Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Frankly, my dear, I don't give a damn

I don't know who we really need to thank more for this iconic line ... Margaret Mitchell for writing it; or Clark Gable for the wonderful way he presented it in "Gone With The Wind."

I'd have to say, if pressed, that it's Gable (with a hand to the scriptwriter for the movie, who added the word "frankly" to Mitchell's line in the book). He said it as he was storming out of the house ... after finally giving up on Scarlett O'Hara (in the book, it's simply part of a quiet conversation, and it's simply, "my dear, I don't give a damn."

Back in 1939, of course, using the word "damn" in a movie was a big deal, and it got David O. Selznick (the producer) in a little bit of hot water. But curiously enough, it was also responsible for an amendment to the Motion Picture Association's Production Code, to the effect that use of the words hell and damn were forbidden unless they were essential to the plot or portrayal of the character.

We've come a long way, of course, since 1939, though sometimes I wonder whether that's a good thing. There's something to be said for taste. I wish people had more of it sometimes.

The reason I bring this line up today is because it occurs to me that there's an awful lot about life these days about which I can truly say, "frankly, my dear (or my good man), I don't give a damn."

This doesn't mean I'm apathetic. It just means that as we get older, and our lives taken on a greater sense of urgency, I'm less and less inclined to sweat the small stuff. I can identify the truly important things in life to fret over ... and can put the less urgent things in their own pile. This doesn't mean I'm not interested in them. I just don't obsess over them the way I might have done 10 years ago.

A look at the front page of today's local newspapers (Boston Globe and Herald) leads me to the following conclusions.

Let's start with this, in the Herald: "Elena Kagan's sexual orientation sparks debate." I guess my first question is, "among whom?"

Don't care ... at least about Kagan's sexuality. Really don't care. But if we're going to use her sexuality as a weapon with which to defeat her ... do care. A lot. Look, nobody in public life takes stands that sit with with everyone all the time. There's plenty of room for legitimate debate on whether Elena Kagan's public positions indicate where she might fall on the ideological tree of the U.S. Supreme Court.

But dragging her sexuality into it? No. We should be past this.

Here's another one: Tom Brady talks about leadership. Don't care.

I make no apologies for liking sports, for caring about them, losing my self-control over them, and hanging on every play. But whatever Tom Brady thinks about leadership is something about which I couldn't care less. Go out and throw the football, would you please? You'll show plenty of leadership of your passes connect ... especially if they connect with guys in the same uniform.

While we're at it, would all these naive 10-year-olds masquerading as mature adults please shut up? Brady has two little boys, and he's trying (from what I can tell) to do right by them. This means he's not always in Foxborough, MA, working out with the rest of the boys. You'd think he was planning mass murder the way some of these little boys around here carry on about it. Please. Like I said, if Tom Brady shows up in September, completes passes ... and throws enough of them for touchdowns ... who cares where he works out?

I don't care if Jacoby Ellsbury won't talk about whether he's getting married (another breathless tidbit on the Herald website).

Staying with The Herald, I do care about the 14-year-old boy from Dorchester who was shot to death in broad daylight at a public park. And I can't help but wonder if we spent so much time worrying about Elena Kagan's sexuality, and what Tom Brady thinks of leadership, that we lose valuable energy trying to solve the real problems in life ... such as how come a 14-year-old boy who, by all accounts, kept his nose out of the inner-city morass of gangs and violence is gunned down in something horribly akin to a gangland slaying.

Then there's the story about the mentally challenged kid set upon and beaten over a cell phone. Again, you read this, and shake your head ... especially when you see how these stories compete with life's absolute trivia for our attention.

But lest you think it's just the Herald who engages in this, let's turn to the Globe.

Big story on this morning: New GOP ads attack Cahill. This is a news story why? Don't care.

I care about attack ads ... but only to the extent that I wish they'd go away. But they're ads. We all know -- or should know -- that they're bought by the candidates, who pay good money so that they can present a distorted, one-sided picture of the opposing candidates. And they set in motion a chain of events that, generally, result in attack responses, and, ultimately, throw the entire campaign off focus.

Tim Cahill was a Democrat -- he's currently the state treasurer of Massachusetts -- who became an independent to unseat Gov. Deval Patrick. The Republicans are targeting him so they can eliminate him and get a clear shot at Patrick this fall.

I get that. I wish candidates would use better tactics. But I get the drill.

Why doesn't the Globe? Why does the Globe (or any publication) have to become party to such misinformation? Cannot the argument be made -- still -- that the minute a piece of information is released in the public domain, regardless of whether it's true, that in the minds of many it's an ironclad fact? Wasn't one of Josef Goebbels' most famous quotes "if you repeat a lie often enough, it becomes the truth?"

So if the Republican Governors Association wants to spend money to attack someone in an ad (or the Swift Boat Veterans ... or Move On ... or any of these independent advocacy groups), why do the media feel compelled to give them more (free) exposure? I don't understand it.

But back to the point, I don't care what the Republican Governors Association has to say about Tim Cahill, and I don't see why I should have to read about it in the Globe.

Like the Herald, the Globe also weighs in on Brady's comments. And just because The Globe has a slight bit more gravitas than the Herald does these days, I still don't care about Tom Brady's views on leadership (though I was interested in what he thought of the TMZ people).

Here's another aspect of the "don't cares" that comes to mind whenever there's a big issue dominating the news. I don't care about what bloggers say (I know, I know ... I'm cutting my own throat here; but then again, I don't get rich doing this). Bloggers, even me, have their own agendas. They also do what I do ... glean stories and react to them. Most of the time, they don't have the complete picture. They digest what's germaine to them (and a lot of the time, what's germaine to them involves whatever either jibes with, or diametrically opposes, their agenda) and blog accordingly.

I think we saw a lot of this with the recent health care bill. Bloggers had a field day pick parts of the 2,000-page bill out of context (on both sides) and pouncing on them. And I think all that does is get in the way.

Legislation is often a sloppy, noisy, messy process (as is democracy itself), and sometimes, to me, forming conclusions based on things that come up along the way is a little like criticizing the construction of a house that's not finished yet.

And in that respect, I don't care ... at least about what bloggers who take things out of context and hammer away at them think. This country has survived over 200 years (which, when you think about it, still makes it somewhat of an infant compared to other cultures and how they've endured), and one of the reasons it has is because we've trusted the process. It has rarely failed us. And it never will.

However, people who insist on gumming up the works by spreading around misinformation, or jumping to hasty conclusions based on what they find on the web (a font of accurate information there, huh ... NOT) and what some super-charged politico writes on a blog ... they're going to fail the process if they're not careful.

Tonight, the Boston Bruins are in Philadelphia to play the Flyers. Hopefully, they win, and escape this Stanley Cup playoff series. This is something I do care about. Passionately.

So, come on, Bruins! Stop screwing around and end this.

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