Friday, July 24, 2009

The pride of life

Walter Cronkite was laid to rest yesterday. It’s one of those “passing of an era” events. He as a throwback to a time when the nightly news had a far larger market share. When most Americans got their national and international news from one of three networks.

In one respect, that was a source of national unity. We were all experiencing the same event through the same filter.

In another respect, there’s an obvious danger when your knowledge of the world is funneled through one or two news outlets. When you have no real choice.

Cronkite began to anchor the evening news before the culture wars became so prominent and divisive. Before the liberal bias became so undisguised.

Nowadays, reporters are out to change the world rather than report what they see. They report on what should be, not on what is–or was.

Cronkite had the natural stage presence of a fine character actor. And that, really, was his only distinction.

He’s a striking example of man with much knowledge and little wisdom. A man who lived a long time without ever learning what it meant to be alive.

I actually grew up on Huntley-Brinkley. It as only after Chet Huntley retired that we switched to Cronkite.

Over the years I’ve seen many anchormen come and go. Anchormen are forgettable because the news is forgettable. Unlike movie stars and athletes and pop vocalists, whom their fans still want to hear or see long after they’re gone, no one is going to wade through day after day of old news broadcasts.

When an anchorman retires or dies, he’s quickly forgotten. Chet Huntley. David Brinkley. John Chancelor. Frank McGee. Frank Reynolds. Roger Mudd. Harry Reasoner. Peter Jennings. Howard K. Smith. Jessica Savitch. Dan Rather. Charles Kuralt.

The same interchangeable eulogy is delivered in each case. Just insert a different name.

They are praised for legacy they left. The difference they made.

But who are we kidding? TV viewers discard anchormen they way they discard yesterday’s newspaper.

It’s a good example of how trite and trival are the honors which the world bestows on its own. One moment you’re famous. Hot property. The world follows you around. Hangs on your every idle word. The next moment you’re an epitaph in a weedy graveyard.

“Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever” (1 Jn 2:15-17).

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