A Nation About Nothing
The iconic TV situation comedy, Seinfeld, was described by its star as “a show about nothing.” Of course, we understood what he meant. It was actually a funny and touching show about the lived experiences of a group of middle class white friends. Sometimes the events on the show seemed like they were “nothing.” But millions of viewers could relate to what was going on. They could laugh at the absurdity or cry with the sorrow being shown. But…we still knew that it was not real. We were watching quality entertainment, expressly made to distract us from reality. This has been a key role of television, movies, plays, concerts, pop culture magazines and sports in America for as long as any of us can remember.
Unfortunately, in recent years, being about “nothing” has taken on a different connotation in America. It’s about a lack of direction, a lost sense of mutual commitment; a lack of shared belief in the common good. It’s about living a life about “nothing.” We watch nonsense about celebrities and their gaudy, vapid existence, as if it matters to us. We watch millionaire real estate brokers selling $50 million homes to spoiled, wealthy business people and wonder if we would have chosen the same wall sconces. We see Ken and Barbie lookalikes playing house with strangers on so-called reality shows, wondering if we would have picked that guy or girl to hook up with.
And all the while, we manage to gloss over the news of the day. We see innocent people murdered on the streets of our cities or in far away places we know little about. Our fellow citizens are dying all around us of a modern day plague. Horrific human rights violations pile up near and far. Natural disasters of every size and type are destroying lives. Political decisions that astonish us with their lack of care for the human consequences keep on coming.
What is it that we stand for as a country? What are the guiding principles we will never abandon? We hear nothing, say nothing, and do nothing. We have become a nation about nothing.
Oh, I almost forgot to mention — did you hear about it? Monica Lewinsky has a new mini-series coming soon on NBC. Cool, huh?