My Wish for a Brand New World

Pardon my departure from my usual "Healthy Writers Club" Friday post, but the decidedly creative Jaye Robin Brown came up with a great idea for an end of the year blogfest. We have all been hearing so much hype about Mayan calendars the end of the world that JRo decided to give the apocalypse a positive spin. Here's what she has to say:

Last night I was thinking about the Mayan calendar and the whole thing about the world ending on Friday. This got me thinking.

If the world ends on Friday......

Then on Saturday.....

We wake up to a brand new world!

I know I'm not the only one out there with IDEAS on what they'd like this brand new world to look like. So here's your opportunity to go deep, be profound, maybe silly, whatever your style. So go ahead and sign up now, but between Thursday and Saturday, come back and hop around and envision a brand new world. Writer style.

JRo's words got me thinking, and I realized I have LOTS of ideas for a brand new world. The tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary highlights just how screwed up this place we call home can be, and although I know bad things will happen no matter what, I still would love to see a culture shift in response to this.

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
In particular, I wish we would begin to value public education the way we value celebrities and sensationalism. I wish Sandy Hook Elementary School Principal Dawn Hochsprung's yearly salary wasn't roughly $100,000, and I wish Victoria Soto--the heroic teacher who died shielding her students from gunfire--didn't make between $38,000 and $59,000 a year. (Salaries based on CT averages).

Compare this to reality starlet Kim Kardashian's salary of $800,000 per episode--plus countless product endorsements and appearance fees. (According to the Examiner, Kardashian is rumored to spend $80,000 a year on her beauty regime alone.)

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I also wish we would get our values in the right place. And I wish we wouldn't allow monsters like NFL quarterback and "reformed" dog fighter Michael Vick back into the public limelight, while many animal rescue organizations struggle with the constant threat of insufficient funding and bankruptcy. (Vick, by the way, makes $12.5 million a year. Yes, you read that right.)

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But let me be clear here. I am not being critical of Kim Kardashian. She is an opportunistic, business-minded mogul who has capitalized on the fact that she apparently possesses something the American public values. The same could be said for people like Snooki PolizziKate Gosselin and Honey Boo Boo. (Sorry, I just can't say this for Michael Vick. He actually has a talent, but... Sorry. I will never forgive that man for what he did to those animals.)

Photo Courtesy of Wiki Commons
What I am trying to say is that I believe it's time for us to stop criticizing and judging the majority of these so-called stars. It's time for us to start pointing the finger of blame directly at the people responsible for their success and fortune: ourselves.

Come on, tell me you haven't EVER cast a stray eye at Kim or Snooki or Kate or Honey Boo Boo in the tabloids. Maybe you have even seen their shows. And whether you've noticed them for entertainment, out of curiosity, or simply because their dysfunctions and poor decisions made you feel better about yourself, you have still supported the business empire that is their success.

This may seem harsh, but I am no innocent here. I devour tabloids every time I board an airplane, and you know what? I enjoy them. I enjoy reading the crazy stories and looking at the articles about plastic surgery gone wrong, and I come away feeling superior--like I'm above all this.

But, you know what? I'm NOT, and my $3.99 (or whatever) just got funneled back into the wheels of whatever sensationalist culture we've created that actually prints this stuff.

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In the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy, a quote popped up on Facebook. It was attributed to Morgan Freeman, and it rationalized the shooter's motive by saying:

"You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here's why. It's because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine?

"Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basement see the news and want to top it by doing something worse and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he'll be remembered as a horrible monster instead of a sad nobody. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or maternity ward next."

It's a beautiful quote, isn't it? But here's the most interesting part: it wasn't actually written by Morgan Freeman. According to the Star Phoenix, it was written by a man named Mark Price from Vancouver, and he originally penned it with the expectation of only sharing it with his friends and family.

But then the quote began to spread, and some of his friends began attributing it to Freeman. A few hours after it was posted, Price reported, “If I know the internet, someone will attribute the quote to Morgan Freeman or Betty White and it’ll go viral. [edit] OH GOD IT’S ALREADY HAPPENING."

As you can imagine, Price has received criticism for allowing his post to spread this way, but he stands by it. Here's what he told reporters: “I honestly wish my brush with internet fame wasn’t associated with murdered children. If what I said resonated with thousands of people, despite who they believe said it, GOOD. I stand by what I said about why it happened, and how it was reported!

“I saw a father taking his terrified child away from the school literally being chased by a Fox News reporter looking for a scoop, and that pissed me off. So no, I’m not gleefully cackling about this. But I have to admit this has been a crazy specimen of how things get out of hand online, and that it’s been astounding to watch. If it weren’t given to a celebrity, nobody would be talking about it. What got people to spread my words: The content of the message, or who supposedly said it?”

You know the scary thing? Price is absolutely right. If he hadn't "been" Morgan Freeman--the beloved actor who gave us The Shawshank Redemption, Driving Miss Daisy, and March of the Penguins--we probably would have never heard what he had to say. 

And to that, I say: Shame on us.