Our Future Will be Hunger Games USA

The nation is already accustomed to watching “reality shows” where ordinary folk — their foibles and failures — are served up as entertainment. And we’re already comfortable with an idea of separate standards for the elite folk who fly private jets to global warming conferences and the rest of us, who are meant to stay home and hang out the wash.

So, these two headlines crawling across my twitter timeline, one right behind the other, did not surprise me at all:

1) Most Literate City is Washington DC: well, that’s not really surprising. People with degrees from good schools (who have both connections and student loans) need to go where the jobs are, and our expanding government has created lots of excellent-paying jobs with good benefits. Lots of bureaucrats need to be put in place to oversee and enforce all of the new rules-for-little-people being signed into law.

2) California No Longer Requiring Eight Graders to Take Algebra. The reasoning is, the kids can’t do it, aren’t ready for it, particularly minority kids. So, rather than find ways to help bring them up to speed, let’s just make it easier, and deliver the message that we don’t expect much from them, anyway.

I read that and think back to the nuns who taught us in elementary school — and our classes usually had between 40-50 kids. We were not all “great learners”; some of us were coming from very dysfunctional home situations — alcoholism, abuse, neglect, scant funds — but they made sure we learned. They expected us to, and because that message was clear, we did.

Anyway, those two headlines reminded me of this one: Washington’s Economic Boom Financed by You

So, if the educated, literate and monied people are all going to be congregating around the “Capital City” and illiteracy (and the eventual poverty it will bring) are to be acceptable alternatives for some of us, then we are well on our way to living out The Hunger Games in all of its blithe vulgarity and hardscrabble pain.

The other thing that crossed my twitter timeline concerned the Killer Cop story about a Los Angeles police officer who is rampaging and murdering, and whose pro-gun control 21 page manifesto gives pally shout outs to Hillary Clinton, Chris Matthews, Barack Obama, (the cop loves Michelle Obama’s new bangs!) Charlie Sheen, and others. The manifesto and his bizarre addresses to public figures in news, entertainment and politics gives a sense that he’s lost touch with reality, of course, but so many of his references were television-related that I couldn’t help thinking, “this is your brain on non-stop pop-culture/political news.” I can imagine his ideological mirror writing similar praises to Limbaugh or Krauthammer. Madness precipitated by too much fantasy, too much glam-lionization of drug-addled, doltish celebrities, too much reality-obfuscating propaganda disguised as news.

We’re in a lot of trouble. The Washington Post wonders, Are we in the End Times of Trust in Government?

Oh, yes. But I think we’re also in the End Times of being able to rescue ourselves from this headlong tumble we’re taking as a nation willing to be lied to, comfortable with fakery and fecklessness, and content to caricature and sneer at the people trying to preserve basic freedoms.

Peggy Noonan’s column in the WSJ this week notes the wild approval America registered for a Super Bowl ad that featured the voice of Paul Harvey extolling smalltown virtues that are dismissed as cornball, these days:

. . .it spoke respectfully and even reverently of others. We don’t do that so much anymore. We’re afraid of looking corny or naive, and we fear that to praise one group is to suggest another group is less worthy of admiration. . .it spoke un-self-consciously in praise of certain virtues—commitment, compassion, hard work, a sense of local responsibility. . .Harvey has the farmer get up before dawn, work all day, and “then go to town and stay past midnight at a meeting of the school board.” Notice the old word “town,” not “community”—that blight of a word that is used more and more as it means less and less.

. . .it explicitly put God as maker of life and governor of reality, again un-self-consciously, and with a tone that anticipated no pushback. God, you could say anything in Paul Harvey’s day.

Emphasis mine. I remember those days. How suddenly and quickly they slipped by us.

Noonan used the same column to illustrate what I mean by “reality-obfuscating propaganda” when she looks at 60 Minutes’ Steve Kroft and his recent “interview” of President Obama and Hillary Clinton:

The Kroft interview was a truly scandalous example of the genre. It was so soft, so dazzled, so supportive, so embarrassing. And it was that way from the beginning, when Mr. Kroft breathlessly noted, “The White House granted us 30 minutes.” Granted. Like kings. [...] We are living in the age of emergency—the economy, the Mideast, North Korea, Iran. The president has an utter and historic inability to forge a relationship with Congress. Unemployment seems intractable.

And the best Steve Kroft and “60 Minutes” could do was how wonderful are you?

