
Especially considering the Falcons dwell at the bottom of the division right now, it’s important for all Saints fans to try to open up their hearts and understand that this controversial debate in this country should not cause us to lose sight of the idea that Falcons’ fans were born that way. Considering the season the Falcons are having, it seems more obvious than ever that no one would choose to be a Falcons fan. There is no conclusive scientific evidence to support this, but the question is - why would any fan choose to live a life that is so unacceptable to others?
I realize many Saints fans judge Falcons fans based on their belief in the Saints and the belief that being a Falcons fan is an abomination. Should you be so quick to judge people you simply don’t understand? Let us try to look beyond our personal prejudice and judge all Falcons fans as people too.
There is the growing controversy about whether Falcons fans should be entitled to the same rights as Saints fans. There has been a heated debate over same-Falcons fans marriages. Should Falcons fans be allowed to marry each other? Many are concerned that such unions will only lead to children being exposed to the Falcons and are then likely to become Falcons fans themselves.
Another controversy surrounds the bars for Falcons fans. Some people don’t want to associate with such fans and many are afraid that a Falcons fan may actually hit on them in the bar. But Falcons fans do not try to push their way of life on others who are not Falcons fans.
The growing acceptance of Falcons fans has caused many to believe that these fans feel free to openly show their love and affection for each other in public places. Parents are deeply concerned that this open display of Falcons love will cause their children to ask questions like: “Daddy, why are those two Falcons fans holding hands?” or “Mommy, why are those two Falcons fans kissing each other?” That would be an understandable nightmare for any parent who is simply trying to raise their child in a world where they don’t have to be exposed to such deviant behavior.
Many argue that the acceptance of Falcons fans will lead this country down an immoral path. If, for example, same-Falcons fan marriages are legal and accepted – what is to stop a Falcons fan from one day marrying his dog – or God forbid a Saints fan! There are actual cases of Falcons fans and Saints fans living together as domestic partners and the biggest concern--these mixed-fan couples raising children in an environment that totally goes against the traditional values of Saints fan families.
It is time for Saints fans to be more tolerant and understanding of Falcons fans and not be so judgmental of their team-orientation. I understand the outrage over their lifestyle, but we should accept them, even if we don’t understand their love for their team. Many are critical because of the way they dress, walk and talk. In the Bible it says that we should not judge others, but remember, all Falcons fans will ultimately one day be judged by God!
I have heard heartwarming stories on the air from Saints fans that were harshly judgmental of Falcons fans. It was their children’s generation that introduced them to their first Falcons fan. When their teenagers brought Falcons fans over to their house to watch a game, they got to know them and judged them not as Falcons fans, but as human beings who were born to love that lifestyle.
So, when you are sitting with your family watching the Saints – Falcons game, try to be accepting of the flamboyant, and sometimes disgusting behavior of Falcons fans in the stadium and realize that life is not easy for them. Sure, we all don’t understand what they do in the privacy of their lives, but that should not be any of our business as long as they are not hurting anyone else. I say, “Live and let live!”
I hope we can get behind the campaign promoting the greater acceptance of Falcons fans and realize if you raise your children with good values, they will not come out one day as a Falcons fan – even if they are exposed to open and public displays of love for the Falcons!
As a Who Dat Nation, we should strive to be accepting and tolerant of those who live a lifestyle that contradicts our belief in the Saints!
Any doubt that the exaggeration of reality is the life blood of the news media can be erased by several current stories in the news.
News Story #1: Tom Brady drops the F-bomb!
That headline, along with a picture of New England Patriots’ QB Tom Brady scolding an official, appeared everywhere in the news media clearly suggesting that following the Patriots’ loss to Carolina Panthers Tom Brady dropped the F-bomb live on television in front of a national audience. Technically, it is true that Brady dropped the F-bomb, when he was expressing his frustration over what many believed was a missed call by the officials, which ended the game and the Patriots’ chance to score and win. But this was more the news media’s depiction of the incident rather than an observation based in reality.
To be fair – Brady was simply venting his anger over what he thought was a blatantly missed interference call in the end zone. The ESPN cameras followed Brady as he was walking off the field and caught up with an official. Brady did use profanity, but it was intended only for the official. The profanity was barely audible, but it could be heard and Brady’s lips were easy to read – so it was obvious he dropped the F-bomb.
For the subtle use of the F-bomb in that moment of emotion and in that context to be described as “Brady drops the F-bomb” clearly demonstrates the media’s propensity to exaggerate reality for the sole purpose of grabbing the attention of the audience.
Sadly, much of the audience will accept only the headline as an accurate reflection of the moment without considering the overall context in which it was barely uttered. Through social media, the headline will spread and since the use of profanity contradicts the general public image of Tom Brady, the story generates more human interest – which is the primary goal of the news media.
