Tuesday, June 3, 2008

A Long Pull on a Short Cord

I hear the phrase 'tipping point' in the news a lot these days. The folks who pop up as analysts are very fond of this turn of phrase right now for reasons I don't really understand but they never offer to explain the term because I think they think we already all know or they're gambling we're too polite to tell them we don't.

I'm impressed that we have thousands of reporters and videographers and cameramen (and women) scattered to the four corners of the globe and all points in between so that we can vicariously experience all the major events in our civilization (you don't think that video of Britney with her two kids is major? Well, then stick to that earthquake stuff....), but no one ever asks them 'what is the heck is going on there, Vern/Julie? (wherever there is) instead we get the talking head person back in the studio with....,well not actually news but opinions on news.

Between you and me, I think the term analyst is actually code for 'here's what I think'. When we're in the supermarket trying to figure out which brand of toothpaste gets our teeth whiter or our breath smelling sweeter, we're working the same gig as the fellow on CNN or MSNBC. Except while we're standing in the aisle, staring at the merchandise, nobody puts up our name under our chin like the TV folks do. I'm thinking tipping points might be this year's term for last year's 'hot button issues', or the year before's 'critical factors', but if you have a better definition tell me and we'll go with that. (I'd hate to have a disagreement over 'tipping point' become a tipping point in our relationship, though the irony of that is delicious.)

In a Presidential election year we have tipping points everyday and this year is no exception. I don't know about you but I'm sort of numb from the length of the campaign and the volume and tone of the rhetoric so far and we're nowhere near the end. When did this election actually start, anyway? I didn't hear the pistol shot but it may have been sounded while the Kerry people were letting the air out of the balloons at the Election Night Ballroom in the hopes they could get a partial refund from the caterer.

So far, the tipping points have included 'The War' (we, like the analysts, can become so removed from an event that the actual conflicts of arms in which the various worldwide deployments of our armed forces are engaged gets reduced to one abstraction. Shame on us when that happens), health care, immigration control (and the lack thereof), the price of gasoline, oil and petroleum products in general, the mortgage meltdowns and tightening credit, No Child Left Behind, little American flags in jacket lapels, who said what about whom in which Church (Do you suppose God really cares who the President of the United States is? I suspect about as much as he cares that there are pro basketball players who make the Sign of the Cross before they shoot a foul shot, but when I die and stand before him and he's wearing a Rasheed Wallace jersey, I'll bet I'm not smiling so wide as I am as I type this, thinking about that jersey and (of course), Chuck Taylor Converse sneakers (we're talking old school AND Old Testament)) but that's just now.

We have all Summer and almost all Autumn so brace for impact. There's an even-money possibility that we'll be caring deeply about issues, tipping points if you will, that haven't been invented yet. I'm thinking there might be some money to be made in having Velcro bumper stickers just so I don't ruin the paint job. And the spot where you grab 'em to tear them off the car, I'm thinking of calling that the 'ripping point.'
-bill kenny

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