Perusing magazines in the grocery checkout line recently, screaming headlines promised all the gritty details about:

  1. The Secretary of State "dirty dancing" with another woman;
  2. (2) Reality show Teen Moms "star" admits to drug abuse in a "tell all" interview; and
  3. (More) of the "inside story" of the affair between the young star of those vampire movies and her (married) director.

As my gaze wanders over the tabloid covers, I become aware of a real-life drama mounting ahead of me. The woman in front of me in line is tossing—you might say flinging—the items she's just unloaded from her cart back into it.

Froot Loops. Diet Sprite. A bag of Red Delicious apples.

She sighs loudly, and when our eyes meet, she nods toward the person in front of her and rolls her eyes with practiced contempt.

The object of her scorn speaks to the cashier with the careful grammar of a person who knows the rules of English well but was not born into a family that speaks it.

"I am sorry," she says. "What is the matter?"

"You can't get this," the clerk answers curtly, holding up a box of cereal.

"Pardon me, please," the customer says. "I do not understand."

"Look here!" the clerk answers, holding the box up higher. "The second ingredient in here is sugar! It's sugar cereal. You can't do that with WIC."

My outraged line-mate maneuvers around me, mumbling under her breath, "For the love of God."

Customers in adjacent checkout lines stare at the woman who's had the audacity to buy sweetened cereal with her welfare coupon. Raised eyebrows and tutts of disapproval erupt on all sides One man stage-whispers a disparaging comment to the customer behind him.

I glance at the Honey Nut Cheerios sticking out of the end of my cart. Somewhere, buried underneath, is a bag of Special Dark Hershey Kisses. But no one will judge me for having chosen sugary treats. I speak the native language, have a credit card to swipe, and follow the unspoken rule that says you can do what you want as long as you don't make anyone else uncomfortable in the process.

If you have an accent, well, that's your problem. Just nod, and don't expect us to try to decipher it. If you are using WIC funds to purchase your groceries, put only the appropriate items in your cart. And for the love of God, don't hold up the line.

We Americans are weary.

We're bone-tired from shouldering the weight that years of an ongoing recession, divisive culture wars, and obfuscating military campaigns in the Middle East.

We can barely stand to hear yet another story about high-tech child predators, rising gas prices, and the falling value of our homes.

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We expect that some gun owners will use their firearms to shoot unsuspecting moviegoers, mall shoppers, or congregants in a house of worship.

And we accept that the food we carefully choose at the grocery store may contain poisons that will make our children sick or distracted or something nefarious—never mind the dangers of high-fructose corn syrup.

There is so much bad news. We're plum worn out.

And I posit that our collective weariness may explain the success of the new TLC reality show Here Comes Honey Boo Boo.

No. 1 among many cable audiences in its debut week, with more than 2.2 million viewers, the show chronicles the adventures of 6-year-old Alana, or "Honey Boo Boo"—the break-out star from that other reality TV train wreck, Toddlers and Tiaras—and her self-proclaimed "redneck" family in rural Georgia.

Honey Boo Boo's mother, 300-pound Mama June (Alana's father goes by "Sugar Bear") proudly announces that she is an "organized hoarder." (I suppose there are worse things …)

Mama gives Honey Boo Boo "go-go juice," a concoction of equal parts Mountain Dew and Red Bull, to energize her daughter before she competes in beauty pageants. (Well, okay …)

The eldest of Mama June's four children, 17-year-old daughter Anna ("Chickadee") is pregnant. (Hey, at least she's accepted by her family and, anyway, Mama June had two kids by the time she was Chickadee's age.)

As much as we might like to laugh at Honey Boo Boo and her family's bad manners, strange accents, and utter lack of concern for anything outside the walls of their own home (or the end of their noses), they aren't standing in front of us in the checkout line.

They are upholding the social contract by not inconveniencing us. Their crass, self-indulgent behavior makes us uncomfortable, all right, but it doesn't stop us from watching.

Nothing beyond the property line of Honey Boo Boo's home near Macon even seems to exist in the insular world portrayed on the "reality" show.

Not the more than 22 percent of Macon's residents who live below the poverty line, or the one-in-four American children who go to bed hungry each night. And certainly not the millions of orphans globally or the 21,000 children who die every day of preventable diseases.

While Mama June complains about money being tight and says that having to buy Honey Boo Boo yet another pageant dress is a hardship, she apparently has enough cash to stockpile cleaning supplies, paper towels, and snack cakes on plastic rows of plastic shelves that line several rooms of her home.

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Mama June and her brood have ample access to food—including the enormous boxes of junk food she buys at auction—and enough money in the budget to buy Honey Boo Boo a pet pig (complete with a play pen designed for a human infant.)

The family's antics are presented—without even a whiff of moral commentary—as entertainment.

For the rest of us.

I believe there is a better way to take our mind off our troubles. Fixing our minds on what is excellent and true will bring us the relief for which so many of us long. We must take the time to consider our choices and their consequences—long- and short-term, personally and globally, physically and spiritually.

Here Comes Honey Boo Boo, and the whole menu of junk TV programming, is a distraction, and it's far from harmless.

It may temporarily satisfy our hunger cravings, but it keeps us from examining what we're putting in our own shopping baskets.