Kings of the world? Or just a bunch of bobblers?
Man, sometimes I think I am leaping from one parallel universe to another. I know that sounds crazy, but consider:
After Sept. 11, the big question was “Why do they hate us so much?” There seemed to be genuine interest in answering this question.
Today, the big question is “How much is my Sacramento Kings bobblehead worth?”
(Read that again, in case you thought anything had changed in seven months, except that we have to leave for the airport earlier. Let it sink in.)
Anyway, I think they hate us because we are supposed to be the leaders of the free world, and we still play with plastic toys. I’m not blaming the Kings, or Carl’s Jr., or the people who bought bobbleheads at Carl’s Jr., for the world’s woes. I’m just saying that America sort of has this idea that we can fix everybody else’s problems – and we still play with plastic toys.
Mind you, I’m not any better. I mean, I don’t play with plastic toys, but just a few years ago, I waited outside for 36 hours straight just to get tickets to see “Star Wars: Episode I.”
That’s 36 hours I could have spent volunteering or filling out a Peace Corps application. I bought a ticket for the first four shows, too, so – at $7 a ticket – that’s $28 I could have donated to the United Way.
And it’s not like I don’t do things like that. I buy food for homeless people. I give. I have volunteered before. Most of us, in fact, are pretty good that way, I think. A lot of you are better than I am about it, I’m sure.
But still – we like to tell ourselves we’re the smartest nation in the world, the most caring nation in the world, the best nation in the world.
And we play with plastic toys.
We play with plastic toys. We spend hours – and hundreds if not thousands of dollars – arguing about putting in a couple of new windows at our downtown cultural center. We can spend a whole day debating whether or not Denzel Washington really deserved that Oscar. For that matter, we spend thousands of hours and millions of dollars just so the whole TV-viewing world can see Denzel get that Oscar.
See, I know, this is totally impolite to say – chalk it up to impetuous youth, please – and I reiterate that I am as guilty as the rest of America – guiltier than most, actually – but after Sept. 11, I really thought it might sink in that there are a lot of people out there who aren’t doing as well as we are, and maybe we should help them.
I’m not apologizing for the terrorists. We didn’t deserve to be blown up and killed. (I take it as a given that no one does.) They were wrong and sick.
But what environment could foster so much anger? Religious fanaticism surely had something to do with it, but I am willing to go out on a limb and bet that life in the Third World is generally tougher than it is here.
No matter how you slice it, if a small child somewhere in this global village is starving to death – and yes, it’s even happening in this country – then things are pretty screwed up when 40-year-old men are paying hundreds of dollars for plastic toys from a fast-food restaurant.
That’s all I’m saying: Things are pretty screwed up. I don’t have any solutions (yet), I don’t think we’re bad people, and I am so glad I live in America – but man, we really need to think about getting our priorities straight.
Josh Wimmer works on the copy desk at The Union. His column appears every other Friday. E-mail him at
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