When Will It End?

Posted on 30 July 2013


As reality television continues to grow in popularity, Americans are becoming a nation of voyeurs.  Whether its Toddlers and Tiaras, Jerseylicious, Snooki and JWoww, Sister Wives, or Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, the American fascination with the lives, loves, oddities, fortunes, and misfortunes of others seems to have no bounds.  This fascination extends even to the news where, much like the character of Howard Beale in the 1976 film Network, talking heads like Chris Matthews, Al Sharpton, Bill O’Reilly, Sean Hannity, and Rachel Maddow proselytize their own political points of view and bemoan anything in the news, politics, or society that does not conform to their one-sided opinions – all in the name of ratings.


But, in recent months, Nancy Grace, Jane Velez Mitchell, and the HLN network have hit the ratings jackpot with coverage of perhaps the greatest reality show of them all – murder trials.  Americans have long enjoyed the human drama and sensationalism of the courtroom, helping vault television shows such as Perry Mason, The Defenders, and L.A. Law to long-running ratings success.  And, in the Jodi Arias trial, HLN discovered its Hitler.  The combination of an attractive female defendant, fetish sexuality, and murder had viewers from coast-to-coast focused on the trial.


Following upon the success of the Arias trial, HLN turned to the George Zimmerman case.  Charged with second-degree murder in the shooting of Trayvon Martin, a 17-year old African-American high school student, the Zimmerman case – although lacking the kinky sex appeal of the Arias case – added the element of racial profiling and a possible racial motivation for the crime.  With Zimmerman’s acquittal, America has found itself in another civil war, with civil unrest sprouting across our country.  Once again, the specter of hate has reared its ugly head, provoking thoughts of revenge, spawning distrust in our government and legal system, and stirring racial tensions.


With the end of the Civil War came the formal abolition of slavery in America.  Yet, its specter lived on in the form of discrimination and lack of economic opportunities for African-Americans.  The fomenters of hate accepted that they had lost the battle but would not lose the war.  Like the Cold War, tensions between races ran high, and former slaves and their descendants, although free men and women, remained stigmatized and were viewed as second-class citizens in many parts of our country.


The early 1900’s witnessed a major influx of immigrants from Western Europe.  Like the slaves, each ethnic group arriving to America’s shores experienced stigmatization and discrimination.  As a result, the various ethnic groups, be they Italian-Americans, Irish-Americans, or others, banded together and established themselves in segregated neighborhoods of America’s cities and towns.  While pursuing citizenship, they nonetheless instilled in their children pride in their families, heritages, and cultures.


The segregation of ethnicities endured during the Great Depression.  With the outbreak of World War II, however, many young Americans of military age found themselves thrown together with others from all parts of this great nation.  Coming together to defend our way of life and defeat tyranny, these young people learned to understand and respect the diverse lifestyles of their brothers in arms.


With the end of World War II, America found some of her sons returning with brides from all over the world.  The ultimate acceptance of these new family members helped forge the image of America as a melting pot.  Yet, marriages and even friendships across racial lines remained very rare.


Today, we live in a society much more multiculturally integrated.  In Barack Obama, we elected our first African-American President.  We have accomplished much, but we still have a long way to go.  There are still individuals and groups promoting hatred to advance their own personal agendas.


Perhaps, we can find inspiration in the words of the song You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught from the Broadway play “South Pacific.”  The song’s lyrics begin “you’ve got to be taught to hate and fear…”  If hatred and fear of those different from ourselves, whether by color, language, or creed, must be taught, then mankind in his natural state is free from hate.


Upon the ascendance of her husband to the Presidency of the United States, Michelle Obama remarked that her view of America had changed.  And, changed it has in its 237 years of existence.  Yet, it is up to a new generation of leaders to complete the work of making our society blind to color or creed.


Until then, we the people of the United States will have to wonder when will it all end?


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