Jewish World Review March 5, 1999 /17 Adar 5759
(http://www.jewishworldreview.com) I KNOW, I KNOW. "It's just a ..." (fill in the blank with "commercial," "movie," "TV show" or "joke"). It would seem that almost every time I comment on a particular message embedded in some form of public communication, I am told to loosen up and get a sense of humor. Nonetheless, I worry.
If multiple millions were spent to purchase mere seconds of commercial time on Super Bowl Sunday, the advertisers must believe they can positively influence the viewers toward purchase of their products. They must believe that they can convince, sway, induce or win over a significant percentage of the audience. There must be considerable evidence to support that assumption, because tens of millions of dollars are at stake.
So what happens to a generation of young people perpetually bombarded by hostile music, sex, movies, "it's all OK" sexy teen magazines, nonfamily-oriented television programs, vulgar advertising, degraded radio banter, and general media frenzy around gossipy, scandalous revelations? Hint: The answer is not an elevated sense of purpose or optimism or spirituality or safety.
Ask any teen-ager about whether he thinks G-d is relevant today; if he believes he can count on the fidelity of a future spouse; if he can imagine being part of a two-parent family with children; if he can trust his elected officials; if he foresees a meaningful life for his children (assuming he even wants to bother with children).
If you were to ask these teens what they think is the main point of their lives, you'd probably hear "to be happy." But a permanent IV drip of "happy" requires them to sacrifice values, obligations and others at times, in exchange for immediate gratification and gain. Ask them if they want to be on the receiving end of such a philosophy, and you'll probably get a blank stare.
All this and more is what our teens are being "taught" by the constant flow of nonvalues-centered messages. I don't believe that my sense of humor needs retreading when I point out that these influences are destructive. One by one.
One of my local newspapers has a new service. Its Web site offers "highly visual apartment listings, powerful customized searches, floor plans, video walk-around and much more." So far, so good. But that is the wording at the bottom of the ad. At the top is a large, cute picture of a retriever type of dog. It has this typical pathetic, plaintive look that dogs get when they think they are in trouble. Over this photo are the words, "Why Apartments.com?"
The answer to the question is disgusting. The answer is, "Because your live-in boyfriend said, 'Me or the dog.' Now you need a pet-friendly apartment."
That young folks "shack up" is not a revelation. That a major newspaper would so cavalierly project shacking up as some kind of accepted norm is alarming. That a major newspaper would aim its attention toward those who flaunt their lack of commitment to each other is astonishing. Also astonishing is the concept that this sort of unstable relationship is just what a landlord would want as perfect tenants. The instability is highlighted by the suggestion that one of the parties in this so-called "relationship" would pick an animal over a human being's intimate company. Obviously a woman of depth and sincerity.
Now when our young people, some brought up by families who honor the sacrament of marriage, the value of the family, the sanctity of sexuality and respect for modesty, are confronted by this sort of blatant anti-family and anti-values advertisement from a major newspaper (a respected institution of the adult, real world), what effect do you think it has? Young people yearn for freedom, but their youthful lack of maturity and experience leave them unaware of the dangers of freedom without values and standards. Decent families are outnumbered and outgunned by a society becoming increasingly free of self-discipline, responsibility, obligation and accountability.
So, my friends, when I get excited about one TV show, one movie, one
magazine or one ad, realize that I am pointing out one drop in a hurricane. The
windows being broken by the cultural gale-force winds are there to protect our
children and support their attempts to affirm what is most noble in
02/26/99: With power comes obligation to lead by example