Tuesday, January 24, 2017

What We Once Accomplished Astounds the Imagination

This beautiful land of ours. The old cities. The towns and neighborhoods. All once so incredible with their highways and their landmarks, their lakes and parks, their schools and churches, their giant buildings and small country stores. There were good jobs with fair pay and opportunities for promotion and advancement.

Most of that is vanishing under the weight of high tech jobs, computerized gadgets and mind consuming e-toys, expensive big vehicles, high rise condos, billion dollar sports stadiums, interconnecting gyrations of freeways with vast concrete loops, and relentless urban sprawl. It’s all gobbling us up in a net of human indifference, aloofness, rage, and ill will toward one another.

What we once accomplished astounds the imagination. Across our creative history other nations have envied our freedoms, have marveled at our productivity and ingenuity, have seen as sacred our humanity and compassion.

There are reasons why people all over the world have wanted to live here. It’s not because of some divine superiority within us, some mythical greatness no one possesses but us. It’s because we have built great things; because we cherished our families and cared for our neighbors; because we valued children and fought for a better future for them; because we worked hard and accomplished a lot and were given appropriate financial rewards; because our places of worship taught us basic morals and ethics and how to be decent and good; because we believed in justice and fair trials and personal freedom; because we accepted diversity and made peace with those not exactly like us; because we created amazing art, music, theater, film, and books.

It’s not that other countries have not done or not had these things; they have. But here, access to them was unparalleled.

For years we had a professional press core of gifted and dedicated journalists who put aside their biases and reported the facts. There was no mocking, sneering reports; no yelling and screaming at guests; no millionaire celebrities as anchors. Of course, there has always been some form of lousy journalism in America, cheap stuff from hacks and puppets of wealthy purveyors of gossip, innuendo, and character assassination. But the real pros so overwhelmingly produced such a high level of craft with their intelligent, polished, accurate writing, reporting, and commentary, that most people ignored the drivel and slander offered by journalistic pretenders.

Today we have almost entirely lost bright journalists with ethical standards, adept news reporting, and superior writing, and it is a part of our national disgrace. The wrangling between the press and newly elected president Trump is a shocking sign that the search for truth, that honest reporting matters, is becoming a losing enterprise in this country. We have so coddled and rewarded unworthy journalists elevating them to some senseless status of notoriety and paying them millions of dollars that we now have biased, partisan journalists demanding respect they have not earned.

Our current crop of journalists has let us down time and time again. Now that their qualifications are being questioned they want to be taken seriously. It seems a bit late for that. Their incompetence during the presidential campaign makes their furious criticism of the new administration useless now. Respect has to be earned. You can’t demand it, whether you are a president or a journalist.

There were once standards we all followed, even if some didn’t believe in them, even if some used them to promote their own interests. But there were established rules of conduct, orderly ways to express your disagreement or your anger, whether to a neighbor, a police officer, a judge, or a politician. That’s pretty much gone now. People simply say whatever they want with little thought of the other person. We see it in Congress. We see it in the press. We see it from those who are supposed to be leading us—from the president, the military, the finance industry, the basic departments of government, from law enforcement and the church. Where is their national interest?

Much of our crude behavior is displayed hourly on social media. It is there that we often see horrible behavior; the personal exchanges between people are sometimes alarmingly antagonistic, mean and irresponsible. People used to post photos of their cat asleep in the window; or told something funny that happened to them that day. Now it’s mostly posts of acrimony, angry bias, my way or the highway, F bombs, verbal threats, mocking taunts, and mean-spirited attacks.

So much has changed over the years. But the America I love still exists, if not in the White House or the government, the courts or the media, on Facebook or Twitter—it does still exist, in homes where families talk to one another, in businesses large and small where product, services, and customers matter, where ethics are practiced, in the majesty of nature and our national landscape, in the innocence and hope of children, in the generosity of kind hearts, in the freedom of healthy laughter, in the spirit of compassion and small acts of thoughtfulness that people demonstrate every day.

If this sounds corny and hopelessly idealistic, so be it. Give me that over all the wretchedness of our current national hostility and dread.

© 2017 Timothy Moody 

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