funny what Americans say when talking to pollsters. A recent
poll shows that two-thirds of Americans think creationism should
be taught alongside evolution. What's even funnier are the poll
results the media choose to ignore. The same poll found that
a majority of Americans favor government-guaranteed health insurance.
And nearly 70 percent favor "more generous government assistance
to the poor," according to the poll, conducted by PewResearchCenter.
I'll bet you only heard the disturbing creationism statistic,
right? That's because it's big news, I guess. But having lived
through the public flaying of Hillary Clinton when she tried
to organize guaranteed health care, it's big news to me that
most Americans favor it. Why, then, don't we elect pols who
can implement health care for all?
And the bit about a majority in favor of helping the poor?
That's big news to me, too. I thought --- based on all the
tax-slashing Republicans we keep voting into office --- that
we didn't give a rat's ass about people who receive tax-funded
government aid with housing, food, and, there it is again:
Do the polls lie? We generally don'tcare about the poor until
something --- like Katrina --- raises their suffering to the
level of spectacle. "How very poor the poor are!" we
cry. We stare, we gape. Admit it. It's almost pornographic.
Wait, no: It's poornographic.
First, the foreplay: a weary man wades in sludge; a woman
bounces two listless babies. The tension builds. A body slumps
in a wheelchair. They're dying now. We reach into our pockets
and grab. Yes. We throw money. More! More! Then, the release.
The money shot: airlifted mothers reunite with children ---
Yes. Yes. --- weeping men drive 10 hours to hug their rescued
cats --- YES! YESSS!
What will we do with our purported desire to help the disadvantaged
while we wait for the next tsunami, Katrina, or Rita? Thank
goodness there's Three Wishes, NBC's faith-inspired reality
series starring Christian singer Amy Grant. Each week the show
fulfills the wishes of, the ads say, deserving people when
whoosh! Grant swoops down, Clarence-like.
"Deserving"? Is that some white, middle-class code
word? I don't see what this has to do with faith. Three Wishes
is just soft-porn, titillating us until the next big spectacle,
be it a natural disaster or manmade one.
Can the media address poverty responsibly and hold the public's
attention? I can't. Once, in this column, I compared the cost
of living for a woman with kids to what women actually earn.
There's a massive gap. But I didn't get through to everyone.
One guy said that while reading the column he'd become "lost
in all those numbers." He advised me to stick to writing
If only poverty were sexy! I'd have such an easy job. Some
people have it all figured out. Take Dateline Hollywood, whose
satirical piece xxxx; which successfully floated a hoax that
brought sex --- that is, sexual preference --- into the Katrina
debate, which was, when you think about it, the only thing
that was missing. A joke story had Pat "Who Would Jesus
Assassinate?" Robertson saying Katrina was God's punishment,
for having a lesbian, Ellen DeGeneres, host the Emmys.
Not so farfetched when you consider Robertson's other pronouncements
about God's motives, which brings me back to Creationism. The
Pew poll revealed that creationism --- traveling in drag now,
with the illusion of science stuffed into its bra, as Intelligent
Design --- is welcomed into classrooms by people who don't
even believe in it. Even the smarty-pants Darwinian secular
humanists say, "What the heck; this is America. Let 'em
all in." Americans are pragmatic. We say tomato, we say
tomahto, let's call the whole thing God.
I raised my kids with creationism. And with Raven, the Native
American trickster who stole the sun and put it in the sky.
And with Gaia and Uranus and their monstrous children. I tried
to read them the Norse creation story about a magic cow who
licked the god Buri into existence, but we had to stop. We
were laughing too hard.
When I got done with my kids, their little heads were spinning.
But that was the point. The wonder of life, and the desire
to explain it, is universal. Even as we accept the Big Bang
theory, the bacteria that farted the atmosphere, the fish that
crawled out of the sea like those amphibious Duck Tours except
without tourists, and our chimpanzee forebears --- even as
we accept all that, we still wonder about who we are, how we
When one of my kids was 7, he said, "How do I know what
is real? Maybe everything I see is just in my mind. How do
I know I'm even real?"
I brought out the Elizabeth Bishop poem In the Waiting Room,
where, as a 7-year-old, Bishop has a similar mind-blowing notion.
The poem recalls how, while reading a National Geographic magazine
in a dentist's waiting room, Bishop became unglued by the exotic
things she saw, "A dead man slung on a pole" and "Babies
with pointed heads/wound round and round with string." She
wondered about herself, about her connection to others. "How
had I come to be here/like them...?" She had "the
sensation of falling off/the round, turning world/into cold,
It is this sensation --- this fear of blue-black space ---
that drives us to invent our story over and over again. If
Amy Grant offers me three wishes, I'll wish for schools to
address the universality of wonder and fear along with evolution.
Skip the creation stories.
To see the real wishes Grant is granting, search on "three
wishes." Be careful. The first website most search engines
find is 3wishes.com, a sexy lingerie site where the clothes
of low-wage occupations --- maid, cab driver, laborer --- are
transformed into outfits of desire. Finally, poverty made sexy.
* The original version of this article portrayed the Robertson
quote as fact rather than the satire that it was.