Thankful for Television
“Thirty days of being thankful” is this month’s flavor on Facebook. Some of my friends participate, I do not. My friend Clyde has posted every day so far this month. One post caught my attention and I thought I would share it with you. It is his thoughts and he would own any copyright on it and it is reprinted here with his permission:
TV may seem a strange thing to be thankful for. It can be a huge, vapid wasteland of tawdry reality shows, mismatched programming (I still don’t see how WWE belongs on the Syfy Channel) and tepid melodramas. But the other side of TV is a blessing we take for granted. It’s the medium that let us experience as a nation and as the entire human race, in real time, the historic landing of a man on the moon. And it gave us a united strength as we shared the tragedy of Challenger, of assassination attempts, of that dark September day in 2001. When TV is bad, it is very bad…but the good found in it shines all the more for it. The Tonight Show and Mr. Carson crossed generations, gave them common ground at a time when that was the rarest thing in the world. It has made our childhood Saturday mornings a balm for the weekly growing pains of school. It has given us role models in kindly Neighborhoods of Make Believe and in marsupial Captains of the Treasure House. It has given us 5 Year Missions of futuristic space exploration that lifted our spirits after little mundane, difficult days we thought would never end. It has given us Lucys and Barts and Cosbys and MST3Ks and Big Bang Theorists who brought needed laughter into our homes on days when life gave us nothing to be amused at. If you think TV cannot be artistic as well, watch the Dr. Who episode ‘Blink’…a Hugo Award winner and the kind of taut writing I watch TV in the hopes of experiencing once a decade or less. TV is human and flawed and at times detestable; a lesser medium derived as a tertiary offshoot of theater and motion pictures. But God uses all venues to reach His children, and He has made it a hallmark to utilize the least to do the most. That is how I will always recall The Man in the Water. January 13, 1982. Air Florida Flight 90, insufficiently de-iced by ground crews during a cold snap in Washington DC, strikes a busy commuter bridge and crashes into the deadly frigid waters of the Potomac River. Six injured survivors come to the surface, clinging to wreckage and hoping for a miracle. TV showed dramatic footage of the aftermath, and I have never forgotten the day I saw it or the impact it had. Still photos showed one of the six passing the lowered lifeline from the first helicopter on the scene to his fellow survivors first. One is badly hurt and still cannot hold on, and a watching man on the shore dives in, risking the hypothermia threat of the water to finish bringing her ashore. When the helicopter went back for the 6th man, the one who had given up the lifeline for others, he was gone. Arland D. Williams, Jr. chose that moment of chaos and death to live these words, the whole television-linked world as witness: Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. That is the blessing of TV.
Although I would disagree with him on a small point – TV’s coverage of 9-11 was disgraceful. True it brought us together, but only akin to how a school of fish is brought together by sharks preparing to feed. There is an entire book in what Clyde has written, i think. Perhaps I should write it! Thank you, Clyde, for this wonderfully thought-out mini-essay on television.