Worshipping False Idols

I had coffee with Lila the other day. I stopped by to see if she needed help with snow management, but as it turned out her neighbor had cleared her driveway and sidewalks, so she was sitting pretty. Her son had given her a smart phone for Christmas and Lila held it out to me as if it were the shriveled corpse of a mouse she’d swept out from under the couch.

“I don’t know about this technology business,” she said. “I miss the old days of hand-written letters and party lines. And now here’s the post office about to end Saturday delivery. Now, it’s true, a lot of what fills my mailbox on a Saturday is junk, and sometimes, I hate to admit it, that includes the local paper. But from time to time there’s a letter from a grandbaby or an old friend and that just makes my weekend.

“What’s happening, I guess, is that people don’t write letters any more. They’re using things like this,” she said, waving the smart phone at me, “to stay in touch. Ha! Let me just say this. Technology is not all it was cut out to be. I hold this to my ear, but the sound is not as good as my old Ma Bell phone, and then the connection gets dropped because whoever is calling me is driving to hell and gone, and half the time I push a button I don’t mean to and the next thing I know this thing is making a movie of my ear. My ear is not all that interesting. So what’s so great about this thing? What’s so smart about it? The only reason they call it a smart phone is because if they’d called it a dumb phone it wouldn’t sell. But the truth is, this phone is like those Dummies books – this phone is for dummies.

“Speaking of dummies, listen to this: the Pentagon is now giving special medals to drone pilots. Don’t that beat all?”

I admitted that it did.

“So you spend your childhood playing video games, killing perfect strangers, and then you join the military so you can sit in a comfy chair in an air-conditioned room and kill perfect strangers.”

She paused for effect, took a drink of her coffee, blew her nose.

“I don’t see what’s so valiant about that. Perfect strangers who are flesh and blood, who have families and hobbies and favorite birthday meals. Some of them completely innocent. But you, the drone pilot, don’t know innocent from guilty, not in your comfy air-conditioned room somewhere thousands of miles away from those people, strangers yes, but people, you are killing. This is worthy of a medal?

“Now if you look up the word drone you’ll find words associated with it like monotonous, boring, indolent. That last word, indolent, that means “lazy.” If you ask me, a lazy pilot does not deserve a special medal.

“Where have we gone wrong? Could a mother truly be proud of her son or daughter for receiving this Distinguished Warfare Medal? I should say not. All this is is technology worship. A false idol if ever there were one.

“Well, that’s my rant for today. Can you show me how to make the ring tone on this thing louder?”