I confess, “if I’m being completely honest” as American Idol judge Simon Cowell used to say, I have watched every season of American Idol (AI) since it started.
I got hooked by the bad auditions in the beginning of the first season, not expecting to be engaged in the contestants plights and quests for stardom.
With millions of voters, even in the first season when no one really knew what the show was, AI consistently gets a voter turnout those in politics would be envious of.
About 131.3 million voters made their voices heard in the 2008 presidential election. AI’s most recent finale featured bluesy singer Crystal Bowersox versus Nickleback soundalike rocker Lee Dewyze and it was clearly one of the lowest voter turnouts in the show’s history. So low Ryan Seacrest didn’t disclose the number votes for this lackluster season. The show’s ratings have been on a decline since 2007, but last year’s finale with the talented Kris Allen versus the currently more famous runner up Adam Lambert, still drew 100 million voters so we know the public is engaged.
Sure we can argue in American Idol land one can vote several times with no age limits regardless of how many felonies are on their rap sheet. We can argue the cynical and jaded American public may have more faith in the process of choosing an American Idol than an American Congressperson or president. After all how many of us learn again for the first time every 4 years what the role of the electoral college is?
All that is fine, but the point of this post is to point out that American Idol: The Search for a Superstar debuted on June 11, 2002, on the Fox network. As stated many times by the last US president and the current one our nation was essentially plunged into war on September 11, 2001.
Years later American viewers were treated to the debuts of Dancing With the Stars, So You Think You Can Dance and America’s Got Talent among others. America has been distracted from the simultaneous wars we’ve been in for almost a decade now.
Less than 1 half of 1% of the US population is in the Armed Forces and many families have successive generations who enlist. This means the bulk of the human costs of war on this side are being paid, not just by a sliver of the population, but by a small number of families. Increasingly, most Americans don’t know anyone in the Armed Forces and can be that much more easily be distanced from the wars in Afghanistan, Iraq and the less official undeclared wars in Pakistan and with Iran.
Memorial Day commemorates US men and women who died while in the military service. Memorial Day sale excitement and the fun of this summer’s first cookouts will be replaced by solemn commemorations for some families this year.
I had some family in the military during American Idol’s run and still watched the show as some members of the military stationed in overseas war zones did. They understand it’s a distraction though. Those directly effected and too few others know these wars can’t be ignored.
I hope we can take this day to at least acknowledge our fellow Americans in the service and their families. I hope we can remember that when these wars slide off the front pages of our newspapers and reality show happenings or box office tallies are presented as news, those wars are producing casualties on all sides.