Cumberland Times-News

Columns

December 29, 2012

John Adams might be surprised byf this

“I must study politics and war that my sons may have liberty to study mathematics and philosophy. My sons ought to study mathematics and philosophy, geography, natural history and naval architecture, navigation, commerce and agriculture, in order to give their children a right to study painting, poetry, music, architecture, statuary, tapestry, and porcelain.”

Those are John Adams’ famous words, from over 200 years ago, indicating his hopes and dreams for the future of this country that he so loved. Leaving aside the fact that he was horrendously unpolitically correct (he had two daughters as well as three sons), let’s see how that worked out for him. Do you suppose he was looking forward to Lindsay Lohan? Hard rock and rap, and all the works of modern television such as Real Housewives of Practically Anywhere (who are as different from each other as barbie dolls) and Hawaii Five-O — which I haven’t watched but which appears from the commercials to revel in sex and violence, like the rest of the television world, not to mention the movies. And The Bad Girls’ Club, which I take at its word, and the Kardashians, which, when they aren’t actively trashy, are trying to be. (I speak from hearsay and watching commercials on some of this, and even then I know I am not reaching the true depths of the crap that is available to all comers on TV and the internet.)

I know it’s not easy for some to find a wholesome show consistently interesting, especially when the unwholesome ones can always keep you focused. But maybe at times like that you should go read a book. Much of the TV I wach is the Waltons and Hallmark Channel. And I am beginning to panic, because the Waltons saga is almost done. It’s a calendar day when I see a Walton show that is new to me. and anyway it was never the same again when John-Boy left.

Do you ever wonder what John-Boy thinks of the world he lives in nowadays? Don’t tell me he’s a cynic, please, all that hard-won wisdom of his lost to world-weariness. I prefer to think that at least he shakes his head in bewilderment from time to time. Or at least sighs heavily when he tunes in to 2012-13 television. (I really can’t speak for the opportunities beyond television, except I do know their limits for junk and worse are boundless.)

Worse yet, the Hallmark movies are starting to look like the same movie recycled a hundred times. It doesn’t seem fair that wholesomeness all looks the same after a while, and violence and sex always look new and different. Oh, hey, I know why — I never watch violence and sex if I can help it, so of course it will look different — for a while. I give it about two weeks of steady consumption before it all looks the same too. Maybe it’s a problem in the human brain.

It’s not just television either. The whole world is changed by the electric surge of trash in the culture.

Take quilts, for instance, Quilts? Yes, quilts. Those beautiful soft cozy quilts that are noted for their earnest wholesome traditional hand-made character. A Washington Post article last year mentioned Mary Beth Beulah (or a name close to that — I can’t read my handwriting) who enjoys making salacious quilts. Some of her subjects have included naked men, Jesus with a gun (I consider that totally obscene myself), and other unusual quilt subjects I prefer not to mention here. I suppose there are some grounds to assert that all this breaks new ground in the quilt industry, and therefore shows artistic genius, about which I would have to argue that just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s genius.(And yes, at risk of alienating my readers, half of whom are a man) I do believe men are more into all this than women are.)

Poor Moon. Poor Mars. They are on the verge of being populated by earth creatures who have become used to the dizzying delights of violence — of violence, evidenced in five out of 10 movies by world-shaking explosions and fireballs before our very eyes. We are seeing more and more of them on TV and in movies these days. (Not to mention all those new medicines for testosterone, which strike me as priming a pump that doesn’t need primed.)

I am hopeful though, that as the Internet generation ages, along with all its sex and violence and game-playing fixations on violence and sex, the world will return to a more balanced view of life. On the other hand, not very hopeful.

Would John Adams approve of the entertainments his descendents are amusing themselves with these days? I don’t think so. And if he did find himself inadvertently watching the latest vampire movie (although these are more silly than wicked). I figure Abigail would set him back a step or two, as she had a habit of doing back in the day.

“Luxury, that baneful poison,” she told him once, “ has unstrung and enfeebled (America’s) sons.”

Maybe it’s Abigail we need nowadays, more than John. She certainly had the jump on him as far as the future was concerned.

Maude McDaniel is a Cumberland freelance writer. Her column appears in the Times-News on alternate Sundays.

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