Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Idol Gives Back

I enjoy American Idol. This fact is no secret to you, dear readers. Last night, however, was a departure from the normal format of sing and sling someone. Last night was the now annual charity show where a parade of superstars plead for funds to help the individuals in a pretaped video displaying human beings somewhere in the 6th rung of hell.

I have really mixed feelings on the show. I watched most of it while typing another extraordinarily awesome University of Phoenix paper, and I came away without that heart tugging, please take all my money guilty feeling that a show of this stature is supposed to invoke.

For starters, the benefiting party was scattered among all walks of life. While everyone featured needed a helping hand, some needed it much more so than others. I have way more sympathy for the plight of a starving child in Uganda who was born into a horrible situation, will forever be stuck into that horrible situation due to lack of resources, and will likely die a very young death because of an uncontrollable plight of life. These individuals I feel for and would donate for.

On the other hand, a significant amount of footage featured those in the United States that could use a little boost. Hanna Montana took us on a tour of Clay County and Brad Pitt and Reese Witherspoon (a picture of course necessary) pleaded for funds to rebuild New Orleans. The video then showed a single father of three and in a separate story a single mother of four having a difficult go of it. I realize that I have been incredibly blessed in life to have the resources and situation that I have, but I have a difficult time comparing a poor person in the United States with a poor person in "insert any one of the many third world countries" Africa.

They are completely different ballgames. Those in the United States have food, shelter, education, and an opportunity to advance to a better place. I understand that they will have to overcome obstacles and the deck is stacked against them, but as compared to third world countries, even the poorest Americans are rich. As such, I find it difficult to donate to a lump cause. I want my funds to go to those in the most dire of situations, and I just don't feel that those in the United States compare to those in Africa.

My second issue with last night's program came with the way and the persons asking for contributions. Rob Schneider is apparently still alive and relevant enough to land a place on the star studded charity show. In his brief appearance he threw in a joke that Bono has enough money to fix half of Africa, but we the audience were needed for the other half.

It was somewhat funny but somewhat true. I don't mean to pick on Bono as he has done plenty - like him or not - to advance the cause of those in horrible situations. But, the man can do way more with his pen and his checkbook than 100,000 of us offering $10 or $20 increments. If all the stars on the show wanted to get serious about it, they could be making donations that would put the rest of us to shame.

Miley Cyrus spent time talking to some school children about how much she likes computers, which was an indirect appeal to the children that adore her to contribute whatever they can to this good cause. Teaching children the value of charity and sharing money is an incredibly valuable concept, but each kid watching the show could empty their piggy bank with less an effect than Cyrus buying a computer for every school kid in Kentucky without so much as a dent on her earnings. Again, I struggle with the concept because it passes the buck onto the most fortunate, alleviating the responsibility of all people to help those in need. That notwithstanding, seeing someone with so much beg and plead with those less than they to give money does provide a hollow sense of urgency.

In all, American Idol did a great thing. They used their power and influence to raise funds for those who are in desperate situation. They provided a medium for those who wanted to and who were moved to, to improve the lives of other people in tremendous need. However, the wide brush of need causes me to feel as if the charitable focus is lacking, and the rich asking for money from middle class America rubbed me as questionable. The overall pull thus was lacking and perhaps not what it could otherwise have been.

Oh, and The Office is back tonight.

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