"The great 'movement'--that was the cant term--went on: a diseased commotion, moral and physical. Art--the Arts--arose supreme, and, once enthroned, cast chains upon the intellect which had elevated them to power. Man, because he could not but acknowledge the majesty of Nature, fell into childish exultation at his acquired and still-increasing dominion over her elements. Even while he stalked a God in his own fancy, an infantine imbecility came over him."
-Edgar Poe, "The Colloquy of Monos and Una", 1850
What began as a breath of fresh air has transformed, by slow degrees, into a death rattle. There was a time when I never wanted to miss Sunday Morning. It was a peaceful oasis of the mind in contrast to the obnoxious blare pervading broadcast TV. I loved everything about the show, especially the minimalist set and graphics. The unhurried pace was just right for presenting the arts.
It all changed for me when they did a story about the poet Gil Scott-Heron. He recited "Whitey on the moon." The same network that gloried in the peaceful Apollo missions was now denouncing them for not solving poverty and racism. Turning a great scientific achievement for all mankind into a bitter, alienated complaint (with no counterpoint from Walter Cronkite or the astronauts themselves) was a lamentable display of intellectual bankruptcy.
As the years flew past, I grew irritated at stories about artists that focused on their gender and ethnicity rather than their art. The condescending tone of surprise that non white males were producing sculptures, paintings, music, and literature reflected badly on CBS. It also insulted the audience (did they think we were ignorant, narrow-minded, and consumed with racism?) and trivialized the creativity of the individuals profiled.
The miserable cloud of Politics now blocks out the healthy sunshine of universal truths. TV critic John Leonard seriously compared Whitney Houston's Super Bowl rendition of "The Star Spangled Banner" during the Gulf War to a Nazi rally. The less said about the excessive Weight and Import in Martha Teichner's vocal delivery the better.
If there is a chance to reinforce the cosmology of contemporary liberalism, Sunday Morning takes it. I can't even see how the most liberal among us can enjoy the show anymore. Isn't it wearisome to be reminded, week after week, how bad the McCarthy era was? Keeping his supposedly destroyed image alive can only serve the ends of propagandists. Every cult needs a devil, I suppose.
Sunday Morning was once a fair tree, peacefully bearing inspirational fruit. I used to love seeing the melting ice by the riverside each spring. Now it is a dead log, tilted to the left, covered with fungi. Cancel it and bring back Captain Kangaroo!
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