"It's the easiest thing in the world to demonize those who have different opinions than you. It is much harder to actually walk in their shoes."
On Saturday, Stina and I went to see Anderson Cooper deliver a speech entitled, "Reflections on the Journalist's Role in Presidential Elections and on World Events." I was so impressed with his speech (and his suit, and his piercing blue eyes, and his dreamy white hair....oh, oops, I digress) that I took out my program and began jotting notes and ideas and reflections down. I wanted to share a few of them here with you, and they aren't in any comprehensible order, but I thought them worthy of a discussion.
WARNING--SOME OF THIS MAY BE HARSH TO HEAR--
Cooper, perhaps more than most Americans today, has been witness to some of the most atrocious acts of human cruelty. He has seen the genocide of Rowanda and the current devastation in the Congo, just to name a few. When listening to his tales, I sat and contemplated the seeds that lie within each of us that we choose to foster or not. There are seeds of evil and seeds of good. How do we decide which to foster? How do we remember to choose the good? How can we work more towards a unity than towards constant division?
What is the power of information?
Why do we seem content, as a nation, to focus on the frivolities of news, instead of that which is truly newsworthy? The stakes in American history have never been higher--look at the Middle East, especially Afghanistan--what forces are shaping what goes on there? In this age of instant information--where are you getting YOUR information? Who is slanting it? Has the information you are reading been checked and double checked? Information is one of the most powerful forces on earth today- and it is OUR responsibility to make sure that we are getting the right information (ahem...Obama is a Terrorist was a big fallacy that I received in so many email forwards this past year I about tore my hair out!!)
The government may fail us here, but as individuals, we can find truth and facts.
Why must we be so divided?
We each tend to lean towards a political viewpoint. I didn't post a lot of political blogs during the election, because I tend to internalize my viewpoints a lot. I do not affiliate myself with either party. I do not claim Republican or Democrat (ok, sometimes I do, because in Utah, it's just fun to play Devil's Advocate to so many blind sided Republicans)--you'd probably be surprised for some of the people I voted for over the course of my life, but somehow I have always been able to see both sides of an argument. (And this doesn't feel like a virtue, it feels like a curse because I have THE HARDEST time making decisions)--But here is a question--why does their have to be a Republican Truth and a Democratic Truth? Why do so many choose to see life through their view of the truth--when it is really only a limited lense (this extends beyond politics, doesn't it?) I've always tried to focus more on FACT than on OPINION--and truthfully, most talk shows, most radio shows, most of every type of media slants it's group of facts with a bit of opinion.
What happens when Tragedy Strikes You?
So many disasters cover the globe on a daily basis. All of us want to believe that this tragedies will never touch us, but they can, they most likely will, and in a split second, our worlds will change. This is what the word "FRAILTY" means. And I think it is our ability to recognize our frailty that makes us see our humanity more clearly. Cooper talked of what is going on in the CONGO--in the past ten years, six million people have been killed in the Congo alone. Cooper has witnessed first hand the very specific "War against Women" as he referred to it. Rape is being used as a weapon, as a means of control, as a means of keeping women down. He has interviewed several women recently who have been victims of the newest trend in crime. It appears that men, or groups of men, will rape a woman, and then insert a gun into her vagina and then pull the trigger. And the amazing part, several of these women are surviving, but their lives are ruined, and their bodies are ruined.
Why did he share these stories? To remind us of the fleetingness of life. To remind us that we lose sight of lives that are different from ours.
It's not pretty to hear, is it?
So, do we ignore it?
Do we send money to help?
What is our responsibility here?
What, really, is there for me to do?
Wouldn't it be better just to not pay attention to these stories?
That's what America seems to think. The stories that get told to the general public are the stories that get the highest ratings. These are not stories about the Congo, they are not stories about global warming...it's stories about Paris Hilton and the latest James Bond movie....
RATINGS are the greatest threat to news coverage!!!
And apparently, as a people, we could all start there, couldn't we? Couldn't we all start with a dedication to turn off the crap and demand to be told the stories that maybe we should be rallying around?