Obama had to move his big jobs speech up to 7pm (EST) so as not to interfere with the first football game of the season. This speaks to two points:
1.) How far Obama has fallen in the public’s eyes. The President’s approval rating has reached a new low and it’s not tough to see why. The economy isn’t growing new jobs, unemployment remains stuck at over 9%, and people see banks returning to normal while their own lives have fallen apart. Beyond that, it says something that a gifted orator like Obama can no longer command an audience. Part of that speaks to the public’s weariness with politicians in general and the continued disenchantment with Obama and his pro-big business policies with only lip service to small businesses.
2.) We care more about entertainment than we do about our country. Will Obama’s speech be full of big ideas, empty promises, and a vague road map sure to be thwarted at every turn by Republicans? Probably. But this is a Presidential Address. Our country’s leader is speaking. You may not agree with what he has to say but this isn’t Sunday’s weekly, “Hey, how ya doin’ America? Really wish the Republicans would shape up. Oh well.” He wants prime time and the country says, “Sorry, but we’re ready for some football.” So Obama has to move his speech up to 7pm (4pm PST when most people will be in front of a TV), and it sends the message that the speech is less important than a sporting event. The speech is about jobs, it’s about the economy, it’s about putting our country back to work, but unfortunately there are two championship teams squaring off and we don’t want people to miss the first quarter.
And that speaks to the greater character of our country: our entertainment is more important than our nation’s welfare. We are amusing ourselves to death. Even how we perceive our politics is cast in the mold of entertainment. We don’t want to hear policy. We want to hear who’s up, who’s down, who looks good, who looks bad, the latest flub, the soaring rhetoric, and enjoy the horserace.
Even outside this “Football Beats the President” story, we can’t afford to not be plugged into something. I went to the pharmacy today and people waiting for their prescription to be filled were immersed in their mobile device, myself included. I was handling e-mail but there was nothing urgent in my inbox. Our phones are filled with games, music, movies, the Internet and everything to help us dodge the awkward silence and interactions with the people sitting next to us. A guy who looks down and doesn’t talk to anyone at a party is awkward and shy. A guy who looks down and doesn’t talk to anyone but is typing into his iPhone might be awkward and shy, but he looks busy and perhaps even important as he can’t be bothered by the people around him due to his intense game of Angry Birds.
Entertainment is important. It’s our cultural touchstone. It’s how we’ve come to communicate with each other and define our identity through our interests. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that. But when entertainment is deemed more important than a Presidential Address, then our citizenship no longer really matters. We don’t belong to America because we’re now part of the Packers nation or Team Edward or the Browncoats. I was never a big believer in pledging allegiance to the flag, but now we pledge our allegiance to our entertainment. We pledge allegiance, to the entertainment, of the United States of Distraction, and to the Episode, Sequel, or Game for which it stands, one Nation, under fandom, with liberty and justice for all who are on my side.
**Please note that when I say “we”, I’m not using it in the accusatory sense that really means “Everybody but me.” I’m as guilty of these distractions as anyone if not more so since my job is to cover movies, TV, and video games plus I’m a big football fan.**
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