What do the end of the military draft, voting online, and paying extra to go to the head of the line at Universal Studios have in common?
WBUR’s Cognoscenti blog says they’re all examples of the declining shared experience in America.
The common American experience is disappearing. The single most important loss was President Richard Nixon’s elimination of selective service in 1973. A nation shows its commitment to shared experience when both rich and non-rich must risk their lives to defend their country.
A new threat, all the more insidious because it is promoted as a democratic boon, is Oregon’s decision to let voters vote online. If this idea catches on, we will lose one of the few remaining activities that people from all walks of life do elbow-to-elbow. Instead of rubbing up against their fellow citizens at the polls and perhaps even exchanging friendly greetings, voting will be yet another thing we do in the privacy of our own homes.
Indeed, V.I.P. passes to amusement parks and express lines for business class travelers are trivial matters compared to the end of the military draft. Nonetheless, they provoke outrage because they are too visible to ignore. It is easy to let your mind wander away from the disgrace of depending on hired hands to defend your country. But if one is standing on line for “Jurassic Park: The Ride,” deriving some solace from knowing that those in front of you all patiently waited their turn, it is aggravating and demeaning to watch latecomers just saunter in because they have $300 to burn.
I’ve shared similar thoughts with Mary Lucia on The Current, only using the end of AM radio in the ’60s as an example. We all listened to the same radio station, and all experienced hearing a song at a particular time. It’s what bonded us then.
But technology is what it is and we’re able to personalize and time shift our pleasures.
Still, it does occasionally lead to the question: What bonds us now?