What is it with people and their cell phones? On Highway 82 Wednesday there was a driver in a pickup doing 45 in the fast lane (speed limit 70). The car coming up behind him/her had to brake hard, then crawl along until the traffic cleared in the right lane. I slowed and tried to signal the other driver to move over in front of me, but there was no response. So I zoomed on past the offending driver. Glancing to my left, I could just see through the darkened windows of the truck that the person was talking on the phone.

To me, this incident is a microcosm of all that’s wrong with our nation today, especially since the advent of cell phones. (And yes, I have a cell phone, but I try to use it appropriately.) We connect with somebody a few miles or a whole country away, but we are oblivious to our neighbors in the car behind us or in the grocery aisle or in the restaurant or theater. So we slow down to a leisurely pace on the highway while we chat or we speak loudly enough for everybody to hear our supposedly private conversations. We have become a nation of disconnected, selfish people, preoccupied with our own little world. A traditional prayer of confession of sin comes to mind: “We walk away from neighbors in need, wrapped in our own concerns.”

Our phone habits reveal our priorities in all of life, namely, that we don’t give a rodent’s posterior about anybody but ourselves and our private agendas and desires. So what if our neighbor is hungry or unemployed or a victim of injustice or lonely or afraid? Just let me have my smartphone on which I yak and download incessantly and check  Facebook posts all day; my big screen TV with my reality shows; my stuffed closets and pantry; along with my prejudices, my narrow viewpoints, and my intolerant attitudes.

How bad this state of affairs has become was brought home to me earlier this week. A New York Times article posted on Daily Beast recounted harsh, even deadly working conditions in an Apple factory in China that makes iPhones and iPads. Apple has a code of conduct for suppliers, but change comes slowly. The choice is between the workers and the demand of consumers for new Apple products. And guess which wins out? An Apple executive said this: “‘You can either manufacture in comfortable, worker-friendly factories, or you can reinvent the product every year, and make it better and faster and cheaper, which requires factories that seem harsh by American standards…. And right now, customers care more about a new iPhone than working conditions in China’” (http://www.nytimes.com/2012/01/26/business/ieconomy-apples-ipad-and-the-human-costs-for-workers-in-china.html?_r=1&.html).

Kyrie eleison.

© 2012 Tom Cheatham. All rights reserved.