There was a time when I remember all of the news in our house was delivered by our daily newspaper in the morning and by Walter Cronkite at night on our black and white TV. I can remember my Daddy hunched over the ottoman having a tall glass of cornbread and buttermilk, eyes and ears fixed on Walter. As I lay on the living room floor, I drifted back and forth from Mrs. Weaver’s homework to the Daddy and Walter show. As I was learning Mrs. Weaver’s English lessons of the day, I was also gaining an education about politics and about my father’s reaction to the political realities of that time.
It was the 1970’s. Our country had been fighting a war thousands of miles away for almost 10 years. Much of the country had grown weary of this protracted enterprise and people were ready for our boys to come home. My mama had endured the anxiety of having two sons serve over there, and by the grace of God, they came home. One of those boys carried internal scars from that war until the day he died.
Musicians were being busted for drugs, soap operas were the rage for the American housewife, civil wars were going on in Africa, natural disasters were killing people around the world, the Middle East was wracked with strife and Politicians were trying to convince the American people that their way was the best way. There were Democrats and there were Republicans. The Democrats were the champions of social and cultural change. The Republicans were projecting a state of steadiness, order and deliberation.
Yesterday, we had the newspaper, channels 2,5 and 11(ABC,CBS,NBC) doing a short local news blurb between soap operas and then you had the nightly national news around 6:30 in the evening. Politicians could be more deliberate in what they were going to say and have more time to plan their interaction with the media and the public. They seemed to be able to set the pace and set the agenda.
Then, in 1974, the game changed. The Watergate scandal brought down a President and the political pill everyone swallowed over the news at night seemed to be sour and sometimes bitter. Dad was still watching Walter, mumbling and groaning with each new spoonful of cornbread and buttermilk and I was still scratching my head over English.
Today, we are in a new ballgame, or are we? We are fighting wars thousands of miles away from home. Although the causes are more clear and personal, we would love for our sons and daughters to come home. Musicians and movie stars are still being busted for drugs. They just canceled a couple of soap operas because the American housewife is going out to work more these days. Civil wars are still happening in Africa and natural disasters continue to kill and wreak havoc all over the world.
The Middle East is still wracked with strife and violence, maybe even a little more so these days and yes, Politicians are still trying to convince the American people that their way is the best way.
But today, we have more players in the game. We still have our old gold standard newspaper, but Walter is gone. Today he has a lot of company. We still have the standards ABC, CBS and NBC, but we also have cable news today. CNN, MSNBC,FOX,CNBC,C-SPAN. Each one trying get a larger slice of the American ear. But that’s not all, we also have a relatively new invention called the internet. Every morning when we are settling in to work, between the coffee and donuts or yogurt and juice, we turn on this box on our desk and we have a whole new medium vying for a slice of our attention. MSN, YAHOO and others add to our daily diet of news and politics.
The Democrats, well, they are still the champions of social and cultural change. The Republicans want stability, steadiness, order and fiscal restraint. But today, they all have to be quicker and faster in their game because there are many more players in the game trying to get the spotlight.
Today, when I get home from work, we have supper and then my daughter has to do her homework. She is torn between math fractions and Nintendo DS. Her mother tells her to get busy as she flips through a myriad of cable channels. I get up and go back into the kitchen and open up the newspaper, relishing the silence and solemnity. My mind drifts back to those days in the living room floor.