Saturday, January 26, 2008


Where are all the truly great people in our world? I've been reflecting on the life of the Revered Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. this week. I've been thinking about the virtuosity for which he is so known. He was a brilliant, powerful public figure who stood not for might and control, but for peace and justice. In a world where power is defined by one's ability to call the shots, Dr. King proved once and for all that life lived as example could motivate monumental change.

So I ask again, where are the truly great people in our world? I've heard it said that the constant media attention keeps anyone from appearing as saintly as Dr. King. Had he lived today, his faults and failings would have be exposed; we would not have seen him in the same light. I don't think that's true. We've recently learned some sad, yet incredible truths about the life of Mother Theresa that could potentially tarnish her legacy. I don't find this all that likely either. The sheer truth of the impact made upon this planet by those select individuals known, both formally and informally, as saints will outweigh any detractions we could ever discover. That is not to say that the ends justify the means in every instance, but that we will never cease to be amazed at the righteousness that can be wrought through the life of one committed, if flawed, individual.

But the question still remains, where are the truly great people in our world? In this age of increased globalization, in an era where the round world has suddenly become flat, in a time where people anywhere can communicate and collaborate with anyone on the planet, we may need to look at the work of great people in a different way. Perhaps the very scrutiny of society will force us to realize just how inadequate individuals are in the grand scheme of things. We are always amazed at the likes of Dr. King because we see ourselves as unprepared and unqualified to do anything of significance in this world of ours.

So to answer the question, the truly great people in our world are those around us. The age of great men (and women) is giving way to the age of great people. The time of one man making a difference has moved to a time where all of us must band together and take control of our world. It is no longer enough for us to sit back and support those natural leaders and innovators, leaving them to make all the difference. As this world becomes more and more a gigantic community, we must understand the increasing role we all play in the success of that community. We will continue to raise up those of us most able to articulate the message, but we must rely less on the profundity of their speech and more on the power of our reality. It takes not saints nor great men to make a difference; it takes those of us who care, united under the banner of peace and justice for all.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

The Next Hurdle

I have broken away from the rigors of my daily nine hours of class for a few moments of literary clarity. The news came out today that my choice for President of the United States has decided to call it quits. While there has been no official announcement, the inevitable folding of the Kucinich 2008 campaign is finally upon us.

I know what you're all saying, "Kucinich? Isn't he that little loon who's always whining about how his campaign doesn't get a fair shake?" Yeah, that's exactly who he is, although 'loon' is a bit hypocritical from someone talking to their computer screen. Dennis Kucinich is the only candidate who has any sort of moral cohesion to his campaign. He doesn't take money from special interests and he doesn't strategically change positions depending on the outcome of polls. He's committed to peace, community, and care for the poor; all of those things more than cover his belief in UFOs.

I did not, and still do not want this blog to be of a political nature; it's one of the reasons I've refrained to mention my favorite candidate until he's announced the end of his campaign (even though he could have used the PR). So I won't waste time extolling his plan to institute a Cabinet level Department of Peace, guaranteeing free education through college, and transforming the health care system into a non-profit entity.

I am going to use this space to mention and ruminate on an important observation of this campaign. I am overjoyed to see that the age-old prejudices of race and gender are crumbling in American politics. I don't pretend to think that these problems are not serious and ongoing, but it seems that finally, in politics, a qualified minority candidate can get a fare shake.

It may be time to move on to the next step in the egalitarianizing of the United States: appearance. Do you know the moment that Congressman Kucinich's long-shot campaign came to an end? It happened about nine months ago, before the first debate, when Saturday Night Live had him played by an extremely short woman. I don't begrudge Lorne Michaels and the gang this triviality. It was satirical, appropriate and quite humorous. I am more bemoaning the fact that all of those things are true in this country.

We've gotten to a point where the tone of one's pigment or the chromosomes of one's body no longer have a bearing on our opinion of them (on a broad scale). However, appearance is just as much a problem as it has always been. An interesting report came out last week on those internet candidate polls. People can work through a series of questions and answers which help them see which candidates best fit their beliefs on important election issues. The study found that the overwhelming majority of people who took the survey came up with Dennis Kucinich as their #1 match, though most continued to support whoever they supported prior to the survey.

