PBS and Ultra Americanism

Ken Burn’s Jazz holds that “Jazz objectifies America”.  I never argued–though I know that other musics from other lands also sound like the blues with some swing thrown in.  Or that the Acadians brought  Cajun and Zydeco to Louisiana.

It wasn’t until a bout of bad health turned me into PBS’s frequent viewer that I started to develop a deep suspicion that the public broadcaster had become almost a commercial for American domination of innovation in culture. The Joffrey Ballet. The American Ballet. Somehow only American culture embodies freedom.  The Brits are relegated to Downton and murders in sleepy seaside towns. And midwifery.

Just when I was about to ignore this boosterism, along comes Ken Burns’s National Parks film.  Somehow my former documentary god has managed to document all American national parks solely for their impact on American families. Thus ignoring the visitors from almost every other nation in the world who enjoy the fact that nature is indeed international in appeal.

I’m sad. It’s bad enough when the separation of church and state is ignored by American politicians–surely culture is not synonymous with the state too. Until PBS becomes more internationally conscious, it can forget any cross-border contributions from me to its Buffalo station. Come visit us in Canada sometime. Enjoy Toronto, the most multi-cultural city in the world. Or wait for The Donald to further increase your isolation from the world stage. Just keep talking to Americans about America. Other viewers in other lands will click off their remotes.


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