Carmageddon, Irene– what will Americans dream up next to make ourselves feel important?

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This is one of those days I’m embarrassed to be an American. We had a storm last night. It went on all night, it’s dropping a lot of rain. It has to do with the hurricane that hit North Carolina. In the past, that’s all the information we would have had, and it would have been sufficient. No one would have freaked out. The Foodtown wouldn’t have been crowded and nervous, as it was yesterday.

Of course Irene is all that our politicians and the cable news networks have been able to talk about for days. My community in upstate New York was panicked. And it’s turned out to be a giant fizzle. The news people are embarrassed. They’re blaming North Carolina for blunting the storm. On CNN this morning, they talked to five elderly women who refused to leave their old-age home in New Jersey. One of them said that her son was in a state but she wasn’t. Another said pithily, Why leave? We would have been exchanging a certain nightmare — going to who knows what shelter, for how many days, etc– for a chance of one.

And as it turns out, that chance was pretty ho-hum. And these women look far wiser than our jittery man-boy politicians.

I have to think this is a sign of spiritual sickness. We have too much information, but it’s stupid information. There are hundreds of thousands of refugees pouring out of Somalia, but we can’t be bothered to learn anything about that, Brian Williams isn’t breaking off his vacation to go there.

The Arab world is throwing out its dictators, and I guess we’re jealous. They’re taking an active role in history. We’re spoiled and obsessed with the stock market and Rick Perry.

This happened earlier this summer with Carmageddon. A routine highway shutdown that would be big local news in any city in the U.S. but of no interest to anyone else was on the front page of the Times and on the nightly news every night. I chalked that up to Los Angeles being the City of Drama Queens.

But now it’s all of us. Irene. What a joke. Is it too late for us to get a life?

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