Wednesday, January 26, 2011

The Things People Focus On

I will never understand people in general.  I'm quite comfortable with understanding the fringe, the freaks, geeks, the strange, and the deranged.  However, I will never fully grasp people en mass.  So, like many other civic minded Americans, and those without cable, I watch the State of the Union Address last night.  The president talked on many things I was glad to see brought to a focus, and neglected some things I wanted to hear talked about, and of course I missed some stuff while dealing with the kids.  I don't want to sit here and analyze what was said, but rather I'd like to talk about non-political societal reaction to it.

I'm sure my more politically active friends will have all kinds of snarky posts in the morning on facebook, and in reality, most of the people I know personally didn't say a thing, well other than my friend who avoided it to go see the Presidents of the United States of America in concert, lucky girl.  However, the readers of NPR (and followers of NPR on facebook) were not so absent.... kinda makes sense thinking about NPR, I mean politics is like a prime hobby there!  Anyway, immediately following the presidents address they invited anyone and everyone to share 3 separate words that to them defined the what they had just heard.  They even made separate word graphs for each persons proclaimed political affiliation.

Image courtesy of 

Above is the collective image for all the contributed words.  Now if you are like me and listened, and you suffer from my failure to understand the mob of society, you are shaking your head.  If you didn't listen, I'm sure you are wondering what you missed.  WHY THE HECK IS "SALMON" UP THERE!  Furthermore, why is it the MOST chosen word????

If you look closer (especially on the broken down images) the word "smoked" is up there as well.  (It just makes me shake my head, picture me nodding in disbelief here, because I AM!)  The president talked about a lot of stuff.  He gave lots of examples of things that are going well, people who are inspiring, companies that exemplify the foundation of the American spirit, and he talked about examples of the things that he wants to see addressed.  In one of those examples he mentioned government redundancy where agencies trip over one another.  His example for this was salmon, you know the fish.  He talks about how depending on which life stage the salmon is in determines which agency is enforcing regulations regarding it.  Then he made a quick joke about not knowing who deals with salmon once it's smoked.  That's it, that was the whole thing.  Out of the hour and a half broadcast (or was it two hours, like I said I got distracted by kids), the "salmon" incident was maybe 5 minutes - given the pause for the laughter from the joke.

Personally, I think it far more important that the president challenged us to celebrate our science fair winners as much as the superbowl champions!  I think what he had to say about improving teacher status in the eyes of society like they are in countries where students are excelling in math and science, was way more memorable than a joke about salmon, and I've worked on salmon!  Not to mention I grew up with the bumper stickers of "Can Helen Not Salmon".  I know my salmon jokes!

I almost dread the news tomorrow.  Is this really what we as a people are going to focus on?  A joke about a fish?  Sure government redundancy definitely needs to be addressed and the workings of government made more efficient, even though it will continue to reduce jobs.  Yet, there was so much more.  There is the message of growing, developing, and innovating this country into the leader of the future - avoiding our demise by remaining resolute in our old ways.  As a fan of rail travel, I'm personally excited about the president's goal to provide high speed rail to 80% of the people in the country.  I personally would rather take a train when traveling distance than drive, especially if good public transit exists at my destination.  Where I live there are no passenger rails, and I've dreamed and dreamed of practical rail.  Maybe I will type up the loop idea my friends and I developed one night.

Even if you don't care about rail, there were lots of other goals, including more "clean energy"!  Even though I do not care for any fossil fuel options, I know why the president included them, and I'm glad these aspects of his campaign are finally able to see light.  Some people are saying the president is changing his tune, some say he has returned to previous statements he has made.  I'm not sure, but I found very few truly objectionable things, at least until the follow-up.  Which to me made no sense with the speech I'd just heard.  Hmmm maybe they were too busy trying to figure out how to incorporate "salmon".

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