Why not let them go to the mat? 

Reporting on the rumble at ringside could be Judith Regan, the literary promoter who met with widespread consternation, even shock, over her proposed deal to have O.J. Simpson write a book and appear on TV saying how he would have done it — the murder of his ex-wife and another man — if he did it, or at least if he had been present to witness it.

I conjure up this image not only because Trump happens to be a wrestling fan, but because the image approximates the reality and because we so often see something comparable go slithering by in the popular culture. If you then stay mum, refusing even to acknowledge this snake in our midst, you as much as encourage it to strike.

That’s part of the answer to people who insist you focus on more important issues. And there are, of course, more important issues than the petty backbiting of O’Donnell saying on "The View" that Trump was a "snake-oil salesman" who had frequently gone bankrupt and Trump responding on Fox TV that he had never gone bankrupt, might sue, and that, anyway, O’Donnell was a "fat slob" and a "bully."

I would agree, as well, that there are far more important issues than exploiting a crime while enriching someone many suspect of committing it.

But the popular culture taken as a whole is itself hugely important. It’s ubiquitous in the lives of most of us whether we like it or not and functions less as a mirror reflecting what we are — though it does this to some extent — than as a force influencing our sensibilities.

If what we see and hear for many hours a week over many years is kind, generous, honest, courageous, intellectually acute, deep and morally alert, we are more likely to be fortified with thoughtfulness and goodness than if what we see and hear is boorish, tawdry, sensational, shallow, sometimes vile, morally obtuse and, at its worst, decadent.

The fortunate truth is that, just as our American society is a vast, diverse, sprawling, continental sort of thing, so is our popular culture. It ranges from the vulgar to the uplifting, with lots in between.

You can have someone like Trump getting constant attention because of his wealth, his flamboyance, a "reality" TV show about firing people, his multiple wives and refusing to boot Miss USA from her throne because she drank while underage.

You can have a comedienne like O’Donnell equating "radical Christianity" with Muslim terrorists, pronouncing on a host of other issues she doesn’t quite get and going into personal attack mode about Trump’s Miss USA decision while millions watch. And you can have Regan’s apparent sense that anything goes in search of commercial success. Then, for a counter example, there’s "Charlotte’s Web."

This children’s book by E.B. White is now a movie in which delightful characters teach us about friendship, the trouble with watching out just for yourself and the glory of serving others out of love. It’s in the tradition of any number of children’s cinema classics — Disney’s early animated wonders come to mind — and along with a number of other proud moments in today’s popular culture, is a perfect response to the sorry moments. Criticism is crucial, but nothing drives out the bad as effectively as the good.

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Staff Report

Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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