SalemNews.com, Salem, MA

Opinion

July 31, 2013

Anderson: Drifting apart on a sea of choices

Last week, I wrote about feeling overwhelmed by consumer choices, which led into equating consumer distractions with voters’ inability to focus on the issues they need to understand before making election decisions.

Then, I thought of something I was told years ago by former state Rep. Richard Voke (D-Chelsea). We were talking for some reason about problems with “the culture.” He noted that while the entire family used to watch the same television show in the living room, they now (in 1989) each watch alone: father and mother watching different channels in the living room and parents’ bedroom, the children in their own rooms with their favorite teenage shows. He said this would make as great a long-term difference in the family structure and then in society as anything else.

In my own television childhood, my parents and I laughed together through “I Love Lucy,” cried (my dad behind his newspaper) through “I Remember Mama,” were riveted by “Perry Mason,” and just enjoyed “Bonanza” and “Wagon Train.” Many years later, my own family watched “Roots,” the show that changed racial attitudes across generational divides, as did “All in the Family.” We discussed these shows with the rest of the nation for weeks — just as for years, Americans had talked about the new talent they saw on the Ed Sullivan Show, come Monday morning at work and school.

Voke’s point: We were once one American culture, connected not only by the typical American holidays and by major news events, but by our entertainment. The latest movie, at the one-screen local theater, was there for two weeks, until everyone in town got to see it if they wanted. Most of us readers were reading the same best-sellers; only a few seemed to be printed each year, so we were all sharing and discussing “Exodus,” “Peyton Place,” “To Kill a Mockingbird” and the odd lesson of “Lord of the Flies.” Now it seems a best-seller is coming out every week!

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