Noonan didn’t bring up Mrs. Clinton’s recent testimony before Congress on the Benghazi attack that left an American Ambassador and three others dead, but I wish she had. I wish she’d noted that while the press spun her dramatic, emotional and hectoring testimony as a “victory” over her inquisitors (and the public quickly concurred, because the public loves spectacle) it served only Hillary and the administration, not the nation that is entitled to know what its public servants are getting wrong and screwing up. I wish Noonan had noted that drama, yelling and tears are what weak, duplicitous women resort to, when they are trapped — when they want to change the subject and gain the upper hand.

Clearly, Leon Panetta did not have that feminine option, but for the most part No-Drama-Obama and his administration play to the cameras better than any politicians I have ever seen, and the press hands them accolades for it. No wonder the Killer Cop thinks the press and the president are his shout-out pals.

Let me end on an optimistic note. Give yourself a half-hour at some point today, and watch this remarkable video, of Dr. Benjamin Carson speaking at a recent National Prayer Breakfast attended by the president and vice-president, their spouses, the new Secretary of State. After quoting proverbs, he says some bold things, dares to criticize the repressive habit of self-censorship we have fallen into thanks to political correctness. “PC is dangerous,” he says, “it muffles people. It puts a muzzle on them and at the same time keeps people from discussing important issues while the fabric of this society is being changed…we need to start talking about things…”

He talks about coming up from poverty: he is the son of a poor, illiterate mother (herself one of 24 children) who was himself a “bad student” — the sort of kid California might decide needn’t be expected to learn Algebra. He talks about the need to disenthrall ourselves from ideological fervor so intractable that it would rather the wrong thing than the right, if it means a “win” for “the party.”

He says it all right in the face of the people who really need to hear it, but we all do. Do yourself a favor and watch**. Benjamin Carter is a man of science and a man of faith; he puts the lie to the inane idea that the two are mutually exclusive, and suggests that balance is still possible.

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**For some reason this video gets hung up around the 10:00 and 20:00 minute marks. Just move the cursor a tiny bit. It’s worth the trouble.

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  • http://domesticvocation.wordpress.com Christine the Soccer Mom

    Dr. Carson saved my cousin’s life when he performed brain surgery on my cousin, who was an infant at the time. He’s a gracious man who, when my cousin met him and showed him a picture of himself after surgery, was pleased to meet someone who had been saved by talents he regularly credits to God. His story is really amazing, and he’s a light in our dark world.

    BTW, have you ever heard of Les Brown? Motivational speaker. Here’s his Wikipedia page, but his story is unbelievable. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leslie_C._Brown Here’s another piece on him: http://www.speaking.com/speakers/les-brown.php

  • http://jenniferfitz.wordpress.com Jennifer Fitz

    Agreed. The latest example in our neck of the woods:

    South Carolina has a bill in committee that would outlaw privately-supervised homeschooling. (Note that we currently have one of the most balanced homeschool laws in the country — providing three different choices for parents, the 3rd option being a sound, portfolio-based record-keeping system supervised by the privately-run education association of the parent’s choice — that’s the option now slated to be eliminated.) Sponsored by a Republican, no less.

  • Becky

    Notice the old word “town,” not “community”—that blight of a word that is used more and more as it means less and less. Agreed.

    The word “community” lends itself to describing a select strata of people who you associate with based on race, gender, or class, to wield political power and achieve a political goal. It excludes.

    Speaking of class warfare, Anthony Esolen made this point recently:

    (Pope) Leo has in mind a society wherein the rich man and the poor man are friends; they live near one another; they celebrate at the same festivals; they kneel beside one another in church; they know one another’s children; they are for one another. Obviously, that cannot be produced by the mechanics of legislation, no more than love can be compelled. It is not enough, that one pay high taxes, some smallish portion of which will filter to some unknown “poor” far away from one’s sight and smell. Worse still, when concomitant laws make it exceedingly unlikely that those poor people will have any clear way to recover that “common inheritance” of moral virtue that should be theirs—laws that, as I’ve suggested, discourage the formation and preservation of families, and facilitate their dissolution, and rule out the Church, the only institution on earth that can assist the poor against those long odds.

