Sunday, May 22, 2016

This is a piece that was published in the Concord Monitor this morning.

I picked up the May 18th copy of the Concord Monitor and noticed that in addition to the stories about recovering drug addicts and the need for more government subsidies, there was a piece about how the country was going into a tailspin regarding its moral conduct.

Apparently the writer just recently had this revelation after noting that an egotistical blowhard (my words not his) like Donald Trump was a serious candidate for President. What really perplexed me, however, was not the sudden clarity of his view on society, but that this same individual (a politician himself) has been a very staunch and public supporter of one of the country’s most morally corrupt politicians of the last two decades. Yet it took Donald Trump for him to realize that this country had lost its moral compass.

The capacity for hypocrisy among our politicians is hard to believe. And yet they somehow manage to keep setting higher plateaus from which to bloviate. Still, it was hard to disagree with his essential point that the country has lost its way as it wanders down the path to disaster.

There was another article in the paper discussing the demise of many local newspapers in this country. It was a nice piece but I couldn’t help but wonder if the writer was too close to the problems.

Yes, the newspaper industry is beset by many issues. The internet has provided inexpensive competition, has taken away ad revenues and changed the readership habits of many in the population. But the local newspapers have also lost awareness of some of the advantages they have, such as being the ready source of what is really going on in local communities. Unfortunately, the Monitor, and many others seem to focus primarily on the negative side of things. Even when they think it is an uplifting approach such as the article on a recovering addict or a new homeless shelter, it is a negative kind of positive. We are celebrating the care and success of those who have spent their lives making poor decisions. Yes, it is good that we are doing this, but if this is all we are doing we are heading for a murky future.

The morale and morals in our community might be well served by showing some truly positive  examples. Perhaps we could highlight some of the fathers and mothers who have taken responsibility to raise their children well: families without drug problems, and where abuse and infidelity aren’t the flavor of the week. I believe that many of those exist although you would never know it from the news. Perhaps we could feature a few pieces  about the business people who bring jobs and products to the area or those bringing creativity and vision to the community.

I know we don’t seem to be getting much of this from our political leaders right now, but that makes it even more critical that we provide it locally. There are lots of people in Concord and New Hampshire who resist the temptations of the world. They make sacrifices for their kids, work difficult jobs, treat people with respect and integrity, and help establish a “moral” environment. Couldn’t we focus a little more often on those stories?

I talk to a lot of people in this community, have served on a multitude of boards and think I have a pretty good sense of the pulse of the city, and I can tell you that the Monitor is losing its position as a real representative of the citizens. Readers tell me they may still subscribe to find out what physical events are happening, but they spend less time on the articles because it’s too depressing, it is just saying the same thing over and over, or it has no diversity in its approach to issues.

I realize that it is a hard road for the news media in this country to travel. It is very easy to focus on the negative. We have violence, wars, a poor economy, and lots of bad decisions made by our leaders and our individual citizens. But the majority of people in this country still work hard, raise their children well, and try to live good lives. We need to be reminded of that. In this election year we are facing a mystifyingly bad set of choices for new leadership. And perhaps we all need to take responsibility for that. There has been a distinct lack of attention given to people who do things the right way. Everyone, especially the media, focuses on the train wrecks in society. The non-producers and the manipulators get the attention, so we shouldn’t be surprised when they rise to the surface in a national election where the most outrageous, the most devious, the most deceitful, are the names the electorate gravitates toward. 

Glenn K. Currie

Monday, May 16, 2016

One of the TV shows that Susanne and I used to like to watch was Nashville. The show had a nice mix of likeable characters, interesting new performers and the feeling that the actors actually liked each other. There were always plot lines that included some drama and a few characters who were necessarily dislikeable. But in general, it was a “feel good” show.

About two years ago everything started to change. The number of songs performed by the actors (they actually sang) dropped dramatically, and in its place, the characters were all given major problems to deal with. As a result of the plot lines, the “likeability” quotient of most of the performers began to drop dramatically.

By this year, the show had become a typical soap opera with over-wrought drama and almost no music.

