One of my favorite movies is “Jurassic Park.” Actually, that’s not true. One of my 6-year-old nephew’s favorite movies is “Jurassic Park,” which means we watch it on a loop.
Right about the point of my 82nd viewing, it occurred to me that technology can sometimes be a dangerous thing. Resurrecting dinosaurs would be bad enough, but bringing the past into the present is less problematic, at least to my mind, than imposing the present on the past.
For instance, could you imagine how today’s media would take on historical events?
Take, for example, the Gettysburg Address. Abraham Lincoln arrived on the battlefield and, in the shadow of blood and destruction, delivered a speech that gave hope to the hopeless and inspired the despairing. But imagine what would have happened had Al Sharpton emerged from the swamp of his MSNBC studio and barged onto the scene.
“Mister President, why are you only interested in the lives of these dead white men? Why have you ignored the fact that black lives matter too, and that your concern for these dead white men who probably and most assuredly harassed my brothers, is disrespectful to people of color?”
The camera would then cutaway to the studio, where a panel of women wearing sleeveless dresses and constipated expressions would talk amongst themselves about how this could affect Abe in the polls.
Perhaps you’re a devotee of revolutionary history. I live in Pennsylvania, where we’re blessed to not only have that holy ground in Gettysburg, but also the venerable square mile where liberty came into the world. The struggles for independence that resulted in a courageous and radical document were raucous and sometimes bitter, and you can believe that some of the more anemic critics of the Declaration had a grudge against its author, Mr. Jefferson.
Imagine if the journalists of that time had gotten whiff of Tom’s proclivities with the ladies. A lovely, powdered-wig Megyn Kelly could have shoved a mike in his face and said “One of the things people love about you is that you speak-and then write-your mind, don’t use a politician’s filter. But that has its downsides, in particular when it comes to women. You call women you don’t like ‘wench,’ ‘swine’ and ‘annoying little Quaker.’ How would you answer the question, from Abigail Adams no less, that you are part of the war on women?”
If politics isn’t your cup of tea, how about some natural disasters? The saga of the Titanic has been reported to us through firsthand accounts of survivors, and in the forensic treasure trove unearthed when the watery tomb of a vessel was located many decades later. There has also been a slew of fanciful movies about doomed lovers and misplaced jewelry. But can you imagine what would have happened if, say, our local ABC, CBS or NBC affiliate had been dispatched to the scene of the tragedy?
There, clinging to the iceberg with an umbrella that clearly displays the station logo, is the lovely weather lady of the moment, this one preferably not 8 months pregnant so as not to compete with the glacier for attention. She would talk about how, even though Philadelphia has never in its three-hundred-and-some-year-history encountered an ice formation, there is indeed a local connection to the tragedy. And then, looking solemnly into the camera, she would explain that several of the deck chairs that were currently falling into the North Atlantic had been crafted by an artisan from the Manayunk section of Philadelphia.
Speaking of natural disasters, what about that Johnstown Flood? Second only to Galveston in terms of destruction, the Allegheny disaster took over 2,000 lives and devastated the region for decades. But can you imagine how those 21st century journalists would have covered the scene?
Anderson Cooper, hatchet at the ready and clothed in a nice button-down oxford in a color coordinated to match his striking eyes, would have trudged along the Little Connemagh, looking for someone or something to split open on prime time. That film footage would have been replayed over, and over, and over again, while a panel of random people who had seen the Poseidon Adventure would discuss how much President Bush, er, Benjamin Harrison, hated America.
Yes, we are fortunate that dinosaurs no longer roam the earth. We are equally fortunate that the founding of our nation, its consecration in the blood of patriots, and some unique human tragedies were spared the harsh and bitter distortions of a 21st century lens.
Flowers is an attorney and a columnist for the Philadelphia Daily News, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org