  • Rhetta

    Regarding the “wildly approved” Super Bowl commercial about God making farmers, I question whether our nation’s viewers were really seeing the reality of today’s modern farmer. As a daughter of a farmer, I grew up on a 4th generation family farm in Iowa, raised my own livestock through 4-H programs and married a family farmer. I know the commitment and dedication farming requires. However, the agriculture industry has been transformed into a huge multi-billion dollar business where bigger is better, corporate farming is the norm and the commercial’s attributes of a hard-working, loyal and committed farmer truly belong to a minority of small family farmers and ranchers.
    The last shot of the commercial was taken outside a factory farm. I recognized this because a large corporation built one exactly like it 1200 feet from our farm house last year. I live on my farm; the owners of the hog factory farm do not as it’s just another investment to mass produce. They check on their investment once a day and leave us with the stench and putrid smell of 1800 hogs crammed into a small barn. So much for loyalty, commitment and
    love of the land.
    I realize corporate farming is here to stay, along with the changes to our nation’s food supply which the government endorses such as GMO’s. Yet, I fear the era of the family farm and the values those farmers embraced are becoming extinct. And it’s interesting to note that Dodge Ram sponsored this commercial. Yes, an auto manufacturer that took bankruptcy due to mismanagement.
    The commercial’s authentic photos were real and so was Paul Harvey’s narration, but in contrast, today’s corporate farmer is nothing like the farmer God created.

    [I think the popularity of the voice over had less to do with farmers, or farming, per se than to do with the vocalization of values that have become mocked and foreign to us. You may like this: http://www.thehealthyhomeeconomist.com/sustainable-farmers-response-to-god-made-a-farmer-superbowl-ad/ - admin]

  • Adam

    I’m curious what’s driving the stats of DC as the most literate city. Is it the number of books and newspapers sold? The quality of them? Is DC proportionally selling more copies of Dostoyevsky than it is of Fifty Shades of Grey?

    Remember that most people who work in the District don’t live there–they commute in, do their business, and then go back to the wealthier suburbs of Virginia and Maryland. So I could see that the stats are based on, I don’t know, regional bookstores and newsstands selling a lot more to the plethora of federal employees passing throught than any other comparable region.

    Meanwhile, D.C. has a shocking amount of poverty for what you’d expect to be the country’s wealthiest area. Outside the National Mall, a few National Park sites, and Georgetown, there’s a lot of impoverished neighborhoods. The public school system is notoriously bad. I also see an astonishing number of homeless and panhandlers around here–I’m even seeing an uptick in people actively walking up to me, asking if they can wash my car in exchange for food or money. (Well, at least they’re trying to earn it.) A few months ago, I saw a homeless guy, no shoes, sleeping on the Mall lawn outside the Natural History Mueseum. For a wealthy town full of people that claim to care about the poor, I’m surprised more people aren’t pouring open their wallets for these folk.

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  • Matthew Ogden

    Speaking of literacy, I would like to see some accurate statistics on how many people in this country can actually read and write properly. I say “accurate” because the existing statistics are based on these ubiquitous substandard qualifications for public education, which count about 90% of the U.S. population as literate. Yeah, 90%? I somehow doubt that.

  • Victor

    Dear Anchoress,

    This is “ONE” of the best speaker that I’ve heard in a long time other than sinner vic that is, when “HE” is High NOW! :) http://www.patheos.com/blogs/slacktivist/2013/02/07/dont-look-at-the-finger-look-at-the-moon/

    All kidding aside Elizabeth, every time “I” start writing “I’M” always thinking the same thing which is that, Victor, there’s no Way that will ever be allowed when you have not even listened to all the links provided yet. “I” quietly usually ask GOD (Good Old Dad) to fix “IT” for me and more often than NOT, HIS Angels normally help out. Don’t tell any “ONE” but just “ONE” of GOD’s moment could even pay for Americans Deficits! Yes, long story short, HE can fix “IT” all if ya have enough “Faith” in HIM!

    Longer story short Anchoress, “IT” is GOD (Good Old Dad) WAY and/or sinner vic’s godly cell ways if ya HUMANS want to walk on THE SPIRIT OF THE GOOD BOOK. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3zVYU-A8OaA

    What do you have against “Hunger Games” Victor?

    Hey! “I” didn’t got shot yet!?


    Go Figure NOW? :)


  • Proteios1

    With the “wildly popular” God made farmers Super Bowl commercial, I would suggest that the people of our nation are spiritually being starved by our secular and atheistic and PC media, government, institutions, etc. when such a simple commercial like that impacts and efcts people, myself included, in front of a whitewash of vague and morally confused backdrop. It is consumed the way a starving refugee eats a bowl of rice. Perhaps our culture is wrong in scrubbing all of the worn and grace of Christianity from our culture.

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  • SteveColby

    “We’re in a lot of trouble. The Washington Post wonders, Are we in the End Times of Trust in Government?”