News Story #2:“Exclusive interview with Toronto Mayor Rob Ford
I can’t fault the media for sensationalizing this story because it is sensational on its own. But I do want to expose the fraudulent use of the word “exclusive” by the news media.
According to the Oxford Dictionary, the word exclusive is defined as “restricted orlimited to the person, group or area concerned.” Several news networks promoted their interviews with Mayor Ford as exclusive interviews – meaning that it was an interview only that network or news source secured. But there were interviews with Mayor Ford everywhere. So how could they be exclusive?
The fact is the interviews were not exclusive and prostituting the word exclusive should cause audiences to no longer respect the use of that word by the media. This is one example and observing the news media will reveal frequent misuse of the word exclusive.
New Story #3: Jeb Bush promotes that he is a real conservative
Former Florida Governor Jeb Bush said he is a “practicing” conservative during a question-and-answer session before the 92nd Street Y in New York City last night. That led to several news stories comparing Jeb Bush to Chris Christie, who has been portrayed as a more moderate Republican in the wake of his overwhelming election victory in New Jersey.
Since the news media’s primary goal is to attract the largest possible audience, it is motivated by the instinct to create conflict and drama – two important elements in any compelling entertainment. The recent national buzz about Chris Christie being the savior of the Republican Party, because he is perceived to be more moderate than many high-profile conservative Republicans, presented the news media with the perfect scenario to continue exposing what has been described as the civil war within the Republican Party over more conservative or more moderate ideology.
In his recent book, “Informing the News,” author Thomas Patterson quotes linguist George Zipf in describing the news media’s tendency to imply the “principle of least effort,” when creating conflict in news stories. Patterson addresses the news media taking a comment from one politician and then finding a strongly opposing opinion to establish conflict about an issue. The news media, in most cases, fails to add context or depth to the newly created debate and further fuels the flames of the conflict.
Since the news media is trying to grab our attention in its goal of attracting a mass audience for every news story, it is imperative that we, the audience, understand this underlying motive and not be so quickly swayed by the sharp divide which serves to create drama in the news.
We, the audience, should also become cognizant of the fact that the news media will destroy the meaning of words like exclusive in a self-serving attempt to promote the brand of the news outlet. And the news media will go to great lengths to create controversy over an incident like Tom Brady dropping the F-bomb live on a national broadcast to stir the emotions of those who are convinced that America’s morality is lost forever!
The audience is eager to blame the media for the very strategy that does attract their attention. But, shouldn’t it be the responsibility of the audience to better observe how and why the news media presents its content?
Since there is a tendency to define the world we live in by headlines, sound bites, Facebook posts and tweets, it is easy to create hysteria in America.
Recently, two different headlines might enhance the fear that the government, in particular a liberal mentality, is removing God and patriotism from our society, thus escalating the downward spiral of American values.
In New Jersey, the Bordentown Regional School District posted a message online announcing a ban on all religious Christmas music. The banning of Christmas music in public schools in the interest of respecting separation of church and state becomes an annual holiday controversy. And every year there are those who protest such bans on religious Christmas music. However, those who do protest also spread the fear that the evil government is removing God from our society.
In Sioux Falls, South Dakota, veterans asked for the daily recitation of the Pledge of Allegiance from elementary schools through high schools. This week, the School Board approved the request for elementary and middle schools, but not for the high schools because since high schools do not have homerooms or regular assemblies, it would be difficult to find the right time to have the Pledge recited every day.
Those who protest the banning of religious Christmas music, or reference to God or Jesus in public places, and the veterans who protest omission of the Pledge of Allegiance do more than protest that absence of God or patriotism. Aided by the media, the protests actually attempt to promote an alleged widespread national conspiracy to strip American society of its moral values, and this fuels the hysteria about the immoral path this country is headed down.
I have talked to many listeners on “The Scoot Show” on WWL about their perception that the government is taking away America’s moral compass. But in all of those conversations, not one person has adequately explained precisely how the government has taken away their moral values. Because of the deep political divide in America, we are now a nation that seems less focused on our own lives and more focused on the lives of everyone else.
Whether it is God or patriotism, I have seen no government-level attempt to prohibit belief in God or country. I support Christmas music in public schools and Nativity scenes in public, but I also understand that if Christmas is allowed, all religions must be allowed, and it might be easier to separate Church and State in the interest of fairness. Remember, freedom in this country is tested not by what we know and understand, but by the things we don’t know or understand.
I still hear the irrational argument that it was the removal of prayers from public schools that marked the beginning of America’s decline. If only it were that easy to explain! In the early 1960s, when the Supreme Court ruled that public schools, as government institutions, could not direct or lead prayers in classrooms, there were many changes simultaneously taking place in American society.
