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Wednesday, December 15, 2010

BIG FOOT IN MY FREEZER

I do not have Big Foot in my freezer, nor am I "Leaning Forward", nor do I have “The Best Political Team on Television” on my television. I never thought I did have any of those things, and I don’t care how many times Wolf Blitzer tells me that I do; I know I don’t. But I also know I am growing weary of watching Blitzer being reduced to his own punch line just for a paycheck. Frankly, not only is he not “the most trusted name in news”, he is not even the most trusted name in commercial lead-ins, anymore.
What I have developed is an increasingly low tolerance for stupidity, which makes me less and less willing to be entertained by fools, even ones claiming to have collected a dead Big Foot in their freezer. It's just not funny anymore.
I even confessed to my wife one Saturday night a few years ago I found “COPS” to be dull and predictable and I don’t want to watch it anymore. I have given up all hope that one night a COPS "contestant" would pull yet another package of meth or crack out of a suspect’s front pocket, hear the same old tired “It’s not mine” excuse once to often, and just snap. Don't ge me wrong. I don’t even want the cop to shoot the addict. That would be too “Hollywood”.
Instead, I would rather see the officer lock the idiot addict in the back of his or her patrol car, call for a taxi cab and just go home. And never go into a police station again as long as he or she lives. We could call it “Ex-Cops”. It is not a hunger for justice that burns in my heart anymore, but a simple desire for novelty. Honesty on television would be something new.
This is a very dangerous feeling in our culture. I feel the same way about “American Idol”, “Survivor”, “The Nanny” and every hackneyed “reality” show on cable: except, of course, for “Dirty Jobs”. I could watch Mike Rowe read the phone book, as long as he had never read it before. But I do worry that my dissatisfaction with the current state of American culture could be a portent of doom. Except I have even lost faith in doomsday.
The Mayan Calendar predicts that the world will end in the year 2012 - or so we are told. In fact the Mayan's world ended about the year 1100. If they were smart enough to have created a calendar that recorded the end of the world a thousand years after their culture had already been reduced to hot chocolate and chewed cocaine leaves, how come they overlooked the importance of 1492, when a bunch of unwashed Euro-trash showed up on their doorstep with bang sticks and no concept of a public health option?
The Mayan super priests missed that little Armageddon, but they were still on track for a 2012 doomsday prediction? It just sounds like something else Wolf Blitzer will be droning on about as the date approaches.
"Is the world scheduled to end in the year of 2012? We will hear from the experts on both sides of the issue, right after the break”. I have grown weary of reminding Wolf (in my head) that there are no “sides” to insanity. It is not an arguable position. It is not a defensible position. It is a medical condition. Which could bring up the entire health care debate - But let's not get into that. This is a history blog; right?
According to the Washington Post and the New York Daily Tribune, on May 18, 1910, sixteen year old Jane Warfield of Aline, Oklahoma came within a seconds of being sacrificed by a group calling themselves "The Select Followers". They were seeking to appease Haley’s Comet, which was about the end the world unless it was offered the fresh spilled blood of a virgin Okie.
According to the Cherokee Republican of May 27, 1910, the group’s leader, Henry Heinman, told his fellow "Select Followers" outside of Aline, Oklahoma that “…the world would end on the 18th day of May, and the comet now in the sky would sweep with pestilential gases across the earth eliminating all animal life…he had received a revelation that he was to sacrifice the girl and thus avert world calamity. Sheriff Hughes has placed the girl in the hands of safe parties and Heinman will be held to await action by investigating officers.”
What a story! What kind of looney, crazy people have they got living in Oklahoma? What a bunch of rubes! Somebody needs to bring some common sense to the undereducated farmers out on the plains.
Except, the story turns out to have been a fraud. It was the concoction of a newspaper editor named Ed Marchant. According to research brought together by historian Guy W. Moore, on the web site “The Virgin and the Comet”, there is no listing for a “Henry Heinman” nor a “Jane Warfield” in the 1910 Oklahoma census. And in 1910 the sheriff for Major County, where Aline, Oklahoma is located, was Lewis Burwell, not the mythical Sheriff Hughes.
In other words, the tale was a joke the folks in Oklahoma could enjoy at the expense of the rubes in New York and Washington D.C. who bought the story hook line and sinker.
Its the same way the people in Southwest Washington State who knew Bob Heironimus all of his life, and instantly recognized his distinctive arm swinging lope in the infamous 1967 Patterson-Gimlin “Bigfoot film”, got the same joke. Those locals knew right away it was Bob striding around in a monkey suit. Only an rube would think there really was a big foot. What's he been eating all these years in the woods? Vienna Sausage? And where has he been pooping? And why, in all these years, has no poor hunter or tourist ever stepped in a great big pile of Bigfoot big poop? It's a joke. There is not Bigfoot living in the woods. And the only people who believe it are staying in the local "Days Inn".
But there is a difference between a tale of a virgin sacrificed on the plains of Oklahoma or a gorilla suit covered in pig’s entrails and stuffed into a freezer, and a phony bill of sale for Nigerian Yellow Cake uranium ore or Death Panels pulling the plug on grandma. One is a story told for the sheer joy of the story telling. It's a big whopper, told to illustrate a larger truth - that we are all fools at times. It is called in polite circles "fiction".
The other is a story invented out of greed - greed for money or greed for ratings or greed for power. It tells no truth except the truth about those who tell it; they are frauds. Frauds tell lies. And liars too often profit. And all it costs them is their souls. And ours, for believing them.
And, upon reflection, what I really hunger for is not novelty, but truth; honesty in advertising, candor in news gathering, sincerity in politics and just a little athenticity in the lies we tell each other to get through the day- like claiming to be the best team in politics, or calling a staged farce a reality show just because it doesn't have written skript, or airing a news story that has nothing "NEW" in it.
Oh, and speaking of reality; have you noticed that we speak of "primative" cultures sacrificing virgins, while in our "modern" culture we seem determined to sacrifice "fallen" women? What's up with all this punishing of women stuff? And how come the virgin men rarely get thrown into the volcano?'
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