I AM A BAD AMERICAN
by Mark Scheinbaum
American Reporter Correspondent
Boca Raton, Fla.
BOCA RATON, Fla., Feb. 25, 2004 -- I am a bad American for a number of reasons, but mostly because CBS newsman Bob Schieffer watches "Sex in the City" and I don't.
Now, Mr. Schieffer who is a respected broadcast journalist, wasn't really that harsh on me, but his weekly commentary shook me from my middle class complacency, by lamenting the last episode of " this show that has probably had more impact on American culture and men than we want to admit."
So I have missed the thing, the entity, the item, that has had "more impact on American culture" than something or other. Okay, I'll fess up.
If I am a taxpayer and voter who is out of touch with the keystone of my nation's culture, I must be a bad American by most standards.
I am a bad American because I have never watched "Sex in the City."
I am a bad American because I have never watched "The Sopranos."
In fact I am a bad American because I refuse to get ripped off for things I should get for free, or for things which should actually pay me.
I broke down, and after some early flirtations and cancellations, subscribed to basic cable about six years ago.
Usually I receive 98 channels. What I thought was a fluke reserved for late Sunday night and pre-dawn Mondays is now the norm.
Most late nights there are three cable news channels, two of which repeat earlier interview or talking head shows. There are seven purely religious channels. There are four channels with local, state, and national sports programming from billiards to high school girls' soccer.
There are two or three movie or old sit-com channels.
This leaves approximately 70 or more infomercial or home shopping channels. Erectile pills, flying fortress exercise machines, computer instruction courses, endless rotisseries, and lots of girls who - shall we say - have gone wild.
In my college days booze companies such as Jose Cuervo had to pay us to plaster their advertising on our cars. Advertisers pay the public for bus benches and subway advertising. Why do I pay my cable company to turn my living room into a 36 inch rotating billboard for ads? I am not compounding the crime by subscribing to HBO.
But, I'm also a bad American because I never watched "Seinfeld." Sure, I've seen a few reruns, but whoever said it is a show about nothing was right. If I want to see middle aged Jewish guys and gals who hang out and don't seem to work for a living, I'll go back to my old high school.
I'm also a bad American because if a TV show has a laugh track I turn it off. Thus, I am a bad, bad, bad American who has never watched that Raymond show, Malcom in the Middle of something, Mad About Something Else; Fresh Prince of Someplace, Friends, etc.
I am a very bad American because when I backslide into decadence, I make an exception to all of my rules and watch reruns of Sanford & Son on the grounds that Redd Foxx was a comic genius. My wife and daughter leave the room when this happens.
I am a bad American because I never took any of my three children to Disney World more than two times. After the second visit it dawned on me that instead of spending $200 to go on a fantasy ride through the jungle, I could spend $50 to take our tent and sleeping bags to the Everglades or a state park and actually teach my kids about fishing, hunting, camping, first aid, survival, wildlife conservation, and fun without Mickey and Pluto. Two rides in a teacup are enough. After about age nine dancing and singing mechanical bears get a bit dumb. If you need Fairyland more than twice, you can visit San Francisco City Hall when you get older.
I am a particularly bad American because, although there are four cars in my driveway, they are all made in the United States. In looking around my neighborhood it appears good Americans all have cars made in Germany and Japan.
I am a disgrace to my great nation because I stubbornly hold onto a car which is 24 years old and only costs me about $300 a year in repairs. The leather seats are torn and the dashboard is cracked, and the body is rusted and filled with fiberglass putty dabbed with undercoat, but it's reliable transportation and its paid for. Successful, honest, law-abiding good Americans don't drive crappy old cars. Crappy old cars mean you are one of the illegal boat people.
In the scheme of things Mr. Schieffer, I have gravely offended the cultural icons and guardians of my country because taking a quick survery of my brushes with academe, I am truly a disgrace.
I am a bad American because my wife and I, and all three of our children, attended colleges or universities that do not have a football team. When al-Qaeda comes -a -knocking for infidels, rest assured, the first bad Americans shot will be our fellow alumni of Simmons, Hunter College CUNY; Carnegie Mellon Univeristy; Marymount University, and American University respectively. Only the one son who slipped through that MBA at Wake Forest might be spared.
Mostly I'm a bad American because I revel in the knowledge that most of what I am told is fashionable, trendy, stylish, "hot," or "cool" is temporal garbage.
I made my first trip to Las Vegas last year, and that was for a mandatory business meeting. I stayed in a super luxury hotel, albeit the one hotel on the strip which has no casino, which was fine with me.
I made my first trip to Europe at age 50. In fact I celebrated my 50th birthday sitting in a web sling in a USAF cargo plane enroute to Bosnia-Herzegovina. I've been back to Europe four or five times since, and enjoyed it. But I suffered through life without the earlier pleasure.
Bad Americans show up iat lots of truck stops, Denny's at 2 a.m., check cashing stores, and flea markets. Bad Americans pay the same for a pair of shoes as they pay for a fast food dinner for four.
Bad Americans don't have to watch television shows which portend and pretend to explain the realities, pressures, foibles, or joys of modern upscale urban life to us. If we live in a big city we probably have to work two or three jobs to afford it, and don;t have much time for TV.
If we live in the country we'd mostly rather hang out with other bad Americans.
AR Correspondent and former UPI Newsman Mark Scheinbaum, is chief investment strategist for Kaplan & Co., members of the Boston Stock Exchange. He graduated from one graduate school that had no football team, and dropped out of the doctoral program of another school that was ranked No. 1 in the nation. He lives in Lake Worth, Fla., where he smokes cigars, drinks hard liquor, and watches Fred Sanford.