By Leah Ireland: The Academy Awards are so US.
The Academy Awards are so U.S.: garish, boring, tasteless, silly in an unclever way, ego sentimental, and a disgrace of expense — no longer about excellence but excess. Could there be anything more moving than a movie star weeping and being all concerned about the starving poor while making $30 million a movie?
And if you think that much of the $140 million profit from "Slumdog Millionaire" went toward improving the lives of trash can orphans, or made the world suddenly aware and thusly more active for children — dream on. We tolerate the horror that our lifestyle demands of the world because inside we are good people and individually we are not at fault.
We feel that just knowing of the nightmare half the world's children suffer clears us of involvement in it. Fleeing from responsibility is encouraged as a national pastime for our country of too much. The sexy guys do it, the self-involved preoccupied parents do it, the children of seniors do it and the children of abundance without boundaries learn to do it.
All the while we are fueled by such solidly American investments in corporations such as Coca-Cola. They are okay because they advertise on PBS about how socially responsible and green they are. And we excuse that Coke has rained disease on generations worldwide as it now steals the water of the poor, bottles it and sells it back to them, or ships it to us.
Like all evils, we need euphemisms such as "water management" or the "pro-life movement" that shield us from what is really happening. And we say that things are about religion instead of the financial need to keep poor women powerless and children starving to maintain the American way of life.
Even the poorest among us has a slumdog or sweatshop slave. The rich have hundreds of thousands. Billionaires have millions. You can never have such wealth without such poverty; it's a law of survival physics. But we get movies about it all, make them "feel good" films, and then we are okay about it. "Something is being done." Yeah, right.
These children have a way out: They can be criminals or go on a quiz show. Isn't that what life's all about? The slum child magically has lighter skin, perfect teeth, no rickets, dysentery or worms, and is well educated. And the deeply religious will always keep a fresh supply of child labor, prostitution and the body part industry going, as well as those low prices we've come to depend on at Walmart.
We cannot live without slum children or the success of a fun film about things we can't face. If these kids have what it takes, there is a way out. We are rooting for them. We'll rest the world on Obama's shoulders, and we are free to blamelessly pursue the American dream and do whatever we can simply to feel good about ourselves and our complicity in the 50,000 children that starve everyday. Our children, every one.
Leah Ireland is a writer living in Ashland.