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Opinion

Tells Us A Lot: World On Fire! … And ‘Swiftie’-Mania Is All The Rage

“Ridiculous.”

I was recently watching an exasperated college football fan bemoaning his favorite team’s woeful performance and he kept using that word over and over and over again: “Ridiculous”. Dude needs to find himself a new adjective, I thought to myself.

Mind you, I promptly harkened back to my wife and me during the Covid lockdown hysteria. As we watched federal and state governments overreacting and overreaching, crushing Americans’ liberties and kneecapping businesses and the economy over what was, in effect, a form of super flu, we kept finding that same word on our lips: “Ridiculous”. Back then, I literally thought regarding myself: “Steve, you really need to find a new adjective.”

Of course, sometimes, particularly nowadays, “ridiculous” seems to exquisitely summarize exactly how sensible folks ought to feel about things.

For Exhibit A, I present: Taylor-mania.

Like many periodicals, my daily local newspaper usually devotes its back page to amusing trivialia and human interest items. Two weeks ago, that entire section featured four stories … every one of them — every one — dedicated to Taylor Swift (and her apparently percolating romance with Kansas City Chiefs tight end Travis Kelce.)

Bannered across the top of the page, quite accurately and in red: “All Taylor, All The Time”

The quartet of prominent headlines beneath:

“Taylor Swift, Travis Kelce celebrate on KC rooftop”

“Belichick Chimes in on It” [“It” being the Swift/Kelce coupling].

“QB Mahomes felt pressure to appease Swifties by throwing a TD to Kelce”

“A Taylor Swift Chiefs Jersey? Yes, you can buy one”

Twice since that edition, the same spot has offered updates on the TS/TK situation — one of them ironically announcing Kelce himself was conceding the press was rather overdoing its focus on the presumed lovebirds.

On their sports page, the October 3 and October 5 Wall Street Journal opted for capacious, above-the-fold pieces on … you guessed it, the multi-millionaire songstress and her NFL connection. The periodical’s columnist Jason Gay even teasingly noted, “It’s been funny to watch the media wave develop, as even august publications leap from Are we really writing about this? to What else can we write about this?

Reportedly, since news of the Taylor-Travis match initially broke, pro-football television ratings are measurably up — particularly among female viewers. Seems like everyone is gabbing inquisitively about it.

Understood, there is a time and place for frivolity, for light-hearted diversion. Everyone needs a physical, emotional and cognitive break every now and again. But, seriously, (pardon the pun) — with the rumbling Niagara of weighty issues and brewing crises pressing in on society on nearly every front at the moment … a national “Swiftie” Obsession? Really?

America is presently confronting persistent and enervating inflation, soaring interest rates and a housing crunch; gasoline prices once again approaching four dollars/gallon; a $33 Trillion(!) national debt; a catastrophe at our southern border; heated debate about U.S. involvement in the Ukraine conflict; the worst attack in half-a-century against Israel, one of our most cherished allies.

Furthermore, well over 600,000 babies annually have been legally extinguished in the womb in the 2020s. Parents’ rights and children’s well-being are in the LGBTQ crosshairs (see: transgender “therapy”, i.e., child mutilation). The country’s urban regions are spiraling downward into crime-throttled, survival-of-the-fittest hellscapes.

And what is a sizable slab of the populace taken up with? Every ripple of a pop music superstar/gridiron-champ romance.

In general, too much of Americana underwrites the 21st century’s fun-n-games culture. A celebrity worship ethos seems to gobble up an unsettling chunk of the population’s attention. Long-term interests? Pfffftt! Instant-gratification is the order of the day.

And reflecting on this mortifying acknowledgment, it’s suddenly easier to account for the increasing superficiality of the nation’s political happenings. Sure, the “popularity contest” aspect of elections has always played a part in who wins these contests and who doesn’t. But it seems fripperies are expandingly overwhelming substantive issues of policy, competency, governance, character.

On one side, we have a bunch of voters smitten by a candidate because his packed rallies double as stand-up routines. What’s the next fresh insult or round of name-calling he’ll uncork? What naughty quip will he let rip today? Such a hoot! So brash! Fella really “owns” the oppo! No staid, dull political niceties for him! 

Then there’s the wearisome “Trump’s-a- big-orange-middle-finger-to-D.C” trope. Y’know, getting back at the buttoned-up professional sell-outs. Whatever one thinks of revenge as raison d’être, it’s probably neither the healthiest campaign strategy nor civilizational attitude. But as columnist Gerard Baker put it lately: for many, Trump “makes the right noises, makes them feel good about themselves.”

So, by all means … let’s make the guy Leader of the Free World! 

Then there’s Biden-philes. The handlers of the current bumbling, charisma-challenged chief executive are wanting to hold onto a sufficient majority so their man will survive 2024’s race. Consequently, they’re staging a shameless, non-stop crusade to overcome his soporific image. Is he, to borrow a phrase from the Daily Beast, “the fun uncle”? Or as Axios, among others, has put it:  an “all-American bad *ss”? The latter suggestion has produced such hilarities as the recurring jabber about Biden’s “aviator sunglasses“; and — even more of a fool’s errand — the tough-guy, “Dark Brandon” personae (and merch!).

Life is significant business — a gift from a Creator who expects people to conduct themselves accordingly. Life in a constitutional Republic? That arrangement carries especially sobering demands; not to be discharged frivolously.

Conversely, majoring on the inconsequential and disposable — whether in politics, our use of time, our resources, our mind and soul, our pursuits — deserves to be shunned. It’s absurd. Scandalous. Pathetic.

You might even say ridiculous.

Steve Pauwels

Steve Pauwels is pastor of Church of the King, Londonderry, NH and host of Striker Radio with Steve Pauwels on the Red State Talk Radio Network. He's also husband to the lovely Maureen and proud father of three fine sons: Mike, Sam and Jake.