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Jonathan Tobin: Defending the Right to a Jewish State

Heather Hale: Compliment your kids without giving them big heads

Megan Shauri: 10 ways you are ruining your own happiness

Carolyn Bigda: 8 Best Dividend Stocks for 2015

Kiplinger's Personal Finance editors: 7 Things You Didn't Know About Paying Off Student Loans

Samantha Olson: The Crucial Mistake 55% Of Parents Are Making At Their Baby's Bedtime

Densie Well, Ph.D., R.D. Open your eyes to yellow vegetables

The Kosher Gourmet by Megan Gordon With its colorful cache of purples and oranges and reds, COLLARD GREEN SLAW is a marvelous mood booster --- not to mention just downright delish
April 18, 2014

Rabbi Yonason Goldson: Clarifying one of the greatest philosophical conundrums in theology

Caroline B. Glick: The disappearance of US will

Megan Wallgren: 10 things I've learned from my teenagers

Lizette Borreli: Green Tea Boosts Brain Power, May Help Treat Dementia

John Ericson: Trying hard to be 'positive' but never succeeding? Blame Your Brain

The Kosher Gourmet by Julie Rothman Almondy, flourless torta del re (Italian king's cake), has royal roots, is simple to make, . . . but devour it because it's simply delicious

April 14, 2014

Rabbi Dr Naftali Brawer: Passover frees us from the tyranny of time

Greg Crosby: Passing Over Religion

Eric Schulzke: First degree: How America really recovered from a murder epidemic

Georgia Lee: When love is not enough: Teaching your kids about the realities of adult relationships

Cameron Huddleston: Freebies for Your Lawn and Garden

Gordon Pape: How you can tell if your financial adviser is setting you up for potential ruin

Dana Dovey: Up to 500,000 people die each year from hepatitis C-related liver disease. New Treatment Has Over 90% Success Rate

Justin Caba: Eating Watermelon Can Help Control High Blood Pressure

The Kosher Gourmet by Joshua E. London and Lou Marmon Don't dare pass over these Pesach picks for Manischewitz!

April 11, 2014

Rabbi Hillel Goldberg: Silence is much more than golden

Caroline B. Glick: Forgetting freedom at Passover

Susan Swann: How to value a child for who he is, not just what he does

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Financial Tasks You Should Tackle Right Now

Sandra Block and Lisa Gerstner: How to Profit From Your Passion

Susan Scutti: A Simple Blood Test Might Soon Diagnose Cancer

Chris Weller: Have A Slow Metabolism? Let Science Speed It Up For You

The Kosher Gourmet by Diane Rossen Worthington Whitefish Terrine: A French take on gefilte fish

April 9, 2014

Jonathan Tobin: Why Did Kerry Lie About Israeli Blame?

Samuel G. Freedman: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Jessica Ivins: A resolution 70 years later for a father's unsettling legacy of ashes from Dachau

Kim Giles: Asking for help is not weakness

Kathy Kristof and Barbara Hoch Marcus: 7 Great Growth Israeli Stocks

Matthew Mientka: How Beans, Peas, And Chickpeas Cleanse Bad Cholesterol and Lowers Risk of Heart Disease

Sabrina Bachai: 5 At-Home Treatments For Headaches

The Kosher Gourmet by Daniel Neman Have yourself a matzo ball: The secrets bubby never told you and recipes she could have never imagined

April 8, 2014

Lori Nawyn: At Your Wit's End and Back: Finding Peace

Susan B. Garland and Rachel L. Sheedy: Strategies Married Couples Can Use to Boost Benefits

David Muhlbaum: Smart Tax Deductions Non-Itemizers Can Claim

Jill Weisenberger, M.S., R.D.N., C.D.E : Before You Lose Your Mental Edge

Dana Dovey: Coffee Drinkers Rejoice! Your Cup Of Joe Can Prevent Death From Liver Disease

Chris Weller: Electric 'Thinking Cap' Puts Your Brain Power Into High Gear

The Kosher Gourmet by Marlene Parrish A gift of hazelnuts keeps giving --- for a variety of nutty recipes: Entree, side, soup, dessert

April 4, 2014

Rabbi David Gutterman: The Word for Nothing Means Everything

Charles Krauthammer: Kerry's folly, Chapter 3

Amy Peterson: A life of love: How to build lasting relationships with your children

John Ericson: Older Women: Save Your Heart, Prevent Stroke Don't Drink Diet

John Ericson: Why 50 million Americans will still have spring allergies after taking meds

Cameron Huddleston: Best and Worst Buys of April 2014

Stacy Rapacon: Great Mutual Funds for Young Investors

Sarah Boesveld: Teacher keeps promise to mail thousands of former students letters written by their past selves

The Kosher Gourmet by Sharon Thompson Anyone can make a salad, you say. But can they make a great salad? (SECRETS, TESTED TECHNIQUES + 4 RECIPES, INCLUDING DRESSINGS)

April 2, 2014

Paul Greenberg: Death and joy in the spring

Dan Barry: Should South Carolina Jews be forced to maintain this chimney built by Germans serving the Nazis?

