From the Editor

John Turner

In The Way to Win, I've been regaling myself with tales of the "Freak Show" or the new media. Halperin and Harris tell us that it values only the skills of malice, agitation, shrillness, and negativity.

I wish we could compile a set of reporters who would tell us, on a regular basis, what certain elements of the Freak Show are up to. It would add to the HSC if we could have each week short accounts of what O'Reilly, and Limbaugh, and Coulter, and Hannity, and Krauthammer -- among others -- have been saying. Why don't you pick one of them and sign on? We need more writers.

I got home this week from my journey to Chicago and my unexpected stay in Buffalo.  I wish I could tie everything I saw into a ball and toss it to you. But, there's too much. America is such a vast entity it's probably best for us to stop thinking of it as a single thing. As I was driving along Interstate 90 in Ohio, I began to wonder what could be in the thousands of trucks that were careening along the highway with me. How much of it was material people really need, and how much was pure junk. I assume the division between those two categories is about 50-50, but that's just a guess.

Often when I drive along a busy commercial street, I ask myself what percentage of the establishments along the way offer either goods or services I could ever want. The number never approaches 50%. I don't know whether that means I'm peculiar or that a large portion of what we do could just as well not be done. In America we assume that doing anything that involves dollars changing hands is not only glorious but our very reason for existence. I wish we could step away from that assumption a bit. We might find a happier life. Certainly, we would use up and despoil less of the world's resources.

Johnny Carson used to emphasize the hard time travelers along America's highways have in finding anything decent to eat. If he were still around, I suspect he would think the problem has grown more acute. Pizza is, by far, the most nutritious item offered in most the rest stops on the interstates. And a steady diet of pizza won't send you to bed at night feeling your physiology has been well served. Is the cheapness one finds along the interstate just an indication of who takes long automobile trips or can it be representative of what the country actually is?

Every now and then I tell myself after I've made an extensive trip that if I would simply write down and speculate about everything I saw, I would have a volume of inestimable value. But don't be alarmed. I'm not going to start on that now. I'll wait until, at least, next week.

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Harvard Square Commentary, October 23, 2006