Thursday, January 24, 2013

Cancer, Gilda Radner and pandering to the ignorant

Posted By on Thu, Jan 24, 2013 at 1:01 PM

Reading the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette over breakfast, I came across an item in the “Names and Faces” section on page two which took me aback.

A cancer support group in Wisconsin had been considering changing the name of its organization, named after the late comedian Gilda Radner (best known to many Americans for her work on Saturday Night Live) to the more generic Cancer Support Community Southwest Wisconsin, on the grounds that many young people today might be unaware of Radner, who had herself fallen victim to ovarian cancer in 1989.

Well, that’s why God made Google, I suppose, something that seems to have escaped the attention of the folks who thought that a generic name might be somehow more comforting to folks diagnosed with cancer.

What the folks who thought this was such a dandy idea never expected was the negative feedback they got from the public, inspiring yet another “Oops” moment on behalf of those who don’t respect the past.

More than that, though, it was the pandering to the supposed concerns of young people who may have cancer - those who might somehow feel more comfort coming into a place with a cold, sterile name, rather than one named after a human being who brought laughter to others - and whose work is still available on DVD, thank you very much.

By erasing Gilda Radner’s name from the organization, the chapter set about to do what cancer could not - erase her memory.

Nice that they have seen the error of their ways. It is just terribly sad that they ever thought that a generic name would ever appeal to anyone . . . ever.

******

Oh, don’t brag to me that you don’t even own a TV set; sometimes it just makes you a snob, not smarter

Through the long years of my life, it has been my great good fortune to hear person after person after person say, with a sort of condescending smile, “I don’t even own a TV set,” as if perhaps this gave them a leg up on the intellectual ladder.

Well, it doesn’t. Sometimes it means that you are a snob, and sometimes it just means that you are an insufferable jerk.

While true that I do make fun of what can be found on the tube quite often, I also enjoy watching it a lot at times. Even though the 1970s fantasy of having 300 channels in the future ultimately meant that a lot of them turned out to be crap, or networks which repeat the same “documentaries” that other networks also carry - honestly, I don’t really believe that Albert Einstein was influenced by space people, or that you might be able to that attract Bigfoot by putting a box of donuts on top on your car - there is a lot of really good stuff out there.

I think this may be why God invented TV Guide, or the cable channel guides, so we can separate the wheat from the chaff.

And if I wanna watch Mr. Belvedere on occasion, that’s just what I’m gonna do, by gum.

There are some lost souls among the “I don’t even own a TV crowd” who sort of assume that television set owners never crack open the spine of a book, or listen to the radio, or engage in intelligent conversation with anyone. Such is hardly the case. Why, just the other day, me and some of my closest Facebook friends were debating about . . .

Yeah.

Folks may not own the Devil-box, but they may spend hours on Facebook, having “meaningful” conversations with folks.

The whole “I don’t own a TV, and so I’m just a wee bit smarter than other people” line is not only silly, it is intellectually bigoted.

*****

Lies and Damned Lies . . . especially the ones my teacher told me

One of the biggest whoppers I ever found in an education text was the charge that Satan put the idea of evolution into Charles Darwin’s head. If you have figured out that this was a book meant for home-schoolers, you would be right, but textbooks used in public schools are often just as guilty of containing misinformation.

Well, if that was the only bit of falsehood in American textbooks - as bizarre as it is - we’d probably be all right. But as James W. Loewen points out in Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, simple-minded folk believing the Devil was whispering in Darwin’s ear may be the least of our problems.

Though originally published in 1995, the matter of false history being taught to American students is still with us. And in addition to being so full of malarkey, why, in God’s name, is something so fascinating as history such a turn off to so many young people?

Loewen, the author of the excellent Lies Across America: What Our Historic Sites get Wrong, spent several years surveying the leading textbooks used in American high schools. The fact that so many books are bland, boring and full of patriotic cliches is no accident.

But it isn’t that textbook writers and publishers are trying to turn people away from history; but they really aren’t trying to make them embrace it, either. Is it any wonder that so many instructors at the college level feel their job is correct the simple-minded nonsense that many high school texts impart?

It is almost impossible on a short review to discuss the many examples that Loewen examines in his book. What seems important to write about here are the reasons for the mangling of history.

A blind nationalistic pride has guided many textbooks. We are taught how to be good citizens, and that God has a special place in his heart for America. And, oh yes, everyone can grow up to be president.

Along the way, chances are you won’t find out much about the American Indians, the contributions of minorities, or even the Vietnam War.

History is about passion, and controversy, and violent upheavals. But history texts seem to follow the path of offering facts without context, and recount passionate movements without conveying the passion. No wonder kids are bored.

Lies My Teacher Told Me is anything but boring. Not only will it make you annoyed that you weren’t exposed to these ideas in school, but it may just reawaken a love of history in your own soul.

****

Quote of the Day

"The civilized have created the wretched, quite coldly and deliberately, and do not intend to change the status quo; are responsible for their slaughter and enslavement; rain down bombs on defenseless children whenever and wherever they decide that their 'vital interests' are menaced, and think nothing of torturing a man to death: these people are not to be taken seriously when they speak of the 'sanctity' of human life, or the 'conscience' of the civilized world". - James Baldwin

rsdrake@cox.net

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