The Musings of

Something full of magic, religion, bullsh*t.

Monday, May 16, 2005

That's just #$@% great.

A minor brouhaha is making the rounds regarding the Discovery Channel's "100 Greatest Americans" special. Professor Bainbridge has done a nice job vetting the list, which is, to be kind, pathetic.

Not to total it all up, but the following people made the list:
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Barack Obama
Barbara Bush
Brett Favre
Christopher Reeve
Clint Eastwood
Donald Trump
Ellen DeGeneres
George Lucas
Hillary Rodham Clinton
Jimmy Carter
John Edwards
Katharine Hepburn
Lance Armstrong
Laura Bush
Lucille Ball
Martha Stewart
Michael Jackson
Michael Moore
Pat Tillman
Dr. Phil McGraw
Tiger Woods
Tom Hanks

The following individuals were left off the list:
John Adams
James Madison
George Marshall
Andrew Jackson
John Marshall
Milton Friedman
US Grant
Daniel Webster
Henry Clay
Omar Bradley
John J. Pershing
James Monroe
Earl Warren
Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.
Joseph Story
Thurgood Marshall
Louis D. Brandeis
Meriwether Lewis and William Clark
Robert E. Lee

I'm not positive as to the exact methodology behind the making of the list, but it appears that AOL worked with Discovery Channel to allow people to nominate great Americans, and then tallied the final one hundred based on total nominations. Whatever the case, it is clear that "we the people" compiled this list.

There's really no way to quibble with anyone who thinks the list blows, but in doing so, we must recognize that the American people blow. To me, this list is not so much about who the greatest Americans are/were, but what current Americans define as great. Why is it that we live in a country where Ellen DeGeneres' contribution is seen as greater than Eli Whitney's? What is it about Lance Armstrong that could cause average Americans to rate him higher than Ernest Hemingway?

Several things I've noticed:

  1. It's clear that America is illiterate. How else can you explain the presence of so many actors and directors, and yet only ONE great novelist (Twain) and one poet (Angelou). No Poe, Whitman, or Faulkner?

  2. Americans have some screwed up priorities. Tiger Woods? What type of person thinks the ability to drive a golf ball is somehow a trait that should propel one to the pantheon of greatness? Look, I can see Babe Ruth being on the list, because he was a larger than life phenomenon. I can see Jackie Robinson, because what he did forever changed regular America. But as much as I like to hear that Lance Armstrong put it to the French again, I just don't think that qualifies him to beat out the man who wrote the U.S. Constitution. Call me crazy.

  3. Americans need to pick up a history book. This list is entirely weighted to people who are still alive. How else can you explain picking Dr. Phil over Clara Barton. Or nominating Ray Charles but not Irving Berlin? Come on, Barack Obama? He doesn't even make the 100 greatest people in Congress right now! Of course, the phrase "greatest congressman" is a bit of an oxymoron.

  4. I knew that Americans are more interested in paying attention to sports than law, but it chills me to think that a group of them actually believe Brett Favre has made more of a contribution to our country than John Marshall.

  5. Americans prefer form over substance. Thus, they celebrate Rosa Parks and not Thurgood Marshall, and we laud Madonna but not Emily Dickinson.

  6. Americans allow ideology to cloud reason. The Right insists on the greatness of Rush Limbaugh and Colin Powell, while the Left harps on Hillary Rodham Clinton and Michael Moore.

  7. Americans don't think much of their military leaders. Audie Murphy was a brave man, but did he really have the impact of Pershing or MacArthur? What is Pat Tillman doing on here, while Omar Bradley is nowhere to be found?

  8. More than anything, to me this list demonstrates the inherent dangers of direct democracy. That person who nominated Martha Stewart over Andrew Jackson is the same one standing in front of you in line on election day as you gaze longingly at the ballot booth that seems so far away. You've spent months weighing the pros and cons of the candidates, watching innumerable news reports, live debates, and opinion shows in an attempt to make an informed vote, and it will all be cancelled by someone who only read the Ladies' Home Journal article about the candidates' wives and their favorite recipes. Despite the fact these average Americans -- the very ones who use the word "greatest" in reference to Dr. Phil -- can't breathe and walk concurrently, people still favor referenda as a way to address issues.

    God help us all.
Centinel 12:35 AM #


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