Tuesday, October 16, 2012

The List

The list is out. Yes, that list.
Around Maine, just about everybody knows what list I mean.
There's been a prostitution case in the news of late. The woman charged is a Zumba instructor and her list of clients has been on the verge of release for days now. It supposedly features politicians, attorneys and a TV personality.
The list has been chatted about for days on social media sites. With the release of the first batch of names Monday, those sites are abuzz with comments, jokes and gawkers. I turned on a sports talk show this morning and this is what they were discussing.
Smart alecks and jokesters are getting all the mileage they can out of the situation. I've made a few cracks myself.  I'm even expecting an email from a college friend who typically contacts me when something  in Maine hits the national news.
The media is checking their morals to decide what to do. WCSH created a special banner and link on its web page so voyeurs could find the list immediately. They included a disclaimer that stated that since the names didn't include addresses or other means of identifying these men charged, that confusion and mistaken assumptions could be made if people have the same name. Sorry about that, folks. But they got the names up on their site really, really fast and can puff up their chests about breaking news. I assume it might be a safe bet that the TV personality isn't one of theirs. Boy, would their face be red.
Another TV news site, WMTW posted the story on their site but referred people to the Kennebunk Police Department page, where the names are listed.
Newspapers are trying to make the same decisions. To list or not to list. I'm curious to see what my own paper does, but at the same time, I could care less.
First, people clamored for the names to be released. Now they don't like how they were released. Others have just waited to see the list and fill their insatiable need for whatever reading the names might do for them. It has been a constant dialogue for over a week, getting more mind-numbing with each passing day.
Is this really all we have to focus on? Aren't we better than this? Is our time really best spent waiting on and salivating over the potential salacious and juicy details to come?
So you read the names on the list. If there's nobody you know, then what? Or what if there is somebody you know on the list? Does that make you feel better? Are you anxious to judge or joke over the potential humiliation involved? Do you feel sorry or feel scorn for them?
Maybe its like driving by a bad car accident where people like to slow down and gawk. Maybe it's a means for people to feel better about themselves. They can look at all those immoral names on the list and be glad that they're not those poor perverted saps.
Unfortunately, I see this all as a prime example of all that's wrong with this society. We're a reality show world in which the sexier, slimier and divisive the narrative, the better. Rather than wallow in it, we should be rising above it.
The men get charged. Their names become public knowledge. Good. They probably deserve it. But it shouldn't be our obsession. Are we any better than them if we're addicted to all the details and relish in them all?
It reminds me why negative ads work in politics and why our elected officials talk to us like we're idiots. Because we allow them to. We don't elevate ourselves and our thinking.  It allows for a blanket of dialogue that reaches the lowest common denominator among us. People believe the spin they're spoon fed. People focus on the style and not the substance. The political spin and extremist talk overwhelms us, but many accept it with apathy.
The world is full of discontent and disillusionment. You can't help but see it in the course of a day.  It can be a sad environment to exist in sometimes. Frankly, it is discouraging. But we can't dwell on what's wrong in this world.  It is easy to be overwhelmed with that negative energy. We become only as good as the sludge we immerse ourselves in.
That's why we must rise above the smut and mindless trappings of things like this. We must find ways to make the world better instead of reveling in the examples of its discontent.
In this prostitution case, there are families involved. Wives, kids, brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers will all face scorn, scrutiny and shame over somebody's selfish act. Yet, we want to see those names so we know who they are. Does this make the world around us better? What is gained from this feeding frenzy over a Zumba intructor's fantastic failure?
Lists about sex-crazed scumbags can serve their justice to the law breakers. They serve the rest of us nothing.
We're better than this. We should prove it. We should rise above this kind of in-the-gutter focus. We should elevate our thoughts and our actions. Who knows, if we do this, maybe such lists become obsolete.

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