When the dust settles
When the dust settles, what have we learned? Much of our news reporting is dust chasing. We look for the scuffle, report the melee, and move on to the next conflict. Humans kick up enough dust to foster this cycle in perpetuity. Unfortunately, in our endless pursuit of today’s dust storm, we sometimes forget to pause and reflect upon the deeper implications of yesterday’s crisis. We might know what happened yesterday, but we have no idea why it happened or what it even means.
It’s true that political pundits, talk show hosts, and even bloggers try to make sense of it all. But their observations are often canned, prepackaged, knee jerk reactions. It’s as if their answers are waiting on the shelf for a problem to happen. They use today’s crisis to champion yesterday’s answers.
Sometimes I like to play a game with myself. When a big news event occurs, I try to guess how each pundit will spin the story to make room for his or her agenda. The creativity of our sooth sayers is astounding. I watch as my conservative friends turn every story into “That’s because we have too much governmental control” or “That’s because the public school system is run by God hating liberals” or “That’s because we’re just too politically correct.” On the other side, I watch as my liberal/progressive friends turn every story into “That’s why we should try George Bush for war crimes” or “That’s why all Christians are fundamentalist wackos!”
So many of these observations have a baby doll, pull string feel. The crisis of the moment is just an excuse to once again rail against the same old things. Seconds after a horrific shooting, we pull the string and spout our canned solutions. Before the dead can be mourned, we are already championing our competing gun control opinions. Instead of waiting for the investigation, we are spewing our allegations, speculations, and observations as gospel fact. Whether it’s the war against terrorism or our economic woes at home, we use each turn and twist of the day to promote our preconceived presuppositions.
Very little learning occurs in this environment. The purpose of our modern day populist prognosticators is not to inform, inspire, or educate. Rather, their goal is to gain an agreeing audience. Instead of facilitating important discussion and debate, our media outlets often preach to the choir. In other words, conservatives speak to conservatives, liberals speak to liberals, and nothing much gets done.
Even our supposed “no spin zones” or “fair and balanced” programs simply choose a dogma to preach above and beyond the nuances of each distinct problem. Sometimes it appears many individuals in the media start with the preposterous presumption that they actually know the answers. This profound arrogance is frightening.
Each of us has a right to our own opinion. However, we also have a responsibility to actually grow in our awareness and understanding of the world. The great problems and struggles of our time will not be solved with reactionary cliches. Political pundits and media moguls will not save us. Change requires a willingness to dig deeper and look below the superficial surface. Unfortunately, the discussion seldom moves beyond platitudes. It’s far easier to decry familiar foes than to find a real world remedy.
This is my prayer for the times in which we live. “Father God, open our eyes to the possibility of transformation. Keep us from the cynical, spectator spirit of our age. Forgive us for our haughty demeanor. How can we know all the answers when we barely even know ourselves. Give us hope for the possibility of a better tomorrow. Give us courage to pursue the real answers, even when those answers force us to face our own failings. Father God, open our hearts to the truth. Help us find the truth, when the dust settles.”