“We are what we eat” is as true for the food which build our physical bodies as it is for the daily diet of news that feeds our mental and moral selves. We have one crisis in America of epidemic obesity from our fast food habits and another of moral starvation from our media habits.
I’m thinking of the way the news features the death of Rush Limbaugh and buries the news of Chick Corea’s passing in a paragraph on the back page. Both were American citizens and one used his human incarnation to spread fear, hate and ignorance, the other to elevate us with sublime artistic expression with a commitment and character worth emulating. In the same way, Ellis Marsalis’ death from Covid last Spring drew little attention, another exemplary jazz musician who fathered an extraordinary musical family (Wynton and Branford both towering contemporary jazz musicians, Jason and Delfayo also out there making great music), was himself a superb pianist and dedicated his spare time to teaching young people in New Orleans. His passing received but a passing notice, but that damn fool Kanye West (who sold out to that even greater fool, the ex-POTUS) separates from Kim Kardashian (that socialite and media personality whose only accomplishment is “being famous for being famous,") and it’s all over the news.
Okay, I get it. If it bleeds, it leads, newspapers have to make money and character doesn’t sell, a competitive industry demands that you hit the lower three chakras of food, sex and power. But still there was a time when jazz musicians like Duke Ellington and Thelonious Monk were on the cover of Time magazine, when the death of a jazz giant merited big coverage so you didn’t have to find out accidentally from a friend that someone like Clark Terry died five years ago.
But media folks, pay attention. You drive both the tone and content of our public discourse and if you continue to make our small-selves obese with a constant diet of horrible human beings and starve our need for uplift with stories of Americans worthy of our pride, you get exactly what have—an overfed, undernourished, dull-minded, sensation-driven, heart-buried-in-blubber population caring about the wrong things. Put Chick on the front cover and Rush in the back and notice what changes.
Thanks to the 35 readers considering these words, while the 35 million reading about Kim and Kanye go on with their day, yet again lowering the bar of their humanitarian promise.