Wednesday, April 27, 2016

What Americans Want

I am an observer of trends. It's sort of what I do for a living. What I mostly observe is my country and its culture. I'm not as smart as De Tocqueville or as witty as O'Rourke, and my conclusions may be vastly different than yours...but I have a blog and you don't.


The number of Americans who identify themselves as religious is declining, as is church attendance. As a result, many churches are casting about in desperation to curb the exit of members by recasting church doctrine to emphasize inclusiveness. Church music has become more hip, church teachings have become more chill, and yet the exodus continues. What Americans seem to want is religion that makes no demands of us, churches that require no changes in our behavior. Of course, this puts churches in a tough spot since religion is sort of in the behavior-changing business. But in a country where more than anything people want their lifestyles validated and celebrated, any organization that claims to be in possession of universal truth in the form of sacred texts or the Son of God, is in big trouble.


There has been much to observe in the politics arena over the past 9 months, much of it depressing. But I think our politics can be summarized thusly. Republicans seem to want someone, anyone who isn't a politician. The less experienced and more unmoored from reality the better. So fed up with conventional politicians are they that they seem determined to throw their support to a man with orange hair, bleached teeth and a tanning bed addiction. Democrats seem to want someone who promises to find a way to give them everything they want while finding a way to make someone else pay for it. The someone else always seems to be what for Democrats is that boundless fount of all grand entitlements...the 1%. In their hearts they wish it were Bernie, but in their heads they vote Hillary.


Food has taken over television. It's like Hollywood has finally run out of stories and has now decided to make the preparation of food the new national pastime. It's worked! My wife watches practically all of them. My favorite is the Pioneer Woman, but there are a thousand of them, these new kitchen gods and goddesses. Now, they've dragged kids into the ubiquitous cooking competition shows, eight year old kids plotting and scheming to win at any cost a knock down drag out battle over which adolescent can whip up the fluffiest soufflé. New shows proliferate like the nika virus on the Food Network. One of them, Diners, Drive-ins and Dives, has ellevated the greasy spoon to cult-like status. At the other end of the universe, Ina Garten serves up haute cuisine for her 1% buddies in the Hamptons as the Barefoot Contessa. And we wonder why there's an obesity epidemic?


Soccer may be the world's game, but here in America it's the NFL...and everybody else. Professional football hangs over the sports world like a giant Zeppelin, blocking out the sun for months at a time. When we aren't obsessed with the actually games, we obsess over the draft, the combines, the commissioner, and the off season legal troubles of its biggest stars. My sport, baseball, is a footnote on Sports Center just after the ten minute report on Johnny Manziel's latest rehab stint. We Americans want...violence... in our pastimes. So what does Major League Baseball do? We eliminate the home plate collision. It's like football is run by Donald Trump and baseball is run by Bernie Sanders.