Archive for November, 2010

Estate sale
November 10, 2010

CAMBRIDGE, MASS — I’ve had the great luck during the last few years to meet people from all over the world who have paid high prices to tell stories the world needed to know. Some of them told stories of their own countries, some went to other countries to tell the people from their own countries what policies that might have otherwise seemed abstract were wreaking, or accomplishing. I have met people who spent time in prison, who have been threatened, who have suffered trauma and terror to do that.

I have never been an advocate of sacrificing anything as valuable as life, health, or peace of mind for a job. The reason I have felt privileged to know the journalists I am describing is because they didn’t do it for a job. Not one of them. They did it because they believed  that without mass communication by trained professionals of integrity, the risk that the bad guys will win was greater than the risk to themselves.

Last week, in this country, many of the bad guys did, indeed, win. They include a future Florida governor who in a more vigilant world would be laying low.

But while the journalists I’ve been lucky enough to meet have done their jobs, many of the people running newspapers here have been more interested in keeping their jobs than carrying out the mission of the fourth estate that gave them their jobs.


All we are saying . . .
November 7, 2010

WASHINGTON, DC — Imagine a big bunch of people all coming together without intolerance, prejudice or self-interest to unite them, but also without the aim of advancing any cause. Is that a good thing? It seems to speak to how little we have come to expect from ourselves that the unifying draw of the rally that brought at least 150,000 people to the middle of the nation’s capital Oct. 30 was the idea of expressing demagoguery fatigue.

Yes, it is reassuring to note that at least that idea drew more than twice as many people to the same spot as the pro-demagoguery, racism-inspired, dream-mocking rally assembled by hatemongers at the end of August. But however heartening that comparison might be, the results of elections four days later that showed erratic attention to recent events and the common good, indicates that maybe we are setting our sights for what this nation can accomplish kind of low.

Finding fault with delusional-fringe types is, after all, not exactly challenging.

Neither is making fun of people who don’t bother to think, and may not have much with which to think, but who think they should be doing the thinking for the rest of us . . .

Or satirizing the 18th-century nostalgia craze sweeping the faux history buff set . . .

Which is not to say they didn’t provide cheer and at least a sense of solidarity among those of us struggling with a sense of alienation lately.

And that approach required more critical thinking, and possibly more good will than the goody-two-shoes, play nice reproach directed at “both sides” . . .

Or implying that, rather than bigotry, intolerance and the exploitation by the greedy of the ignorant being a real threat to our future and our welfare, the problem we face is simply one of volume and intensity . . .

All of which, while still better than nothing, left me wondering: with all that creative energy, couldn’t we somehow find a way to make a fair, smart, inspiring nation?