I Don’t Recognize America Without Oprah.

Oprah will soon be off the air, and millions of Americans won’t know what to do with themselves.  There is a slight possibility I may become one of these people. I mean, ABC 7 in NYC doesn’t even know what to do, and is replacing her 4 pm slot WITH THE 5 o’clock news.  Yep, no typos.  As much as I am a Liz Cho fan, I don’t need 3 hours of her in the early evening.  Oprah however…

Oprah Winfrey was my introduction to the United States.  I returned to New Jersey as a 5 year old to my grandmother.  My parents were still in the Philippines, working on their entrance visas, and I flew Japanese Airlines with my aunt.  In the week I waited to register for my local public school, I stayed home with my grandmother who watched Oprah religiously.  Every afternoon, at 4pm, we’d turn to channel 7, and there she was.  Oprah.  Hello.  Her show became that familiar face that I took for granted.  And, I realize now that she is a part of the mosaic of American icons I secretly tow in the back of my mind.  She is a first imprint of sorts.

Anyway, I was breading some chicken cutlets earlier today while watching Tom Hanks lead the laundry list of Oprah’s BFFs through Chicago Stadium, part 1.  What I took away from that show was how a little kindness can go such a long way.  Yes, Oprah is problematic.  Yes, Oprah is the opinion commander of a legion of middle-class housewives.  Yes, Oprah uses really weird voice pitches when she’s excited.  But during today’s show, 25,000 trees were planted in her name, and something like 200 underfunded schools will be getting new libraries based on the influence of Oprah’s Bookclub listings.  Aside from her generous track record over the course of her show, she’s inspired other folks to initiate other do-gooder acts/be less of an asshole in their communities.  I completely support that.

On principle, I applaud the work of others who push us to think outside of our individualism, our loneliness, our powerlessness, and all their external, and often violent, manifestations in our society.  Yes, Oprah has access, etc etc, but she’s clearly reinvesting into the community using those privileges.  I think I will still follow the developments on her new network and tap into her magazine every now and then.

If being fond of Oprah is the only thing I’ll have in common with those middle-class housewives, so be it.  Yes, she may not be the most radical thought leader out there, but she does teach kindness and compassion.

That, in my book, is pretty revolutionary.

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