The attitudes that were changing in America became the foundation of the anti-Establishment rebellion in the mid-60s, which was the collective action of today’s Establishment. The battles over birth control, integration and other social issues were part of a changing America. Pointing to the removal of prayers from public schools as the flashpoint in time when America was launched into immoral space is just the simplistic argument of those who would like the government to adopt Christianity as America’s official religion. The myth that it was the banning of prayers in public schools is to blame for the lack of moral values in America today perfectly fits into the perceived fear that America is becoming a Godless nation.
Before you buy into the hysteria that the government is robbing America of God and patriotism, ask yourself: how has any government action diminished your moral values or your patriotism?
We are so preoccupied with how everyone else will be affected by banning Christmas music or the Pledge of Allegiance, that we have lost sight of the fact that as a Nation, we are nothing more than a collection of individuals. Regardless of what is allowed in schools or on public property, no one has the power to take away your core beliefs or your ability to pray and recite the Pledge of Allegiance! Students can pray in school, the Supreme Court only ruled that schools cannot lead prayers. If your children are not praying, can you really blame the government? Or is that something you should be teaching your children?
If our nation is nothing more than a collection of individuals, then as a nation, we can only be as good as the individuals that make up this nation. If we all focus on being as moral and patriotic as we can – then we will live in a moral and patriotic nation!
The question “What’s wrong with America?” may be a question that has been asked through the decades, but it always demands an answer in the era in which it is asked. There are a lot of things America can improve on, but occasionally there are incidents that show us what, indeed, is wrong with America.
Two West Mary High School football players were arrested for allegedly getting into a physical altercation with a referee during a game on November 1. Traci Landry, spokeswoman for the St. Mary Parish Sheriff’s Office, said the teens, ages 15 and 16, were arrested last Friday on warrants for battery of a school or recreational athletic official. The names of the teens are being withheld because of their ages.
The alleged incident occurred on the field of play during a home game against Erath High School. The investigation revealed that the teens punched a referee in the head and the shoulder areas.
Earlier this year, there was a high-profile case of a teen soccer player who punched a referee during a soccer match when the referee called a penalty on the teenager. The referee, 46-year-old Ricardo Portillo, was in a coma for a week before he died. The 17-year-old soccer player pleaded guilty to a charge of homicide by assault. The teenager said that he became “frustrated” with the referee over the penalty call against him and then punched him in the head.
The incidents involving the two Louisiana teen football players accused of physically assaulting a referee and the Utah teen soccer player who pleaded guilty to punching a referee who died are isolated incidents that symbolize a growing problem with a lack of respect for authority.
Liberals can’t blame conservatives and conservatives can’t blame liberals for the lack of respect for authority. This is a problem that is manifested in the home. There are societal contributions, but parents have the responsibility to teach and demand respect for authority and there are too many indications that respect for authority is diminishing in America.
It is not surprising that we are witnessing a growing lack of respect for authority in young generations because the parents of those generations practice a lack of respect for authority in society and reinforce this disturbing trend.
I hate to use the cliché “when I was growing up,” but it does provide a first-hand perspective on life’s changes.
When I was young, it would have been unheard of for ANY young athlete to assault a referee over a bad call. Even the bad, rebellious students would not have even considered physically assaulting a referee over a bad call. The reality that young teenage athletes would instinctively react with violence during a game demonstrates a gross lack of basic respect for authority.
We hear about teachers who have been assaulted by students and teachers who fear physical violence from their students. When I was growing up, even the unruly students in class would never have considered crossing that line of respect for authority. The blatant disregard for authority in teenagers is something that is born at home – with parents. But in fairness, that is something that is also supported by the behavior of adults in society.
The parent who becomes verbally abusive with a coach or a referee at a kids’ game, or the parents who deny their child’s guilt in misbehaving at school, and even the lack of respect for the office of the Presidency, all reinforce a sense of defying authority.
As Americans, we have all witnessed disagreement over political ideology used as an excuse to disrespect the office of the presidency. It has never been more obvious than it is now with President Obama in the White House and when President George W. Bush was in the White House. As a nation, there is a difference between political disagreement and disrespect. We should all respect the office of the Presidency, but we can vehemently disagree with the person who is President. Many of those who are quick to say they cannot and will not show any respect for the office of the President because Obama is President are the same Americans who told those who hated Bush that there should be respect for the office of the President even if there is total disagreement with the man who is President.
The examples of incivility in America among adults sets a negative example for young generations who are already not being taught the art of civility. The idea that civility is a sign of weakness is the result of Neanderthal mentality. It takes more strength and courage to control the primal instinct to use force when reacting to situations that challenge us than it does to punch a wall or a referee.
I understand that some bad teens are raised by good parents in good homes, but there was a time when even the bad teens understood that there were consequences for defiance of authority.
