Yes, our society is obsessed with celebrities, especially when they do something salacious. And sadly, some people really do know more about Miley Cyrus than they do about Syria. But I think there’s more to it than that.
Essentially, the VMA performance offered some fairly easy and interesting discussion points. It was just complex enough to be compelling, as it pertained to social mores and morality (and even touched on pertinent issues such as race and gender), yet it was also so obviously awful, it was fun to form opinions on the issues it invoked.
Simply put, Syria is not that.
People tend to jump onto political bandwagons and spout half-informed opinions about such things, but as far as I can tell, situations like what's happening in Syria are incredibly complicated. There are too many questions that can’t be answered adequately, and too many questions whose answers are multi-layered and dependent upon other multi-layered answers.
What happens if we do strike? Will we end up killing civilians? Will we end up being seen as supporting the rebels in an ugly civil war? Will we be unjustly acting alone as the international police? What happens if we don’t act? Will we be seen as making empty threats? Will we be allowing a human atrocity to happen without intervention? Will we go down in history as not having the strength to step up when political hand-tying in the U.N. Security Council prevented collective international action?
And those are just the simplest questions. As in any war situation, the whole thing is an enormous quagmire, there’s a lot that we don’t know, no choices are simple, and every action or inaction has the potential for catastrophic consequences. It’s not something we can truly discuss intelligently, because even the people who are in charge of such things aren’t sure what to do. It’s the ugliness of war at its finest.In other words, it’s not exactly five-minute Facebook status fodder.
I mean, at least I know how to talk to my kids about something like Miley Cyrus. I tried to explain what’s going on in Syria to our 13-year-old today, and holy crap is it convoluted. I’m a reasonably smart gal, but I can’t get my head wrapped around the whole thing.
So I think we should give everyone a little space here, even to discuss something as seemingly banal as a music awards performance. The talking points have really not been as bad as they could have been. In fact, I've actually appreciated some of the intelligent cultural discussions that have resulted from a decidedly unintelligent cultural story.
Does that mean it should it trump Syria in the headlines? Absolutely not. But I wouldn’t expect Syria to dominate people’s Facebook feeds, either. Syria isn’t just heavier to discuss, it’s much, much harder. And it should be. Figuring out what justice and right decisions look like in the midst of war is practically impossible, and trying to figure those things out from the vantage point of the average Joe is arguably pointless.
So I think that’s what’s going on for many people when it comes to Cyrus-vs-Syria. It’s not that people don’t care about Syria. It’s that they honestly don’t know what to say about it. And quite frankly, I'd rather not hear people throwing out simplified opinions about such a complex situation.
I'd never say that a Miley Cyrus performance offers as many talking points as a war in Syria, but it seems more productive to discuss things that we have somewhat simpler answers for and that we do have some control over (such as how we handle exposing our children to media or how we teach them about the rampant oversexualization in our culture) than those that we don't.
Not an excuse for Miley Cyrus to overshadow Syria, just an explanation. Does that make sense?