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Politics make trust a thing of the past

Tuesday, February 22, 2005 | 12:00 a.m. CST; updated 4:46 a.m. CDT, Tuesday, July 1, 2008

The latest scandals concerning radio commentator Armstrong Williams and other journalists accepting money from government agencies and administration officials to promote their issues, I’m sure, comes as no surprise to anyone. In recent years, journalists have become so buddy-buddy with politicians that much of the public is so jaded that they no longer expect fair and objective reporting at the national level. It only takes one read or one listening session to determine with which party the writer or speaker is affiliated. After the what, when and where of a news story, a lot of us are ready to fold the paper or tune the set out because we are unwilling to stick around for the spin. This is one more way our world has changed. Consequently, we are becoming less trusting every day. I agree with a man I spoke to last week who is a former elected official. He said he didn’t like the person he saw himself becoming. He said that in the past, there had always been politicians he liked better than others, but he admitted he had never experienced such active dislike toward certain political viewpoints as he did these days.

Political tolerance does not seem to me to be as easy as it once was. Personally, I have become proficient at changing the subject whenever certain topics of conversation arise. I’ve always been a person who would rather save the friendship than win the argument. And I have been criticized a great deal on that score. Unfortunately, I have found that certain political opinions reflect other character traits that make maintaining some friendships these days undesirable. I have to accept that sharing the same planet will be the full extent of my relationship with some individuals, many of whom consider themselves Christians. Heretofore, we may have been able to discuss our differences with mutual respect. I find that is no longer possible.

This attitude goes against what I long believed. I thought education would be advanced by the information highway. I thought that the more enlightened people became, the more determined they would be to enhance civilization by finding ways to live in peace and harmony with people of other lands. (OK, so history proves me wrong, but this was the Noble Experiment, right?)

I thought empire-building had died the death it deserved. I truly had no idea that the whole concept of superiority was so deeply rooted in the nation’s subconscious. Sure, I have acquaintances who believe their worth is greater than that of people who live in Third World countries. But I thought these people were in the minority, and I was willing to shake my head at their self-delusions and hoped that the more they looked around and observed the moral and ethical decline within our society, they would get a grip. Unfortunately, they have learned to believe their own lies, and their inflated egos have convinced them that they are fit to rule the world. And their little women are standing by their men.

Did the information highway fail us? No. We failed to use the information highway to its greatest advantage as an educational tool. We have become victimized by the forces of illiteracy which we have allowed to flourish and gain social acceptance and in some cases social dominance. It has become too difficult for us to read for ourselves; it is easier for us to rely on a television newsreader to tell us what we need to know. If we find out the next day that they have lied to us, so what? We expect to be lied to, stolen from and, in some high-crime areas, even murdered. Are we merely apathetic? No, we are behaving as we have learned to behave from watching television. We are told innumerable times a day that we are the greatest country in the world. So how do you improve on the greatest?

These journalists who get paid for pushing the government’s point of view down their readers’ or viewers’ throats probably don’t feel that it matters. I guess it’s hard for some journalists and politicians to have much respect for a public so easily misled. Fortunately, some people operate from their own sense of integrity and are more concerned about their opinion of themselves than how others view them.

And let’s face it; it costs a lot of money to live a good life in America. In fact, it costs a lot of money to live even a decent life. And there really is no major entity trying to grapple with the economic issues that keep so many American families on the brink of bankruptcy. Can anyone succeed in fighting the credit card industry to keep interest rates low so that people can pay them off? Who is fighting to hold the line on health care costs? It’s understandable then, why everyone seems to have her or his hand out for a fast buck.

While real issues linger on, television is feeding people reality shows in which they hope to have an opportunity to appear. Is this the behavior of educated people who are obligated to provide future generations with a bright tomorrow? Is this the behavior of a superior people who feel authorized to take charge of the world?

One advantage of being small potatoes is no one is trying to buy you out. You can remain poor and keep telling the truth. Believe it or not, some people keep listening.

You can join the conversation with Rose M. Nolen by calling at 882-5734 or e-mailing her at nolen@iland.net


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