Mayra Bitsko: Save me! An alien took over my child's personality

Frank Clayton: Get happy: 20 scientifically proven happiness activities

Susan Scutti: It's Genetic! Obesity and the 'Carb Breakdown' Gene

Lecia Bushak: Why Hand Sanitizer May Actually Harm Your Health

Stacy Rapacon: Great Funds You Can Own for $500 or Less

Cameron Huddleston: 7 Ways to Save on Home Decor

The Kosher Gourmet by Steve Petusevsky Exploring ingredients as edible-stuffed containers (TWO RECIPES + TIPS & TECHINQUES)

Jewish World Review Feb. 4, 2009 / 10 Shevat 5769

The Reality of Innocence

By Michael Gerson


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http://www.JewishWorldReview.com | Television has become a flat-screened, high-definition window for the voyeur. In the profusion of reality television series, the curtain is pulled back on the more or less scripted lives of real people put in contrived situations designed to humiliate, titillate or inspire — but mainly to humiliate and titillate.


The morbidly obese are put through their paces on treadmills and weighed on scales. Women are ridiculed for their dumpiness — actually displayed on a street corner in a plastic cubicle — and subjected to makeovers including surgery. Game-show contestants are dared to eat insects and offal. Young adults are locked together in a hothouse paradise to see what hormonal weeds might grow.


Most of this is trivial rather than disturbing. (Okay, I admit to watching "American Idol" — which David Archuleta, by the way, should have won last season.) But if great art can elevate, it follows that corrupt entertainment can corrupt. Reality television, in many instances, not only appeals to a leering cruelty, it also cultivates a leering cruelty.


But there is a subset of this genre that accomplishes something unexpected — using the camera to humanize rather than to mock. The cable network TLC specializes in what it calls the "docu-series," which places a camera in a home and rolls without intervention. Millions of Americans have gotten to know the impressively regimented Duggars, with 18 children and counting; the Roloffs, a family comprised of both little and average-size people; and, above all, Jon and Kate Gosselin, raising twins and sextuplets of monumental cuteness.


One would imagine watching the daily lives of others to be tedious. But the mundane turns out to be fascinating, even radical. This season, the Roloffs experienced the death of a close family friend. It was shocking to see adults and children reacting on television with genuine, uncomprehending grief. All these TLC families take religion seriously — also a rare sight on television. Though grief and faith are just about universal, they are nearly always hidden in our popular culture — the massive things we are never allowed to see.


There is no mystery to the appeal of crassness. But the appeal of normality and innocence requires explanation. Some of the charm of these shows is their honesty, which can provoke a vague self-recognition. Kate Gosselin is allergic to stains, germs and disorder — a control freak running a household beyond control. Jon is calm and wry, admitting, with universal maleness, "I don't like the way emotions make me feel." Their relationship is a display of commitment beneath grouchy, sleep-deprived strain — a pretty good definition of marital love.


Their show, "Jon & Kate Plus 8," is also a running commentary on the rich individuality of children. "Without a doubt," Kate told me, "the most amazing part of being a mom of eight kids, two sets of multiples, is the fact that although they were womb mates and have been raised together in the same house with the same parents . . . each one is so very unique and individual." This is the definition of true humanism — discerning in the small bounds of a single life an entire world of meaning and dignity. And this is the reason that parenthood is often the antidote to selfishness and the training ground for broader social sympathy.


In recent debates on multiple births, my thoughts turned immediately to Jon and Kate's children — Cara, Mady, Alexis, Aaden, Collin, Leah, Hannah and Joel. Not every fertility technique may be wise. But every life, once begun, is an unmatchable individual and an unqualified blessing. When medical ethicists push selective reduction, the question naturally arises: Which ones?


The main achievement of this healthier kind of reality television is to reveal the dignity of domesticity. While a camera in a family's living room can't be termed art, artists have sometimes reached for this ideal. Johannes Vermeer found luminance in the writing of a letter or the pouring of a milk jug — scenes lit from the broad world outside a window but no more important than the world within.


And so the Gosselins remind us of the momentous, consequential dignity of timeouts and Play-Doh and potty training — the love of children that is the love of life. And they recall, for some of us, a lost and sunlit time of small hands and small voices and the regular, trusting breath of a small body on a father's chest.


Every weekday JewishWorldReview.com publishes what many in the media and Washington consider "must-reading". Sign up for the daily JWR update. It's free. Just click here.

Comment on Michael Gerson's column by clicking here.



Previously:


01/07/09: The Risks in Obama's Ambitions
12/31/08: Support Obama Will Need
06/13/08: Prince Charles, Organic Conservatism Icon
06/11/08: No longer a bankrupt political joke but still overshadowed
04/23/08: McCain's anger management
04/10/08: A Country for Old Men
03/06/08: Does the America Need a Hug?
03/06/08: Obama's First 100 Days
02/29/08: Words Aren't Cheap
02/22/08: He Said, They Said
02/20/08: Dying silently in Zimbabwe
02/15/08: Hillary's Unappealing Path
02/13/08: NATO's Afghan Stumbles
02/08/08: Why McCain Endures
02/06/08: One surge that led to another
02/01/08: In North Korea, Process Over Progress
01/30/08: Compassionate to the end


© 2008, WPWG

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