|Electronic Superhighway: Continental U.S., Alaska, Hawaii, by Nam June Park (Smithsonian Museum of American Art)|
It can be done. But takes effort and you risk suffocation.
At least I assume that would be the case. To be honest, I've never tried breathing through a straw. Just as I've never settled for getting my news from television.
Though occasionally I watch, typically after some big story—the fire at Notre Dame Cathedral in Paris—or during some special news event, such as the Democratic Presidential Debates in Detroit Tuesday and Wednesday night. Invariably I'm let down, seeing endless iterations of something I learned on Twitter five hours earlier.
I suppose there is comfort that the disappointment was more from the CNN hoopla than any Democratic misstep, which is refreshing. Fox News is unwatchable propaganda that must require a lobotomy to endure, but that doesn't make me a fan of CNN either. Five years ago I pointed out how they had abandoned journalism and lurched into performance art after the disappearance of Malaysia Airlines Flight 370, and every time I give it another try, I'm reminded of how what they do is not news but entertainment. Nearly a quarter hour passed at the start of each night, while CNN hyped the show you were already tuned into and waiting to watch, playing a sizzle reel of the various candidates that was half American Idol set-up, half WWE fight hype. Did they have to make it a cage match between Godzilla and Rodan to keep viewers from flipping over to re-runs of "The Big Bang Theory?" Maybe.
Then there was the presentation of colors. Now I love the flag, fly the flag, have no trouble seeing it honored, nor singing the National Anthem. Why CNN had to do so before a debate of our nation's most pressing problems is a mystery—I've poked around, trying to find an answer; maybe readers can help. I assume the Democrats insisted, to dramatize they're not the traitors the Republicans insist they are. If so it was an odd and time-wasting bit of reactive pageantry. Aren't the flag pins enough?
The CNN moderators—Jake Tapper, Dana Bash and Don Lemon—seemed intent on creating drama, on getting the various candidates to clash with each other, or force them to admit they'll do something unpopular, like raise taxes, rather than explore the policies they were promoting. Maybe CNN thinks that makes good television; then again, so would having Joe Biden and Kamala Harris arm wrestle.
Maybe that's next. Or maybe it's aimed at people who aren't me. I'm not really the target audience. The only way I made it through both debates was that I had my wife and younger son to provide running commentary and discussion, not to mention Facebook Scrabble on my iPhone to help pass the time—I didn't bother tweeting, as I did in years past, as Twitter is so clotted by ads and big footed by social media stars there hardly seemed any point in doing so.
That's the bad news. The good news is that the Democratic candidates, all 20 of them, put on performances that ranged from credible to excellent in this second set of debates. There was much sensible emphasis on health care, one of the great social issues of our time. Even self-help guru Marianne Williamson, who delivered oblique calls to govern with love the first time around, scored points and even—dare I say it?—made sense at times. Joe Biden, the front runner, got beat up on, though not as much this time, and had a tendency to clam up too quickly when the moderators tried to cut him off, a bad sign for succeeding in any coming mudpit wrestle with Donald Trump. Kamala Harris, the California senator and former attorney general, did well again, though not quite as well as before, while tech maven Andrew Yang did better. He kept to his one trick pony plan of paying every American a grand a month, and the concept—why should only farmers and Amazon get big government breaks?—started to make some sense. Corey Booker pushed for unity, The first night Elizabeth Warren, whom I initially wrote off as a crank, appeared grounded, and even Bernie Sanders seemed less crazed, though he would do better not to yell everything he says. He's on television, not standing on a stump in Vermont in 1850, trying to project to the top hatted listeners in the back of the crowd.
Any one of them would be a far better president than Donald Trump—that goes without saying. As to whether they can win, given the natural advantage enjoyed by a sitting president, the fervor of his supporters, who back him in the face of a constant barrage of ethical lapses, racist statements and acts, and groveling before dictators, is another matter. But there is cause for hope—the seeds are in the ground, the sprouts are rising toward the sun, and at least the cloud of dooming locusts hasn't presented itself early in the season. They'll be plenty of time for desperation later, but I'm content to begin the first day of August with a ray of hope.