— Lao Tzu
In my youth, it was once taught to me by an older, wiser man, that planning out one’s life is as effective as planning out one’s day. You start out bright and early and eager to accomplish a whole list of things. But by the time the sun has set, and the day has ended, everything has turned out very differently. Rarely does anything go the way you planned or expected.
Two years ago, when I began my foray into commentary and podcasting, I approached the endeavor with the same mindset I had applied in my journalism career. After all, I was taught by some pretty talented people back in the closing years of the 20th Century. I listened, learned, and revered all the experience and wisdom my older colleagues had so generously passed on to my eager, younger self. After all, it was traditional throughout most of human history for the older generation to teach the younger generation. Knowledge would be retained for the sake of he family and tribe. Home, hearth, and civilization would then continue on into the always uncertain future.
But that was another time. Another age. Words were valued. Options were examined and debated. And integrity was not just a policy, it was a way of life. The purpose of the Fourth Estate was to serve as a quality information source whereby all people throughout our society would receive facts and details so they could collectively come up with an appropriate course of action to address the issues of the day. Whether it was fixing a bridge, building a school, or going to war, the process was the same. Tell the people — all the people — the facts of the matter. It would then be to up them to do the rest.
Sadly, this time-proven process only works if the people of a nation are looking to come to some sort of a compromise on a shared goal — a common objective. If people want the same thing, they always have a reasonable chance of being able to work out a solution. But if they don’t, and compromise is not possible, conflict is inevitable.
The more I was writing and podcasting about current events, the more I began to see that a fissure had developed in our country that was only growing larger and larger, wider and wider. With no sign of anyone wanting to talk constructively. It was a disheartening, sobering bit of enlightenment. So, I decided to take some time off and reassess how I was going to participate in an increasing treacherous public space. After all, before one can report on something one has to know as much about the situation as possible. Perhaps, I thought at the time, things would return to normal or what passes in the United State for normal.
But it didn’t happen.
While following events over the past couple of years, it became obvious that the times are a-changing, and not for the best. For those of us who are well into middle age, much of what we are seeing, hearing, and reading is nearly indescribable compared to the world we grew up in and thought we would inherit. The landscape we find ourselves in can best be described as an increasing level of insanity stewed in with blind hatred, run-away superstition, and ignorance of history and social science at a level that would have once been thought impossible among a civilized people.
At the end of the day, you have to call it as you see it. Being objective is important when one writes and comments on current events. But you have to tell the truth no matter how unappetizing. One has to trust their instincts, but common sense is usually enough. If it looks like a train wreck, smells like a train wreck, and is a twisted pile of metal full of screaming and dying injured like a train wreck, seeking a second opinion on the situation is usually not necessary.
So here we are in 2020. Intelligent debate and civilized social discourse are almost non-existent in public discussion. The United States is polarized to a level that the country has not seen since our first Civil War. Most of the freedoms and rights guaranteed by our Constitution are under attack or being outright ignored by the powers that be. Traditional American journalism is all but extinct. Dark forces seem to be gathering in all corners like something out of Tolkien novel. We haven’t been back to the moon in nearly 50 years. And it seems the next World War will mostly be fought with the Internet, memes, and catchy slogans on t-shirts.
Oh, and it's a presidential election year.
Interesting times, for sure.
So it looks like I’m going to be going back to committing journalism again. What they warned me about all those years ago is so, so true: Once you're in, you’re in for life. Once you've been bitten, you’ll never get the ink out of your blood.
Stay tuned. . .
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