COLUMN: We don’t get it; any of it

This is my Sunday column for the May 6, 2012 edition of the Hibbing Daily Tribune. A version of this piece aired on Northern Community Radio’s “Between You and Me” Saturday morning.

We don’t get it; any of it
By Aaron J. Brown

Long ago there was such a thing as a “mainstream” in American culture. I think it was … 1989. While culture was diverse some element existed in the middle of it all and everyone pretty much got it. Maybe they didn’t like it but it didn’t need to be explained.

The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson was just such a touchstone. I would watch his show as a kid, near the end of his run, and I’d imagine what hosting a show would be like. All the celebrities were on The Tonight Show; it was the only show of its kind with any kind of staying power. Later on my friends and I would sort into Letterman and Leno camps and it only got more confusing after that. When Dick Clark died last month he didn’t just leave behind a family and a legacy, he left behind an era in which most people could look at the TV and say, “Hey look, there’s Dick Clark.”

So now we have this phrase, “I don’t get … blank.” You fill in the blank. It’s different for everyone. I watch Conan O’Brien but I know plenty of people who don’t get him, or even know who he is. I know people who were very happy when Jay Leno got the Tonight Show back from Conan. I don’t get those people.

I don’t get pajama pants in public. I don’t get Dancing with the Stars. They aren’t very good, you know. There are professional dancers who are very good, but they are not on television. I don’t get fancy single-serving coffee makers. I don’t get the Twilight series.

I don’t get pillow shams. If something ever happened to my wife I’d be lost, but I wouldn’t want trade places with the pillow shams. They’re doomed. Pillow cases are adequate. They have a job to do. What are we really hiding? I will burn those pillow shams in the driveway. There is no object in my house that I hate more than pillow shams. I love my wife more than I hate pillow shams. That is all the pillow shams have going for them.

I wanted to get the show “Glee.” I don’t get it. I like penguins and I wanted to get “Happy Feet.” I didn’t get it either, and for the same reasons. Now they might cancel “Glee.” People got enough.

You can’t run through a list like this, though, without acknowledging there’s plenty people don’t get about you.

People sometimes don’t get why I write a blog. People sometimes don’t get that I live by a Minnesota lake and don’t fish. The lady at the dump wonders why I dress up to bring in the trash. This is how I dress. These are clothes. People sometimes don’t get why I don’t go to things. Most things. I turn down invites 10-1. People don’t get that. Why wouldn’t you want to go to things? I have my reasons. People don’t get why I think producing a live radio variety show is more important than the serious political issues of our day. It is, you know.

Look to your left and then look to your right; you don’t get people and they don’t get you. So many throw up their hands and say, boy, I wish it were like the old days when people got stuff. But here’s the deal: that’s imaginary. All the mass media and social trends of our times have shown us is what we’d listen to, read and do if there were more than three channels. Well, there are more than three channels and some people don’t even watch TV.

There’s no sense lamenting this new world that most of all of us are statistically likely never to get. It is a world perhaps more reflective of the diverse reality of the human condition. I don’t get it. It scares me sometimes. But I do like it. My, how big this world is.

Aaron J. Brown is an author and instructor at Hibbing Community College. He writes the blog and hosts the Great Northern Radio Show on public stations like 91.7 KAXE.


  1. I think what you’re referring to is the explosion of information available to us today, vs. the three channels of tv and a newspaper or two available before cable tv and the internet. There are so many different avenues to explore that we have lost that homogeneity that allows us to understand things as a group. For everything we’ve gained information-wise, there’s been a loss of commonality.

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