The 24-hour news cycle has swallowed screaming headlines about the presidential selfie, Cuban handshake, pouting FLOTUS and crazy interpreter, only to be supplanted by lower-grade craziness: an inane debate about the ethnicity of a mythical North Pole figure, and GQ quotes from a semi-literate, backwoods philosopher unsophisticated in the ramifications of speaking candidly in the 21st-century.
Now comes a reasonable question: If we subscribe to the notion that Mandela's spirit is lingering long enough to see what we've absorbed from his remarkable commitment to reconciliation, what is he seeing?
Are we any more polite?
Are we trying any harder to understand viewpoints different from our own?
Do we hold the door open for someone - or thank them for holding it for us?
Will we speak up when someone tells a racist joke or incorporates a racial slur into casual conversation?
What will we change about ourselves as a result of having shared life in the same century as the man who survived 27 years of solitary confinement because he believed people must do better to be better?
Will any major news organization take a closer look at the draconian anti-gay laws recently passed in Uganda to see if they can identify any right-wing members of Congress involved in shaping that legislation in any way, shape or form? What will we do to make them responsive to us?
How will we try to remedy some small piece of the craziness?
Will we call to account a knock-kneed, do-nothing Congress that boasts a "compromise" that reduces funding for poor people, decreases health-care allotments for military personal (dragged into a super-stupid war by a do-next-to-nothing president), and increased allocations to an already overstuffed defense budget?
Cops can now get search warrants based on what they think a subject might do. How do we feel about that?
And let's take a momentary breather from beating up on Southern rednecks.
Executives who ought to know better still pay that woman from Alaska to run around loose, spewing word salad when she ought to be in a Wasilla remedial reading class -- or at best in her local Toastmasters chapter.(By the way, where is Mrs Family Values' family these days?)
Although the ruckus has settled down, we shouldn't forget that sordid glimpse we got into Cheney family dysfunction and make sure we aren't of that ilk.
The Republicans' great white hope is starting to feel hot water creeping up his ankles over an alleged, but nonetheless stunningly juvenile, retaliatory strike against a politician who didn't support his recent re-election campaign.
Gov. Chris Christie is said to have shut down two lanes of the George Washington Bridge, a major thoroughfare into Manhattan from the Garden State -- and to have shut down said lanes at precisely the point at which the recalcitrant mayor's town is situated.
Then we have the arrogance of Michael Bloomberg in full flower, this time in a dismissive response to a heart-wrenching five-part New York Times story about the resilience of "Dasani," a beautiful 11-year-old homeless black girl in Harlem.
Obviously unable to hear himself as others heard him during a press conference, Bloomberg reportedly quipped -- when a reporter implied an indifference to the plight of New York's poor, “Your smirk shows you haven’t been outside the country and don’t know what poverty means elsewhere...."This kid (Dasani) was dealt a bad hand. I don't know quite why. That's just the way God works. Sometimes some of us are lucky and some of us are not."
All righty then, Mr. Mayor. You are absolutely correct. Some of us are not as lucky as you are. Sir.
Oh, and let's not ignore another north-of-the-Mason-Dixon-Line incident: Renisha McBride, the severely intoxicated, unarmed 19-year-old who was fatally shot in the face at close range by a Michigan homeowner who decided she was an intruder. She was seeking help following an accident. (The good news is her shooter has been indicted and will go to trial; none of that "stand-your-ground" nonsense in Michigan.)
So, WWMD? What would Madiba do? Here on the eve of 2014, with Mandela barely a few weeks gone, is a question: How will we pay his memory forward? What one thing will we see through 2014, or will commitment dissipate like the 24-hour news cycle?