If parents fail to teach their children respect for authority, then the burden ultimately falls on society. Unfortunately, when it gets to the point of becoming society’s responsibility - before we administer our punishment – others may have suffered at the hands of a frustrated teenager who was never taught the skills to deal with conflict or their emotions.
In the case of the 17-year-old soccer player in Utah, the teen pleaded guilty, but his moment of rage leaves 3 young girls without a father.
The single thing that we as a nation should demand is that parents act as parents and not only teach, but also practice civility and respect for authority. The great thing about this simple requirement is that it costs nothing and it’s something every parent can do and failure to do so cannot be blamed on liberals or conservatives – only oneself.
One of the oldest and most-debated questions surrounding entertainment is whether any medium (TV, radio, movies, Internet, etc.) influences audience behavior or reflects the behavior of its audience. While there may be a degree of truth that it both influences and reflects society, there has always been an argument about which it does more; influence or reflect?
Conventional wisdom seems to place much more emphasis on the media’s influence on society, rather than its reflection of society. Tragic school shootings and random violence, especially involving teenagers, lead to the media rushing to establish any relationship the shooters may have had with violent video games, violent movies or any form of violent entertainment.
Defining the evil that is to blame for tragedies is an instinct for both media and society. Like with any medium that is driven by the goal of attracting the largest possible audience, the news media strives to provide a script that conveniently identifies the villain or the evil force against which society can rant. A well-defined script, or news story, has a better chance of capturing the attention of an audience that is bombarded by thousands of flashes of information, images and storylines every day.
Over the past year, I have addressed this issue in several blogs. When tragedy strikes, humans innately need to know who or what is to blame. By understanding who or what is to blame, the immediate focus turns to the solutions that will prevent future tragedies. Through society’s desire to define the evil source that has inspired a tragedy, the general public becomes satisfied that the next step is to work on a solution, but if the problem is inaccurately defined in haste, then any proposed solutions do nothing to actually solve the real problems.
Politicians are often too willing to settle for a perceived problem that the public easily accepts, instead of addressing the truth, or the actual problem, which is more confusing for public comprehension. It is always in the best interest of any politician to find an evil influence that is tangible, since that is something they can address and then attempt to satisfy voters by supporting legislation that will either ban or control the evil influence – for example, violent entertainment. The idea that violent entertainment is to blame for the unacceptable level of violence in society is a more tangible and far less complicated than addressing the issues of parenting, education and mental health. Those issues do not allow for the easy solutions demanded by society.
The new study showing that gun violence in movies rated PG-13 tripled over the last 20 years will lead much of the media and the audience to the quick conclusion the increase in violence in movies explains why there is an increase in violence in the real world. That is the convenient and simplistic conclusion, but is it the right conclusion?
The National Crime Victimization Survey from the Bureau of Justice Statistics, 1993-2011 shows that gun incidences, victims and the gun crime rate have decreased. If, in reality, gun violence is down – then why is there so much talk about the dangerous influence of violent entertainment on society?
Beginning with my days sitting in a Communication Theory class (which was the toughest and the most enlightening course I had ever taken) it has been my belief that the media more reflects society than dictates behavior. Even television commercials will not inspire viewers to do something they don’t really want to do. Can you think about a commercial that persuaded you to do something you really didn’t want to do – or if you are honest, you will probably admit that if a choice you made as a consumer proved to be a wrong choice, then you were predisposed to make that decision to buy and the suggestion presented in the commercial appealed to even a deep subconscious predisposition. Persuasive car commercials will not convince you to go out and buy a car, however, if you are in the market for a car or if you have even thought about getting a new car, then a persuasive car commercial could inspire you to select a particular make and model.
If a new study shows that gun violence in movies rated PG-13 has tripled over two decades, the general conclusion will be that the gun violence in movies is inspiring gun violence in the real world. But, if gun violence in the real world has actually decreased, then why will blaming violence in movies for real violence attract so much attention?
If it is true that the media reflects society – its audience – then the media would reflect society’s tendencies. The widespread belief that violence in entertainment is to blame for violence in the real world is reflected in the way the media covers gun violence stories. We may not be able to pinpoint which came first – the media’s infatuation with blaming violence in entertainment for real world violence, or the audience’s belief that violent entertainment is to blame for real violence – and it really shouldn’t matter. Today, the media reflects and feeds on society’s instinct to blame violent entertainment for inspiring real world violence.
Audiences are quick to condemn the media for the selection, slant and substance of the stories it covers, but if the media more reflects the audience it entertains and informs, then blaming the media is equal to blaming the reflection you see looking into a mirror on the mirror. The mirror is just a medium reflecting that which is looking into it. And so it is with an audience that does not like the image it sees through the media.