For Paul Harvey. Good day.
There is something called a Treasure Box in Maggie’s kindergarten class, and though I’ve never quite understood under what circumstances she and her classmates access this trove of plastic landfill, it is still a source of endless delight.
On Friday she came home with a very small radio, so small it has no dial to find stations, just a “search” button one pushes. And, somehow, it defaults to a local all-talk, all-conservative, sometimes Christian station I didn’t even know existed.
Growing up in the 1960s, I spent a couple of years (first and second grade) missing a lot of school with various colds and ear troubles and such. And I listened to a lot of radio. To Arthur Godfrey’s talent show, well past its prime, and to an evangelist — maybe Garner Ted Armstrong, though I can’t guess where I pulled that name from — who once got me down on my knees offering my soul up to God. I then went out to the kitchen where my mother and brother shrugged, said, “That’s nice,” and that more or less ended my conversion experience.
And to Paul Harvey, who recently passed on to the great microphone in the sky.
Think what you will of Harvey, he really was the last great, classical stylist on the radio. The last reminder of a time when radio was the dominant media.
I had been pondering that some when Maggie brought home her little toy, and Rush Limbaugh’s voice came on. I don’t like demagogues, but Limbaugh is very good at what he does. We don’t want to make that station alluring forbidden fruit by asking that Maggie not listen to it, but the option is to let her listen and, uh…those aren’t our values. They can be your values, and that’s not a fight I wish to pick today. But they’re not what we wish to transmit to our daughter.
Still, it’s curious to me that the nexus of the conservative nation is our oldest national mass media platform, the medium most people think of as inert and uninteresting and largely irrelevant. And it’s possibly telling that President Obama rose to power, in part, through his team’s mastery of new media.
I don’t know what all that means.
But I know that I will miss hearing Paul Harvey’s voice, his cadence, his inescapable style on the radio. It was a great voice, not a bit of meanness to it. A reminder of a kinder, gentler time.