There is little sign any of this is about to end. Last week, ABC drew 9 million viewers to "The Outsiders," a prime time program about a group of Arizona polygamists. Commenting on the appeal of such a show, correspondent John Quinones said, "I guess (it's) the voyeuristic appeal." It's true - we are a nation of gawkers.
To some extent this has always been so, but television has made gawking easier and the objects of gawking more accessible. This indulgence in the base and banal has had a corrosive effect on our collective spirit. It also lowers our defenses against those who would destroy us.
It isn't as if we haven't been warned about self-indulgence in secular and sacred writings. In his "Republic," Plato has Socrates describe the effect on the soul of grace and gracelessness in the material culture: "Our aim is to prevent our Guards being reared among images of vice - as it were in a pasturage of poisonous herbs where, cropping and grazing in abundance every day, they little by little and all unawares build up one huge accumulation of evil in their soul. Rather, we must seek out craftsmen with a talent for capturing what is lovely and graceful, so that our young, dwelling as it were in a salubrious region, will receive benefit from everything about them. Like a breeze bringing health from wholesome places, the impact of works of beauty on eye or ear will imperceptibly from childhood on, guide them to likeness, to friendship, to concord with the beauty of reason."
You won't find such "craftsmen" on television. Better to turn it off, or get rid of this unfriendly guest, than to allow for the creation of another generation of anti-heroes and gawkers.
Cal Thomas is co-author (with Bob Beckel) of the book, "Common Ground: How to Stop the Partisan War That is Destroying America".
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