    As the Professor would say, “Yes. Next question?”

  • thomass

    Dr. Benjamin Carson… yep; its not guns causing the murder rate in cities. Its the breakdown of family… we can’t talk about that though. Have just to use stats that leave everything out about where there are violence problems vs where not…

  • Anna D

    Regarding “South Carolina has a bill in committee that would outlaw privately-supervised homeschooling. Sponsored by a Republican, no less.”
    This politician needs to be fired at the next election. If you live in that district, run against him! Glenn Reynolds (Instapundit) has been saying that if you send your kids to public school, you maybe committing parental malpractice. That’s so true. Home schooling is one of the few safety nets remaining for educating (not indoctrinating) our children.

  • James Felix

    The thing is though, you really CAN’T imagine his ideological mirror spouting Hannity and Limbaugh. That’s because the voices on the right don’t routinely call for their political opponents to be treated as “enemies” and endorse killing them. Except in the fevered imagination of the DU crowd that mentality is the exclusive province of the left.

  • http://www.theredhunter.com Tom the Redhunter

    “California No Longer Requiring Eight Graders to Take Algebra. ”

    But at least they’ll be protected from those dangerous scary looking guns, right?

  • Mike

    it’s like Bonhoeffer getting a chance to speak to Hitler.

    Hitler looks mighty uncomfortable there – like he would give anything to be somewhere else. And Eva Braun looks like she is going to punish someone later that day.

  • Rachel

    I live in VA (Hampton Roads) and Adam is right. Hunger Games won’t fit because the Capital City closes down on Friday at 5 pm. Otherwise it’s the Worse District in the country.
    The Capitol (which I believe is melodramatic – DC has been the Capitol City HGames wise since the end of WWII) will be a merge of Northern VA and Southern MD…and it might increase in size if we in VA expand our RR and transit system.
    But personally I think there will be areas of control rather than a Capitol City. The jobs will be in the various capitols and liberal leaning cities (think Austin, and poss Dallas). Since the states will most likely be forced to deal with O-Care, the power will be there, with connections/tentacles to DC

  • Judy K. Warner

    The photo shows Obama smiling and engaged, but that was only a few seconds of the entire time. He had his chin up in the air, haughty and unsmiling or even angry looking much of the time. He looked down quite a lot as if at his phone in his lap. He might have been texting even. (Maybe he was telling his staff to get that man out of here.)

  • http://redcardigan.blogspot.com/ Erin Manning

    I hate to be a dissenting voice on this, but I don’t think that dropping an eighth-grade algebra requirement is the same thing as promoting illiteracy or lower education for some. In the heyday of Catholic education in this country I don’t think algebra was being widely taught to eighth graders. I think an extra year of teaching the basics of arithmetic wouldn’t be a bad idea even for the children of the elites; maybe it would help slow down deficit spending if the people in power could add and subtract properly.

  • Micha Elyi

    “California No Longer Requiring Eight Graders to Take Algebra. ”

    I remember when that Catholic governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, signed that requirement into law. With the legislators who put it on his desk, he was full of a Field Of Dreams sort of magical thinking. Statistics, you see, demonstrated that kids who took algebra in high school were more likely to go on to college and finish college than those who didn’t.

    I took Algebra in eighth grade back in the very early 1970s at a junior high school with about 600 students enrolled. Only one class was offered to 30 students (5%). It was open only to top students, an entrance exam was required. The class was hard.

    Even dumbed down as so many subjects are these days, an Algebra class is beyond about half of all high school students. And where do you suppose all the additional algebra and pre-algebra teachers required to jump algebra enrollment two, three and four times over were supposed to come from? Most came from the bottom of the barrel, that’s where – most of the capable ones having already been taken from the hiring pool. So not only were the students being pushed into algebra likely to get shortchanged teaching-wise, so were most of the capable students under this optimism-driven regime.

    Now here we are, a decade later, with hundreds of thousands of extra high school drop outs that couldn’t scale the Algebra wall. Oh, but the statistics- and science-challenged governor and legislators who cooked up the Algebra-for-all scheme had good intentions!

  • David Behrend

    There is little understanding in the media of what to think of the common core curriculum. I am not familiar with what is going on in California, but I am a high school math teacher in Idaho. The common core is not fully developed in mathematics for the high school level, but all of the preliminary material suggest that the common core is far more rigorous than the current curriculum. There is a big push to develop more concrete, applicable ways to teach math. I think, as far as the mathematics part of your article is concerned, it is misguided.