Years ago, when Television was younger and most of us were too, there was a popular TV show called Truth or Consequences. It started as an NBC radio show in the 1950s hosted by Ralph Edwards, and made the successful transition to TV as a fun, TV quiz show with Bob Barker, among others as the TV host. The premise was that you answered a question correctly (with truth), or suffered the consequences of having to do some silly stunt.
Sadly, if we jump ahead to the next century, when TV is in color, truth is considered fake news and there seem to be little to no consequences for bad behavior or wrong answers, only gamesmanship (meaning a willingness to game the system ) seems to prevail. It’s a worrisome situation regardless of your political persuasion.
We are in a 24 hour media age when one might assume that with cameras and microphones always on, people would be more not less held accountable for words flung out in public. As old time sportscaster Warner Wolf used to say, “Let’s go to the videotape,” where everyone could see for themselves what really happened in any sports event he happened to be covering.
Not so now. Now, evening comedians play video snips ad nausea that show contradictions, retractions, and general about face positions that would have spelled the end of a politician’s career just a decade or so ago. John Kerry’s presidential bid was sliced to shreds when he was accused of flip flopping.
So what’s the game today, and why are politicians, media pundits and the public so willing to play? Was politics always a game, and idealist voters just believed the system worked? Or, is something more sinister really at play? As the stakes get higher, many Americans are getting more insular — working just to handle their own lives and the behavior of their own families in ways that match past cultural norms.
Respect. Civility. Honesty. Neighborliness.
These are all ideals that may never have been as ubiquitous as Father Knows Best would have led us to believe, but the hope always existed that we’d get some passes from family and friends for good behavior. We certainly expected our leaders to have Sense and Sensibility.
If this post sounds nostalgic, it is, but not for a false past greatness. Rather, it’s nostalgic for fair play, kind words, good deeds, and accountability. A little noblesse oblige over entitlement is nice as well, especially from those who have enough resources to know and act better.