To My Darling Children:
Today, in this country, you can destroy a man/woman in the public forum by making a false accusation against that person which will be dutifully and woefully parroted by the press under the guise of ‘vetting’ someone’s character. In fact, the media, now routinely, is complicit in repeated character assassination.
One’s words can be easily misquoted, misrepresented, distorted and denounced and broadcast in damning snippets around the world and across the Internet while the truth of one’s statements are buried under an avalanche of oft-repeated, intentionally amplified lies.
It is next to impossible to defend oneself against critical and destructive attacks when the accused has no platform where he or she can expect the intended audience to listen fully, carefully and open-mindedly. The press snaps to attention and gleefully plays a full-throated game of ‘gotcha’.
Even when someone is able to mount a reasoned public defense, the chattering mob of bogus commentators pull phrases out of context and distort the true intent of the statement to service their own self-interest.
A case in point is the public pillory of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. For months his past words have been truncated, misquoted, distorted and purposely misrepresented. He has been labeled as an anti-patriotic, hate-mongering racist. In fact, he is a thoughtful, learned, passionate advocate for the downtrodden.
I watched the complete Bill Moyers interview with Rev. Jeremiah Wright, extended clips of the Reverend's 'controversial' sermons, and Rev. Wright's recent speeches to the NAACP and Washington Press Club. He didn't say ONE thing that wasn't true. He talked about governments, this one included, that have not always done the ‘right thing’ (my words, not his). He drew our attention to the genocide of Native Americans, the enslavement of African-Americans, the internment of Japanese-Americans, and the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki that killed untold numbers of civilians. He noted that America develops, manufactures and sells chemical weapons (weapons of mass destruction). He lamented the subversion of ‘other’ cultures by the dominant White Anglo-Saxon power holders. And he comically demonstrated that different cultures think and act differently – in their religious practices, anthropology and sociology. All, reasoned and incontrovertible truths.
But, today, under political pressure, and after the press has demonized the man, Barack Obama has thrown his former pastor under the bus and backed up over him.
I'm saddened by the current turn of events and state of public discourse. When the Rev. Wright was first condemned by the political Right, Obama gave a thoughtful speech in Philadelphia calling for a national conversation about race in America. Instead of calm, deliberate dialogue between people of different skin color, religious beliefs or cultural practices, we continue to demean and suppress other people out of ignorance and a refusal to even hear or understand their opposing points of view.
Thoughtful dialogue is being drowned out by the loud barrage of the righteous mob.
Again, I plead to you, to seek out the truth. Listen, learn, understand, question and then make up your mind. When you find a person or opinion contrary to yours, don’t go on the attack, or even on the defensive. Hear them out. Understanding and respect are the ways to peace. Know what you stand for and what you oppose. But, more importantly, know why.
When you see or hear someone and their thoughts being so vociferously and unrelentingly attacked, ask why. Investigate who is behind the assault. Whose interests are being jeopardized? Whose position and power are being threatened? Who wants to drown out the voice and why?
And, finally, don't be afraid to listen to other voices. Seek out all viewpoints. Even if their language is incendiary, even if their ideas are challenging, even if their passionate expressions make you uncomfortable, they may be speaking the truth.
All my love,
Photo Credit: Getty