Now Kucinich is merely an example here. We've known for a long time that our President has to be pretty. Exit polls for the last 25 years have shown that an alarming percentage of the population cast their vote for the "more attractive" candidate. We're a culture driven by visual stimuli. Time ran a story a few months back with findings that people were less likely to support candidates if they were balding or had gray hair. I don't propose a solution to this epidemic; I doubt one exists to be found. I just wish we'd stop patting ourselves on the back so hard about our ability to judge political candidates objectively. Barack Obama would not have the same support if he spoke as he does, but looked and dressed like Al Sharpton.

This is where Kucinich becomes a bad example. His policies and platform were idealistic at best and impossible at worst. He was never really taken seriously because he doesn't play within the normal rules of politics. But we need only look around us to see further evidence. The women in ancient period movies are always clean, hairless, and sporting impeccable skin despite the lack of American cultural mores, showers, and Neutrogena. If you want to stick to the political realm, we can do that too. Earlier this week Fred Thompson bowed out of the Republican race. Here was a man with little or no interest in running for President who wowed supporters for months with both his towering stature and powerful performance as a Manhattan District Attorney on Law and Order.

I'll climb back into my hole and my "unaffiliated"
(as they call independent voters in Kansas) existence and continue to wait for the other shoe to fall. I just hope that someday, most likely long after I'm gone, that society can reach the point of choosing leaders for reasons other than "they look the part."

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Where's the Beef?

OK, if I'm going to be doing more frequent blog posts, the level of discourse may have to be lowered at times. This... is one of those times.

I'm not sure if you've been watching much television since the writer's strike has dragged into it's sixth fortnight, but Burger King, the always a bridesmaid, never a bride of national burger chains, has introduced a new ad campaign. If you're too lazy or lack the bandwidth to take a look, I'll summarize: the premise of these commercials is that Burger King has stopped serving their signature burger, the Whopper, and they film real reactions on hidden camera.

Needless to say, despite the general lack of quality or originality in their food products, there are serious Burger King customers out there who will freak out if they can't get a Whopper. I might be able to put a whole post together about the suspicious nature of these so-called "real" reactions, but let's take a step back and analyze what these commercials are really saying.

Suspend your disbelief and imagine that you love Whoppers, just absolutely cherish every moment of flame-broiled scrumtrilescence. You walk into the local BK and order the number one special with Mr. Pibb (or whatever quenches your imaginary thirst), only to find out that the Whopper no longer exists! It would be a funny joke and a great prank. I am all for hilarious and time-consuming pranks, but is it really wise to publicize this as a means of increasing business?

You know what these commercials say to me?

Welcome to Burger King: where you may or may not get what you ordered!

And we wonder why they consistently fail to compete on a national level?

Monday, January 14, 2008

Contract with America

Due to the strong example of the writer of a fantastic blog, I am hereby committing to write more often. It's not as though I have been entirely absent from the writing profession, what with the graduate level research papers and contributions to other websites, not to mention the myriad of message board postings, I am keeping up some measure of skill.

I will admit, however, to neglecting a gift, a joy, a necessity in my life. I am not taking the proper time to reflect in writing on the world around me. Since a few lucky readers have stroked my ego by expressing more than luke-warm responses to previous postings, I may continue this reckless foray into the digital unknown.

I am, as yet, unsure of exactly what sort of format these new postings will take, if they take any specific form at all. I've seen the challenge out there to post on a daily basis; frankly, that frightens me. I will commit to posting at least weekly and attempt to post even more often. Now that my schedule is a bit different, I do have access to blogspot more often, which means when the mood strikes there is a greater chance I can get it down in permanent form.

Flipping through the channels around lunchtime today, I caught Charlie Rose on PBS. Often cited as the best interviewer in the world (we'll say 'in television' in deference to Terry Gross and the best interview show anywhere), Charlie does a good job of getting interesting material out of both interesting and uninteresting people alike. I'm not sure which category Philip Pullman falls into, but he was the subject of today's interview. You may know Pullman from recent headlines, but he is first and foremost a writer, with some good advice. He said that he writes 1,000 words everyday. Some days it takes fourteen hours and other days it only takes two. Either way he puts in the routine work that adds up to greatness. My wife just finished two of his books and seems to agree.

In short we'll call this the Philip Pullman challenge. I may not make the word requirement or even the daily requirement, but I will attempt to be more regular (which also wouldn't hurt in the other meaning of that phrase either). Until then, peace and contentment to you and remember to wash your hands (there's a nasty gastrointestinal thing going around and it's not pretty).