If you’re an American, you have probably just gone through the most extraordinary week of your lifetime. And what makes it the most extraordinary week you’ve ever lived, is the fact that you probably didn’t even realize this week was different than any other. (And for you readers in other countries, your week may have just been slightly less impactful. Although if you live in the UK, perhaps more so.)
What makes this last week so astonishing?
The fact that some shocking, dangerous, and immoral events took place, and no one even blinked. Think about this.
We have become so immune, so inoculated, so desensitized that depravity, immorality, and injustice doesn’t even register with us. It is unable to pierce the white noise we’re surrounded with.
How can this much stuff happen in seven days and it’s just another week? When did we become untethered to kindness, decency, and justice? This collective throwing up of hands and shrugging of shoulders is killing our soul. We’re so busy chasing Instagram likes that we’re blind to immorality. We have time for celebrity gossip news, but none for real journalism. We’re so desperate to further our own political viewpoint that we now believe it is acceptable behavior to demonize those with other views.
Can we please rethink this?
I know I have to do better. Like you, I’m passionate about my beliefs. (And sometimes have a hard time understanding that good people can have opposing views.) Too often I stoop to the snarky clapback, quick judgment, or a failure to empathize.
As I watched the rancorous, partisan and petty bickering in the impeachment hearing last night, I came to a revelation. One development the founding fathers had no way to factor in was today’s social media platforms. With Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube, every person on earth has the opportunity to be a broadcast network. A citizen journalist, but without having to know anything about journalism. If we all really have become broadcasters, it would behoove us to learn something about the role of a free press.
In what started as political humor in 1893, Chicago Evening Post journalist and humorist Finley Peter Dunne introduced an Irish bartender character named Mr. Dooley, to his readers. (Think of Dooley as the original Archie Bunker prototype.) One of the gifts that Mr. Dooley left us, is something that has become the unofficial mantra for the role of enlightened journalists everywhere:
“To comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.”
Just as politicians, celebrities and media outlets have the power to create trends, empower change and influence minds – so do each of us. How often are we using it to comfort the afflicted, the speak for those with no voice, to stand for those who have no one else standing for them? And doing so with respect, civility, and empathy? I have to do better. I hope you’ll join me.