Viewing TV in DC

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This is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore watching television for KCRW and, in the New Year, more grateful for TV than ever.

I know -- in the past I've put TV down (and I'm not the only one) for how it distances people from life. Well, it's time we all got a clue: Television just might be our last, best chance to get up close and personal.

Over the holidays, my 12-year-old son and I visited Washington, DC, for a bit of sightseeing. We saw stirring monuments, magnificent buildings. We also saw ourselves in lots of lines, waiting for our cue to pass through the X-ray after emptying our pockets.

And, immersed in America's past, I saw a flash of the future: When watching TV will be the only way to connect with the outside world without being searched first.

I really wanted to take my son to the US Capitol. It's a patriotic rite of passage for a kid. So we waited for an hour to get tickets.

Then, on returning at the appointed time, we waited in another line for yet another hour, then were herded through the security checkpoint before finally being steered into the Capitol itself.

The actual tour, which lasted maybe 30 minutes, consisted of the Rotunda and the adjacent Statuary Hall (which a few days later we would see on TV when President Ford was brought there to lie in state) and the so-called Crypt beneath the Rotunda, where the tour concluded and we could buy souvenirs.

Which is to say we were unwelcome anywhere else on the premises, anywhere we could breathe the same air as the public servants laboring in our behalf. We were kept isolated -- and this, despite the certified absence of handguns, knitting needles, box cutters and candy bars (among the numerous items we were barred from bringing in).

As for the other 500-odd rooms of the Capitol, and the what-you-might-call-public corridors linking them within this temple of democracy? All off-limits! We the People were kept at a safe remove.

Listen, I don't mean to suggest that 9/11 never happened. Or that confiscating candy bars on Capitol Hill isn't an appropriate security response.

What I am saying is: thank goodness for TV! In Washington, as elsewhere, TV gives us access to things just a few of us could glimpse first-hand, even under the best of circumstances.

And in the post-9/11 world, TV does more than that. TV provides a comforting, illusory experience of life where concrete barricades and security scanners and bored, bossy guards don't necessarily stand between you and where you want to be.

Just flip a channel -- or point-and-click at your computer -- and you're there. No presenting your photo ID. No removing your shoes at the gate. No triggering an over-eager store alarm with your access card you carry to get you into your workplace. No suspicious looks. No questions asked. No strangers insisting you explain yourself.

In this age of fear and distrust, TV serves us as an ever-more-urgent alternative to putting ourselves out there.

And, sure, in the deal, TV makes us more submissive. We see it as our ever-more-appealing retreat.

But so what? My kid and I had a great time in Washington. We visited the Jefferson Memorial. We tossed a football on the mall. We got really good burgers in Georgetown. All without incident.

And, of course, we took a break from sightseeing whenever we liked, escaping back to our hotel room for basketball and SpongeBob SquarePants on TV. As my Washington visit reminded me, That's what America's about. Or, at least, where I think it's headed.

Watching television for KCRW, this is Associated Press TV writer Frazier Moore.