Today I read that the show is being cancelled. This should be a surprise to no one. I had stopped taping it a few weeks ago because it just became too darn depressing. Writers too often forget that viewers often watch programs to escape the problems and burdens of the events they see every day on the news.

A show named Nashville should provide a look at country music and allow us to identify with a fictional world where, at least once in a while, things go right for the characters. The writers instead started to fall into the typical cycle of misery, duplicity, back-stabbing and tragedy that defines so many nameless offerings on television. They killed the likeability of the characters, the association with the city and, most importantly, they killed the music. For a series with the name Nashville there wasn’t much else to kill except the show.

As a writer of humor and poetry, I have always believed that it is useful to provide the reader with something that can lift their spirits, or at least leave them empathizing with the characters or the topic.

I feel sorry for the actors because they had put together a talented group of performers, but the writers and director ran their ship aground on the mud banks of the Cumberland River and the their paddle wheeler has sunk with all hands.

Perhaps a final question might be why Hollywood seems to do this so often. They seem to lose touch with their audience and change shows to fulfill other objectives. Comedies stop making us laugh and start preaching to us. Dramas seem to lose a sense of proportion and go way over the top or else get so involved in a single story plot that they lose track of what made them popular. Hollywood needs to get over themselves and stop thinking they are so much smarter than their audience that they can use the bait and switch on viewers to accomplish other objectives. 

Here's a little message for the people in southern California. We look to you for entertainment and once in a while hope that you will provide us with an intelligent show that is fun to watch. We have no illusions that you are smart because we are very familiar with most of the crap you put out there. But we hope that, "like the blind pig and the acorn", you will once in awhile stumble onto an interesting or different show. Please, when that happens, try not to rush out and screw it up. Nashville without music?  Send those people over to Chicago PD and let's move the show to Reno and feature poker strategy. 

Glenn K. Currie

Wednesday, May 4, 2016

I just returned from a Navy reunion in which the plankowners of USS Biddle (DLG-34) gathered together in Annapolis to celebrate the 49th anniversary of the commissioning of that ship.

Our Captain (now 96), and nine of the original officers plus wives and other family were in attendance. There were about twenty-five plankowner officers initially, but deaths, conflicts and illnesses had worn the group down from earlier years.  

It was a very pleasant chance to renew old friendships, but also a telling example of the old adage that time waits for no one.

We were the young lions of the late 1960’s. we served our country, ignored the excuses, and came home from the conflict unharmed. In many ways we were very lucky…and for the most part, tolerant of those in our own country who wished us ill.

We formed a family, a shelter, where we could gather. We knew the truths and the fictions of that era, and took pride in having carried on the traditions of the finest naval force in the world.

We met every few years, but as the years passed, we saw our ship, the finest in the Navy in 1967, be decommissioned and probably chopped up for salvage. And we saw our country also go through a change to where it now appears to desperately need some kind of repair or salvage.  

At our reunion, I looked around at how we had all aged, and there was little doubt that our country has passed us by. Other younger generations are going to have to do the salvaging of this great country. And I think we are alright with that.

We could rejoice in the common bond of service. We had done our duty during our own difficult times. We had protected each other in the bad and good times through nearly fifty years.

Many of our group were career naval officers. You don’t get rich in the military and so we weren’t staying in the fancy hotels down by the water. But the company was the best you can get.

It is sad that our country has not honored the promises it made to service members then or now. The VA is still not doing its job as was abundantly clear from several of the comments there. That scandal seems to carry on, although better in a few locations. Other promises have also faded from memory as politicians declare a form of government induced amnesia.

But veterans do have a few special benefits still. All of us still have a strong love of our country and the deep satisfaction, the honor, to know that we served our country well. And we have the family that has been created by that service.

I don’t know what lies ahead for our particular family. We have become the observers, the invisible ones in the country. We hope for the best for our children and grandchildren and great grandchildren. But we are truly the old soldiers fading away. I suspect we may not meet again, but it has been a singular honor to be a member of this family and to have traveled with them on this journey.

Glenn K. Currie