Mark P. Shea is a popular Catholic writer and speaker. The author of numerous books, his most recent work is The Work of Mercy (Servant) and The Heart of Catholic Prayer (Our Sunday Visitor). Mark contributes numerous articles to many magazines, including his popular column “Connecting the Dots” for the National Catholic Register. Mark is known nationally for his one minute “Words of Encouragement” on Catholic radio. He also maintains the Catholic and Enjoying It blog. He lives in Washington state with his wife, Janet, and their four sons.
What else can be said of a nation that so needs to be coddled that even as we send our young men and women off to kill and be killed in yet another war over a piece of dirt that does not concern our vital interest at all, the President of the United States must carefully schedule his press conference regarding said war (think about that! WAR!) so that it does not conflict with “Dancing with the Stars”!:
President Obama had a message for the American people Monday night, an explanation of the government’s intentions in Libya, one that he believed was important enough to request air time from the broadcast networks as well as the cable news networks.
But the administration also recognized that some networks, like ABC, had important priorities of their own: the programs they had scheduled for prime time Monday — like “Dancing with the Stars,” the second most-watched show on television.
After some friendly negotiations, all parties agreed to a mutually acceptable time: 7:30 Eastern, which meant the speech on the military situation in Libya could be delivered — and analyzed — in time for the fans of “Dancing,” as well as other scheduled network shows, to see the shows they expected to see at their regularly scheduled times.
It’s like something out of one of those weird Cecil B. DeMille biblical epics of days gone by, where decadent Romans lounge about lasciviously while scantily clad slaves pop grapes in their mouths. The herald rushes in and announces that war is imminent and the half-drunken king and his courtiers laugh and ask for more music and wine. It’s hard to take in. These are our sons and daughters we are talking about here. You know? War? Where people get killed and the fate of nations is decided and bad things can happen?
And our top priority is “Dancing with the Stars”?
Imagine the headline 70 years ago:
DAY OF INFAMY! ROOSEVELT SPEECH PRE-EMPTS MAJOR BOWES AMATEUR HOUR
December 8, Washington - The American radio public was outraged yesterday when President Roosevelt’s speech on some sort of military engagement in the Pacific crowded the nation’s most popular amateur talent show off the air. Network phone lines were paralyzed with protest as the listening public called to register its outrage.
One listener said, “Look, if the President wants to send our troops into harm’s way, well, that’s what they signed up for. But *I* signed up to hear the Glick Sisters harmonize on “Don’t Fence Me In,” and I don’t want to be bored with a lot of stuff about war with a bunch of people I don’t know or care about. Just send our boys wherever they need to go and let them get on with it. I just want to get back to my regular programming.”
President Roosevelt urged the country to press on until we gain the inevitable triumph, so help us God, but listeners appeared to be more in the mood to gain some better channel where the listening public did not have to hear more details about troop movements, battles or projected death and injury tolls.
“Sure, I support the troops, I guess,” said Mr. John Schlub of Cincinnati, “and I guess our cause is just or something. Hey! I don’t really know much about it. But if they want to send those people to shoot and get shot at, better them than me. I just want my radio programming the way it was.”
The radio networks apologized to their audience and assured them that no more troubling talk about the so-called “war” would be aired again and that the upcoming “Bread and Circuses” marathon of non-stop entertainment would be broadcast this weekend without further interruptions.
Now, of course, Libya is not WWII. But it is, nonetheless, war, something we have been permanently engaged in for 10 years now. People, including ours, will be killed. We are, once again, demanding that our over-extended and exhausted men and women under arms go fight, kill, and die for, well, something—maybe our new friends, Al Qaeda (it’s hard to tell). And while they do this for an indeterminate amount of time (ten more years?), we will be watching “Dancing with the Stars” and expending our energies clicking on the latest dish on Paris Hilton and Lindsay Lohan. Oh, and supporting the troops—if they don’t mess up prime time.
One of the great weirdnesses of our time has been the attempt by our nation to say, ever since 9/11, “We are locked in an existential struggle against a mortal foe who desires our annihilation and we must expend all of the resources of our civilization to defeat this foe—and everybody should just relax and go shopping and watch ‘Dancing with the Stars.’” Sooner or later, an all-volunteer military sent to man an empire with a presence in well over a hundred countries will get the impression that “Dancing with the Stars” means more to us back home than their sacrifices do. It will only be natural on that day for them to wonder, “Why then should I go on sacrificing my life, my family, my health and my emotional well-being for a nation that can’t be bothered to look up from its TV long enough to wonder why I am being sent off yet again to suffer and die for it?”
Paris Hilton will not be able to protect us, should our voluntary troops decide the sacrifice is not worth it and simply fail to re-up and go pay for our fat, dumb and happy country with their blood, sweat and tears. Unlike the inconvenient unborn babies we have killed to the tune of 50 million, when we put these inconvenient people out of our minds, they have the power to create consequences for our choice to neglect them and ignore their pain and death. So before we take Obama’s word for it and then sag back on to the sofa to watch “Dancing with the Bread and Circuses,” let’s ask whether this latest war actually meets Just War criteria. I’m with Fr. Robert Barron and don’t think it does.