by Joe Shea
January 10, 2011
THE SUM OF ALL POLITICS
BRADENTON, Fla., Jan. 10, 2011 -- It was just about this time last Sunday night when I tuned into WFLA 970-AM here in Tampa Bay to hear George Noory and got Bill Cunningham instead. Seconds later, his guest was saying of President Obama, "He's a Marxist! He's a socialist! He's a Communist!"
I was shocked. Cunningham said nothing, but let his guest, Arizona "libertarian" and writer Walter Allyn Root, go on for another minute or two before he asked another question.
Cunningham, a Fox Radio/Clear Channel host and late-night version of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, Neal Boortz, Michael Savage, Glenn Beck, Todd Schnitt and Mark Levin, had neither the common sense nor the decency to rebuke his guest. He let his audience listen, said nothing, and moved on.
MSNBC, the liberal equivalent of FoxNews on television, can be just as bad. Hour after hour every night they take us into the prisons of this country and introduce us to the scum of the earth - murderers, child molesters, rapists, serial killers, gang leaders and white supremacists - who tell their stories of evil deeds and heinous acts to a camera crew. They intersperse this programming with tales of murder, violent police chases, and trapping if not entrapping of child molesters. Afternoon hours of smug liberal punditry give way to the most sordid stuff in the world.
Whether you're on the left or right, you probably subscribe to the idea that whatever they want to put on the tube, if people want to watch it, fine. That's one way to look at free speech, an idea men and women since the American Revolution have laid their lives down to preserve for us.
Rep. Gabrielle Giffords must have felt that keenly last Monday, when she joined others in the House of Representatives and read the First Amendment and its solemn vow to preserve freedom of speech, religion, press and assembly. Those freedoms were won with human lives, and not to be waved like a soiled diaper for the cash that cheesy commercials bring, but to ring and soar in the halls of Congress and across the airwaves with the eloquence of a Kennedy, King or Reagan in their quests for human freedom, moral leadership and world peace. We fall so far short, if only because we're human.
When I read the Wall Street Journal's free article on how Chinese mothers raise their children - a nasty, brutish process, to be sure - this weekend, I recalled my screed of a few weeks ago in which I opined that Rupert Murdoch had sold this country out to the Chinese leaders whose cash he carries home every night from his extensive operations in China. I hear Fox broadcasters tell us to buy gold because China's leaders tell their people to do it, and now I was reading a Chinese-American mother's advice in an article called "Why Chinese Mothers Are Superior," on how to raise our children the Chinese way. I read the article and wanted to shout to the rooftops of his betrayal of the real America, the one where the creativity stifled in the Chinese has pushed us ahead of the strict conformists in so many ways.
So, while I think MSNBC is run by a bunch of cheap, gutless creeps, I think News Corporation and the entire Fox operation is run for the benefit of the people who call Obama a Communist. Fox does so much to divide and destroy this country and to lionize their Chinese heroes that I can't think of another excuse for their ugly rants. And given that this is the status of things in my world, why aren't more people asking themselves, "Who do I shoot first?"
At Mass this evening, the priest ignored the deaths of Judge John Roll, who went to Mass every morning, and those who died with him, to offer a sermon about the deaths of a Catholic priest in Italy who fought the Mafia in his sermons, the brave Archbishop of Cuernavaca who fought the Mexican drug lords and met the same fate, even after telling his congregation that it was going to happen soon, and then blamed the violence we experienced yesterday on "media values" and "media lifestyles."
Here I was, kneeling in my pew and praying with tears in my eyes for our country and Gabrielle Giffords and Judge Roll, and here he is - one of a fraternity in which hundreds if not thousands of child molesters have emerged - condemning my values - for I am a man of the media - and my lifestyle for that murder of innocents.
In reality, while there are plenty of powerful creeps in the media, there are hundreds of thousands of good, honest, just, and even church-going people. Some of the most celebrated stars work for lots of the right things - Sean Penn for Haiti, for instance, Brad Pitt for New Orleans, Larry King for countless causes - and they, too, carry the values and live the lifestyles of "the media." The media, though, is just a symptom of this cacophony.
The confusion we suffer amid a riot of opposing voices is the music that Jared Lee Loughner heard. We read his YouTube statements that try so hard to achieve gravity and meaning but fall so pathetically short, and we can't help but wonder - drowning in this chaotic sea from which no one else will save us - what desperate act to undertake to win our freedom from it all.
I think Sartre or Camus might urge us if they could to endure what we experience with bravery and determination, buttressed by a very narrowly drawn self-interest and the illusion of love. I am drawn instead to hope.
I believe that a few things could make this world enormously better very quickly, and I prayed for them last evening. I asked God to lift the onerous burden of narcotics from America and the world, and at the same time to lift the oppression of filthy, dangerous and deadly oil and gas from our backs by bringing a new form of cheap, self-renewing energy to the world.
I imagine a broad international coalition of world leaders simultaneously bringing the entire force of their armies and police down on drug traffickers, and before they rest, adopting an entirely novel form of energy - the hydrino, and if not, cold fusion - to produce power for ordinary people in every part of the globe.
At the same time, when I want to get mad at Bill Cunningham and hateful politicians who fail to work to bring us together but instead exploit and explode our differences, I try to remember this very simple, actual miracle: within us all we harbor the same bright light of life that is in every other human being, every bird, fish and animal, every tree and flower on the entire planet.
The life that will one day leave me will one day leave you, no matter who you are; the "fuse that through the flower," as Dylan Thomas called it, blooms and then dies in all of us. What if, each day, we tried to remember how precious that little spark of life we have is to us, and how precious then to all who have it? And to every living thing? And to look at people and see that light within them first, and only then their color, their size, their age? People confuse life with the length of their days all the time, but that is something else: life is the small, still perfect light that keeps us here.
The sum of all politics, then, when it seeks to divide and conquer, is zero. It is the manure in which violence grows. Next to the life force that animates us, it is nothing. Life is just one thing, all by itself, and always will be indivisible and indistinguishable from all other life. But to the degree that politics works to animate life, to preserve it, to achieve a common respect for it, politics is the work of God and purpose of mankind. Perhaps this idea - that we should first revere life and the freedom it offers us, and only then our separate identities, and our roles, and our states, can also make this a better world.
To Bill Cunningham, Rupert Murdoch and his Fox cohort, and to all the creeps at late-night MSNBC, to that priest, and to Gabrielle Giffords who has inspired me tonight, and even to her would-be assassin, I say: Remember life! That will bring us safely home.