International House of Dan: Dan almost goes on NPR

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Dan almost goes on NPR

Chicago public radio has a neat show called Odyssey, which we didn't get in Missouri, and today as I was driving around for work I heard a great discussion on how the Cold War affected our culture, and how the "war on terror" affects us today. I decided to call in with my two cents, and it was very strange... I had never called in to a radio station, or at least I'd never gotten through before. The first few times it was busy, but I was at a red light so I persisted, and eventually someone answered and put me on hold for a second. The person who asked my name sounded a lot like hostess Gretchen Helfrich, but it was probably the intern, and after a brief pause I just started telling her my thoughts, because she said nothing, and I assumed that was what you were supposed to do. I wasn't sure if I was on the air, or what was going on (I've heard people be told to turn their radio down while on the air, so I had done it in advance), so I just tried to say what I had called to say, and thought it'd be left at that. It wasn't that simple.

First of all, at some point it hits you that if you go on, your voice will be heard by people across the nation, so right away you tense up a bit. Then you worry that for whatever reason your voice will sound ridiculous on their air, all while trying to reformulate your thoughts so that you'll be understood clearly and the panelists can speak to your issue without Gretchen having to tell you to shut up because you're using up all the time. So your heart picks up a bit, you get a little nervous, and by now the light is green so you also have to drive. You decide it's a good idea to get rid of your gum. You say what you wanted to say, and of course, it comes out differently than you would've liked, so a follow-up is asked, and then another, and after about a minute, you both arrive at something that sounds enough like what you had in mind and is agreeable to the person on the phone. By now, I can hear the show in the background, so it's clear I'm not yet on the air, but then I am told my point is good, and they'll try to squeeze me in. For the next couple of minutes, it's as though I'm on speaker phone with Gretchen and the panelists. I was on "cyborg mode" (using the phone's hands-free thingy), and all I could hear was the show, as it sounds on the air, but coming through my earpiece. I coughed, but I did it quietly, because it felt like it would be broadcast... The next time I'd be spoken to would be to tell me "you're on the air", and then I'd have to deliver my lines on cue, knowing full well that time's running out.

The show ended after a couple of other callers went on, and I didn't know whether to hang up or what, so I stayed on, and the voice came back to say sorry the show ran out. I said "that's ok, great show", and that was that. It was a rush, what can I say...

My point was going to be that perhaps the reason we don't see the same atmosphere today as during the Cold War is the very fact that we experienced the Cold War. You can make a movie like "The Siege" during the "war on terror" precisely because you couldn't have made a movie that criticized McCarthyism during the Red Scare. My point was that we've been through a time when the government could make us spy on eachother, and make us worry that the people next door could be commies, and force us to quietly forsake our freedoms in the name of security, and in hindsight, that wasn't a good time. As a result, as much as some in the Administration might like to, the American people won't buy into the notion that criticism of the PATRIOT ACT, or Guantanamo, or the Iraqi invasion, are synonymous with terrorism. I am not a terrorist sympathizer simply because I speak out against Bush, but I would've been dubbed a communist for speaking out against McCarthy.

I recommend the movie "Guilty by Suspicion", it sheds light on the kind of America we had the last time we were collectively blinded by an "us vs. them" ideology, and it seems to me that because as a nation we already fell for that once, we know that we shouldn't do it again. "Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me." I think that though Bush doesn't seem to be able to say those words, he understands that they limit his ability to sell us on the "war on terror".


Post a Comment

<< Home