By By Zundel, Aaron

By Zundel, Aaron

Last week, “American Idol” was the most-watched television program in America, with 21.2 million viewers. This week’s ratings are expected to be even higher as the show nears its finale.

FOX’s smash hit is quite possibly the scariest program on television-but not because of what’s on the screen. It’s scary because of what it says about us.

On May 2 the National Geographic Society released a study showing that 64 percent of Americans ages 18-24 (that’s us) can’t locate Iraq on a map. After all, we’ve only been fighting a war against them for the past three years.

But the embarrassment doesn’t stop there-75 percent couldn’t find Indonesia, and 47 percent couldn’t even find India, a country with roughly one-sixth of the Earth’s population. Oh, and let’s not forget that fewer than 12 million of 18- to 24-year-olds even voted in the last presidential election.

These ominous statistics are disgusting.

It’s probably a safe bet that most of these people who don’t vote and can’t tell the Middle East from Middle Earth could identify Simon Cowell or Taylor Hicks without firing a synapse.

Perhaps Karl Marx, who coined the phrase, “Religion is the opiate of the masses,” could have learned a thing or two from the American entertainment industry.

“Desperate Housewives,” Kobe Bryant, Paris Hilton and “Survivor” have all become symbols of a greater American attitude towards self-indulgence, ignorance and entitlement.

It’s an attitude that is embarrassing to us as a people and as a nation. No wonder it often seems the rest of the world hates us: We invaded a country we can’t even locate-all while fixating on which person just got voted off the show, island or whatever.

On their own accord, “American Idol” and shows like it are not a bad thing. In fact, they offer a lot of good.

But like a loaded gun, the benefit or detriment of these shows comes largely from how we’re utilizing them. Entertainment is a healthy and even necessary part of any culture.

The problems start when we shoot it into the bloodstream of America like so much heroin and ignore the issues and topics that will define our and our children’s place in the world for generations to come.

Aaron Zundel