Who Knew?

It is fair to say that I am a significant consumer of media output, not all of which is actually news.

Two newspapers land in my driveway every morning, and I subscribe to more magazines than I can actually read cover to cover. Then there is television, although I find that increasingly unsatisfying, and the Internet which allows me to read yet more newspapers and other publications, 08-17-11-margaret.jpgactual and virtual. It also lets me research topics that catch my interest and to follow the latest breaking news as well as stories with less rigor. I am not even going to address all the video info that is now available, winging in from the ether.

In other words, I read most everything I can find, including labels.

I believe that information is a good thing, a blessing in fact, but that does not mean we do not have to evaluate it all for ourselves. Some is accurate and valuable, some is entertaining, some is suspect, and some is just plain incorrect.

Here is just a bit that has come my way in recent days, all of which falls under the general category of “Who Knew?”

Who knew, for example, that this would be the summer the Congress of the United States of America literally shut down because of partisan gridlock?

Not that they were not physically “on the job,” but literally nothing was happening except for name-calling and finger-pointing. A poll taken after the debt-ceiling crisis was resolved, to no one’s satisfaction as far as I can tell, found that an astounding 82 percent of Americans of all political persuasions disagree with Congress’ handling of this matter — the highest disapproval rating ever recorded. Who knew, indeed, but who is surprised?

Who knew America’s playgrounds may now be too safe?

According to a recent story by John Tierney in the New York Times, our efforts to keep little ones from toppling off slides and dropping from monkey bars and experiencing the resulting bumps, bruises and occasional fractures have deprived them from learning how to take appropriate risks and how to overcome fear.

Parental safety concerns have resulted in federal guidelines, new safety standards set by manufacturers and a wildly litigious culture have turned our playgrounds into places for little Mr. and Ms. Milquetoast. To this day, I remember the absolute exhilaration of zooming down our family church’s sun-hot, 10-foot-high metal slide with no side rails, a sheet of wax paper beneath my burning bottom to grease the ride and my heart pounding in my throat. The thrill of doing it was surpassed only by the thrill of having survived it. Later, I fell off the monkey bars at Haymount Elementary School and knocked every molecule of breath out of my school girl chest. I remember gasping to get some back, and I am happy that I am here to tell you about it.

Who knew that my generation, the storied Baby Boomers, would be the most obese in American history?

We like to think we invented, or at least popularized, jogging, surfing, aerobic jumping around to pounding music and a host of other physical activities. So, too, have we become the queens and kings of yoga in our later years. Maybe so, but two-thirds of us are either overweight or obese. Some of us are trying to deal with this through diet and exercise, but plenty of us are just going along our merry and chubby ways. Jeff Levi of the non-profi t Trust for America’s Health goes right to the bottom line when he points out that an obese senior costs Medicare — that is American taxpayers — 34 percent more than non-obese seniors. Says Levi, “They are going to be expensive if they don’t get their act together.”

Who knew that average citizens used to drop by the White House to say “hello” to the President and actually did so?

Barack Obama his family and their immediate predecessors live their days behind a protective barrier of highly-trained and highly armed Secret Service agents, for reasons we know all too well. It was not always that way, though. Thomas Jefferson, our second President and the fi rst to live in the White House, wanted it accessible to the public which it historically has been. Until World War II, the gates were open to the public from morning until night, and Edith Roosevelt, the second Mrs. Teddy, said living in the White House was like living above the store. In contrast, I requested tickets for a White House tour for visiting family members and was turned down because my request was inside the 21 day waiting period for necessary background checks.

My favorite “Who Knew” in recent days arrived in an email from a friend detailing messages posted on church marquees. It is hard to argue with this one:

“Artificial intelligence is no match for natural stupidity.”

I think we all knew that.

Photo: Who knew today’s playgrounds would become so safe, our children would lose their daring?

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