By John Hubbuch
On Aug. 21, 2017 for a few minutes the moon blotted out the sun across 14 states in the first coast-to coast total eclipse since 1918. Media heralded it as a momentous awe- inspiring event.
Reaction to the event was mixed. There were two camps. One camp thought it was great. The other camp was me. I thought it was kind of lame. Don't get me wrong. I'm really pleased that people found a reason to visit southern Illinois in addition to the giant Superman statue in Metropolis.
Marsha says I'm a hater, but I prefer "skeptic" or "contrarian." Whatever.
I realize that criticism of an inanimate object like an eclipse is a bit silly. My criticism is really more about the media's coverage of the eclipse.
I thought the advice about not looking at the sun because you could go blind was overdone, even hysterical. People said the same thing about masturbation. For sure it was confusing. I got it that looking directly at the eclipse was dangerous, but I never understood if it was safe to look at the sun after it was over. To be honest, I have taken many fleeting looks at the sun, and lived to tell the tale. Those who look directly at the sun for a long time were either on LSD or, sadly, not part of God's plan.
Then there was the breathless commentary regarding our place in the universe and the wonder of nature. I already knew nature was wonderful. Look at the clouds as a thunderstorm arises. Talk a walk and look at Oak Park's magnificent trees. No need to drive to Carbondale. Not to be a hater, but there are millions of eclipses in the billions of universes every day.
The worst was the media suggestion that the eclipse brought us together for those few minutes. As a nation we left racism, misogyny, poverty and looming extinction behind, and we were united as one nation for one, brief, un-shiny moment. Please.
The Great American Eclipse was a good example of how the media subtly shapes our consciousness. The eclipse was a big deal because media told us it was. We let media tell us what is important in our lives. It reinforces our biases. We lose our focus and our objectivity.
Taylor Swift's life becomes more meaningful than our neighbors', or even our own. The media presents stories about a racist cop shooting a black man, an immigrant committing a vicious crime, a frat boy raping a girl, or a pilot getting drunk, and the herd draws less-than-informed conclusions about racism, immigration policy, fraternities and air safety. Big Brother is not government; it's the media. Where is Orwell when we need him?
Once the news became an infomercial for selling prescription medicine, the larger, nuanced, complicated truth was a casualty, along with any independent personal thinking. Just let the media do the thinking for us. It's so much easier.
Just so you know, I don't just talk the talk; I also walk the walk. Or, more accurately, nap the nap. At the moment of greatest shadow here in Chicago, I was babysitting 1-year-old Teddy. We were both asleep.
Maybe I'll catch the next greatest shadow on Earth in 2024 (also in Carbondale). Maybe not. I'll think about it.
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