Where are the American Flags Now?
There have been many questions asked in the past few days regarding the devastating situation in the gulf state region of our country. And I am sure and am hopeful that these questions and discussions will continue for a long period of time. Here are a few questions that I have tonight:
Why are the cable networks the only media truly dedicated to this story?
I’m reminded of that horrible day in 2001. I was working in radio again. As I did every morning, I started the day with a cup of coffee and the morning TV news shows. I watched as Bryant Gumbel tried to piece together what was going on after the first plane hit the tower. And then I saw the second plane hit on live TV. I jumped in the shower and hurriedly headed to the station, where I anchored 12 hours of continuous coverage that was simulcast on five stations. Only two of those stations were news-talkers, so the programming interruption was significant. On Friday morning as I drove into work, the leading news-talk station in Omaha found the need to talk about football for three hours of primetime.
For the week that followed, the coverage of the terrorist attacks and their aftermath could be found on each of the networks continuously. On Friday afternoon, I turned on the TV and found that all three networks were carrying their regular schedule of Soap Operas, followed by Dr. Phil and Oprah. Oprah is fabulous, but when people are starving to death and clinging to life by a thread, I don’t care to hear about earth tones and designer home furnishings.
So is this an east coast media bias? Maybe. But I think it goes beyond that. The difference is power. On September 11th, the powerful financial center of the universe was hit. In this case, the areas affected included row houses, apartment complexes, hospitals and multifamily dwellings where the poor and powerless lived and worked.
Where are the American Flags, the prayer vigils, the moments of silence?
There is no doubt that our country is coming together in extraordinary ways to help our brothers and sisters in the south. But once again I wonder why this situation is different from four years ago? Yes, what happened in New York and D.C. and PA was an attack on our nation by a terrorist group. So, because we can’t mobilize troops to attack old Mother Nature we aren’t upset and distraught? We aren’t putting flags up on our front porches because Katrina isn’t hiding somewhere in Pakistan? Radio stations aren’t playing Lee Greenwood’s “God Bless the USA” because not enough important and powerful people are dying?
Or maybe others are feeling as I feel tonight. Our nation is so divided politically, economically and socially that it is difficult for anyone to come together to express patriotism today. I find it difficult to wave the flag of a country that allows thousands of its citizens to die an unnecessary death because the government was on vacation. I’m fearful too – fearful of what might happen if someone truly wanted to attack us again. If we are not prepared for a natural disaster that we had at least 48 hours notice of, what will we do when a dirty bomb hits Chicago? What will we do if someone flies a plane into a shopping mall in Albuquerque or drives a bus into a high school football stadium in Fargo? Fly back from our comfy ranch in Texas and say - oh shit? Talk about what we should do for three days? Point fingers at everyone else beside ourselves?
When will we learn?
We have spent so much of our resources worrying about the rest of the world. Our role as a super power is significant and, without a doubt, we have helped many. But it is time, now more than ever, to come home and worry about our neighbors down the street and protecting the lives of our own. Obviously, creating a humungous bureaucratic agency wasn’t the answer.
We need to find the answers – soon.