2008-11-28 / Letters

The American Spirit

Dear Editor, America and most Americans are acutely aware of our "can do" spirit. If we want to give up smoking, we can. If we are ordered to ditch transfats, just ask. If we are asked to recycle, yes we can. If we are required to follow doctor's orders and shed some pounds, can't win them all. But, currently there is one thing we are in the process of doing, and quite successfully, merely because we have no choice.

On February 17, 2009, a red letter date in America, we, as a nation of television junkies, will go from analog to digital reception. Are we fighting against this earth-shattering requisite? Nope. Are we outraged at the toll this transformation will take on technology laggards and the poor? Not on your life. Why not? We are in the midst of a revolution, aren't we? We are relegating what was our way of life to the trash bin. Where are the protests?

Yes, we, as a country, are willingly being led away from analog television reception aka free TV, never to confront it again. We, as a country, are being led toward the land of digital reception at a cost, at least for the paraphernalia, unable to channel the world of analog evermore. What, one may ask, is so revolutionary about an entire country changing the manner in which it receives television signals?

Surely, this revolution began five years ago and we have been warned ever since. No fewer than half of all current programming is reminding us that we will not be able to receive television as we once did by merely plugging in a TV set, jiggling the rabbit ears and relaxing in an easy chair. Turn to any channel and receive a bottom-of the- screen reminder of the ides of TV, February 2, 2009. Many stations offer tutorials on the care and feeding of digital reception. Some stations carry a message just short of intimidation if we somehow are not prepared on February 17 of next year. Hey! U.S. residents even qualify for a subsidy toward purchase of a converter. That is how insistent the TV powers that be in this country are that we switch to digitalia. If anybody is complaining about having to buy a special electronic hook-up to receive the only kind of television that once was, no detectable sounds of protest are being heard. We are dutifully following orders.

So, by setting a time limit to change the way we receive TV signals and know we will have no alternative but to see it "their way," Americans are Jake with the reality of the mandatory transformation, right? It seems simple, doesn't it? "Plan ahead for desired outcomes," is a regimen that has been working for ages.

Then, my fellow Americans, why can't we set a date and adhere to it with regard to something truly earthshattering; that is, changing from fossil fuel dependence to renewable sources of energy and, like digital TV reception, be given a no escape clause from compliance? Why can't we set a date for a meaningful fuel transformation, one that would see the entire world benefiting from our energy revolution? If subsidies are needed, then they must be granted: Solar panels on house roofs and windmills are two alternatives. Why, if we can merely harness the energy used in gyms across the country in stair masters and treadmills, we would be ahead of the energy game!

In this country, when it comes to sacrificing for trivial matters, television reception, and we are forced to be on the same team, we are unstoppable. How proud of ourselves we must think we should be! But, when it comes to the real McCoy, energy, and the future of our planet, we are just a nation of wimps, that is, unless our government uses the current TV reception gambit as a prototype and runs with it.

The time is now, in fact, it is past now. The truth is if I see one more polar bear stretched out on green grass near the South Pole where ice once flourished trying in vain to find a place to swim and a glacier on which to chill, I'll lose it entirely. Merci industrial revolution, merci. Now, let us do our utmost to reverse the harm we have done to our planet. Let's set a date.

JOAN BASS

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