For the past three weeks the world has been held spellbound by the search for Malaysian Air Flight MH 370. One American cable television network has devoted nearly full time to it, breaking away from it only when absolutely necessary and returning quickly…as if breaking away in the first place was unseemly and false.
One must admit to sharing the international fascination with MH370. The mystery of its disappearance is captivating…vanishing in the middle of the night on its path from Kuala Lumpur to Beijing, the mysterious turn to the left (By whose hand? Pilot? Intruder?). Was there some catastrophic failure? A fire? Sudden decompression? And what caused such a catastrophe? One of the pilots had a flight simulator in his home…was he practicing stealing or crashing the plane? And if this was a case of pilot suicide…why fly the plane nearly to the Antarctic before putting the plane into the water? And then the passengers…mostly Chinese and Malays, but with enough Westerners and, most important, Americans to maintain non-Asian interest. Particularly the American with the blonde girlfriend whose grief alternates with a grim determination that is clearly inspiring to us all.
Yes, quite a gripping story, a modern day Flying Dutchman, clearly worth our time and attention. And yet…
Isn’t this precisely why our politicians take us so for granted? They know we aren’t watching them. Our attention is on Flight MH370. And, if not there, on the tragedy of the mudslide in Washington. Or fire season in California. Or floods in the Midwest. Or… Or… Or…
There have, of course, been many things happening during the odyssey of Flight MH370. And, just as important, perhaps, many things not happening. Congress has not, for example, managed to pass legislation extending unemployment benefits…many opponents expressing anti-worker sentiments in the process, some even suggesting that unemployment insurance should be done away with altogether.
There is the Ukraine, with Russia acting more like the old Soviet Union all the time. Then we have Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey exonerating Governor Chris Christie of New Jersey in the George Washington Bridge scandal. There is the continuing struggle over the Affordable Care Act…its supporters trumpeting its march past 6 million enrollments, its detractors saying it’s a failure no matter how many enroll in it…and the detractors are apparently willing to strip away insurance people have only just qualified for. Meanwhile state legislature after state legislature is busy stripping women’s health care rights and minority voting rights.
Are we paying attention? Or are our minds with the passengers of the disappeared Flight MH370? Are we watching…or are our pockets being picked?