Commentary: Cultural Illiteracy

By Louis A. Zona

YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio – Is it just me or do other people have a problem with the rolled plastic bags in the produce sections of their local supermarkets?

I just can’t seem to pull a bag free from the roll of plastic bags and then open it for my fresh lettuce.

I do notice that certain people fly through the process while some of us spend 10 minutes trying to open the darn things.

I did figure out that a little moisture helps the situation and unstick the bags but I hate to be seen putting spit on my fingers to open the folded bags.

And while we’re referencing supermarkets, don’t you have a problem with that person who holds onto his cart with one hand while he continues to shop on the other side of the aisle as he blocks the entire aisle?

Relatedly, how about that person with a cart filled to the brim who won’t let the person behind him with only a single item go first. Every once in a while, you do see the person with the full cart encouraging the person with one item to go ahead.

We’ve all been in situations when the full-cart person shows no pity toward the poor soul with a single item.

Another thing that bothers me of late are drivers who, if not satisfied with your speed, pull right up to your rear bumper to display their disgust with you for not going faster. As I’ve gotten older, the speed limit seems fast enough to get me where I’m going at a safe speed.

But gee whiz, why on earth is it necessary to fly down the highway when that red light over the next hill is going to slow you down anyway?

So it is that I recently bought a car that advertises that it is the safest vehicle on the road. I figure that since I won’t be able to slow down that guy on my bumper, at least I can protect myself from that speed demon in case he does want to run right over the top of my car.

I recently heard on the news that there are people protesting that Italy shows the art of the greatest artist in history, Michelangelo Buonarroti.

It seems that these disgruntled art viewers are disgusted that the artist has depicted the biblical David without clothes. If they had the sense to do a little research, they would have learned that Michelangelo was a fan of the ancient Greek sculptors who believed the human form was the primary subject and they expertly depicted the nude human body.

In his David, Michelangelo gave us a work of art that millions have enjoyed since the Renaissance. Is it man’s greatest artistic achievement? Many scholars certainly think so. We should pay no mind to lesser commentators.

I’m a big fan of such television news cable networks as CNN and have watched in recent months that the commentators are in a dress-down mode.

Without ties, they look as though they just got off the bus. Their collars are wrinkled and shirts disheveled. Where did their ties go? What happened to the professionalism that we associate with a handsome tie to go with a nice shirt?

Maybe I’m showing my age but I would hate to visit my friendly banker and see that he is not wearing a white shirt and a good-looking tie.

Would-be professionals without a tie look very unprofessional. I recently saw a banker friend who, lacking a tie, looked as though he had just mowed his back yard. And I really don’t believe that a dressed-up look at the office is a bad thing, especially where the public enters your workspace.

Here at The Butler, visitors want to discuss art and we oblige them but we always wear a shirt and tie as a public uniform.

I shouldn’t let this bother me but are you surprised that there are so many individuals familiar only with what has happened recently?

I recently taught a class of super-nice students where few could tell you when World War II ended or when Abraham Lincoln was president.

I occasionally ask a question about people who lived decades ago, like Will Rogers or Billy Sunday or even Babe Ruth. They are key parts of our cultural history.

You would be surprised to learn that these young people can discuss current movie stars but haven’t a clue who Charlie Chaplin was or Al Jolson or even Clark Gable. Now I know that some might ask why it’s important to know who Babe Ruth was or when Ike was president.

It’s just part of being an educated person. I’ve named prominent Americans who are major figures in our cultural history.

Doggone it.  We should know the important people who came before us.

Finally, I am madder than the devil at people who live on their phones. It’s curious to see children ignoring what Mom and Dad are talking about because they’re on their phones texting friends they just texted a few minutes ago.

I really think that the internet and all that it has to offer may just be the beginning of the end of life as we know it with artificial intelligence leading us over the cliff.