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Another Day in the Country

The subtitle feature

© Another Day in the Country

Sometimes the subtitle option on the television will come on when it isn’t really needed. It’s when I’m watching a foreign movie or a comedy show with quick witted asides delivered with a decidedly English accent that I need those subtitles.  But tonight it was a commentator that I was very familiar with, and had no problem understanding, when the subtitles caught my attention.

“What we need,” he asserted, “are two parties that are viable…” but the subtitle clearly read, “What we need are turtle parties…” 

I laughed right out loud, doubly thankful for hearing, even though it’s not as acute as it once was. “We ask young people to give up their lives for their country,” he continued, “and yet we have politicians who are not willing to stand up because they are afraid they’ll lose their careers.”

I was mumbling, “Amen, Brother.”  This man, a Representative from Illinois, had refused to vote along party lines, recently. He went on to say he’d had an “epiphany — the subtitles had translated that word to “Tiffany.” 

In all this dissonance, I chuckled wryly. Maybe this is one of the reasons for the political divide in this country? Could it be the subtitles that folks are reading, when for one reason or another their perception is off kilter?  

If not the subtitles, then perhaps the subtext is different, depending on who we’re listening to and where we’re hearing it—like the differences in some attitudes between being in California and being in Kansas. (I had to look up the word “subtext” to make sure I knew what it meant for sure!)

According to my very old dictionary: Subtext, 1. the complex of feelings, motives, etc., conceived of by an actor as underlying the actual words and actions of the character being portrayed, 2. an underlying meaning or theme, etc.

“Could I be on to something?” I’m wondering. The faulty subtitles are funny — absurd. But could subtext be faulty, too?

The commenting continued, “…if the police had actually guarded (the subtitles read “darted”) the Capital…” I was now only half listening to some very important content, absorbed mostly by the translation running along the bottom of the screen. “In Washington this week (leak)…discovering the idea that…” 

I stopped the commentary, shut off the subtitles, scribbling notes on the back of a magazine for future reference, as if I’d discovered something important.

We do have to admit, even in the heartland, that the things we learn on the unending stream of “news” available are often disquieting. While I’ve been trying to figure out, for the life of me, where some folks get their information, maybe I should have been asking how it was interpreted? 

Maybe it’s the subtext from those we hear commenting. Comments have become entertainment, but I’m kidding myself if I think it’s unbiased, accurate reporting. 

Now, this information I was listening to regarding the hearing in D.C., was from someone who was actually there, actually voting, actually standing up for what he believed was right and willing to vote against party lines to follow his conscience and not just save his skin.

I like getting information from what my grandma used to call “the horse’s mouth.” I like hearing, better yet — watching, someone speak. I’m still old fashioned enough to believe that people tell us best who they are by their own words and their own actions. 

This may seem like a departure from talking about country living; but in my opinion (which of course this is, as an opinion column) our democratic way of life, our rural character, our ethics have been seriously challenged for several years. It’s like we’ve become irresponsibly addicted to the hype of “reality” TV and we’ve called it “news.”

We hear talk about how American is divided and I know I’ve been aghast as I watch that divide played out within my own circle of family and friends, “What are they thinking?” I wonder. “Should I say something?” So far, the answer has pretty much been “No.”

The other evening as I was chuckling about these subtitles, I jokingly wondered if we could blame all the misunderstanding on bad subtitles like we blame COVID? 

It was readily apparent, in this instance, when they didn’t make sense, but subtext is more subtle.

Faulty subtitles, like the ones I was reading, could foster some serious conspiracy theories about affiliation with the “IDF”, police played “darts” at the U.S. Capital, “Tiffanys,” and “Turtles” forming a new party. 

I guess we really need to be careful. Is our news source dependable? Is the translation accurate, does it make sense? Have we checked it out, on another day in the country?

Last modified Feb. 25, 2021

 

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