One has to ask just what world do our politicians and news media folks live in?
The news industry is largely a one-way communication. They report what they consider the most important events of the day and tell us how we should think about those events – the latter of which takes up the vast majority of the radio/television time and most of the column inches in the print media.
If I considered media to be an accurate reflection of our American culture and society, I would not like us very much. According to the politicians and the media that reports on them, we are a racist nation – hardly improved from the days of Democrat slavery and segregation. We are a nation that oppresses women into second-class citizenship. We have heartless immigration policies because we hate foreigners. We have no compassion for the poor, the infirm, the elderly and, at the other end of the life cycle, the children.
We are a warring nation that occupies foreign lands to steal their treasure – most often oil. Our desire to own guns makes us insensitive to mass killings, unwarranted police shootings and the safety of the unarmed. The character of the American masses is described as ignorant, hateful, immoral, cowardly, and prejudiced – a veritable basket of deplorables.
For the most part, however, that terrible place is mostly a fictional world – almost like a computer game in which we play out fantasy conflicts created by media programmers – or more accurately by editors and producers. It is a pretend world based on concocted narratives that supplant the larger reality.
But then there is the real world. The one we wake up to in the morning and travel throughout the day. For most of us, it is a bright sunny world with dozens – maybe hundreds – of interactions with real people in real time – people of diverse backgrounds, different income brackets, different careers, different ethnicity, gender, age and lifestyle.
In my case, it might be a stop for breakfast at a favorite Jewish deli where everyone is greeted like old friends. We pass people of all sizes, shapes and appearances as we walk down the street or through the mall. Some smile and nod. For lunch, it may be a black-owned rib joint where the sauce is hot and the conversation is cool. I may need to stop by the auto shop for a small repair or oil change performed by a couple of young Hispanics. If my son is with me, he will speak them in Spanish thanks to the Mexican lady who helped raise him as a second mother.
If I stumble, the hands of strangers reach down to help me up – white hands, black hands, brown hands. Just a bunch of good people. I may drive a very liberal older woman to the grocery or drug store and will joke about our political differences. I might bring her to my favorite pizza parlor for a classic Chicago-style treat. If there are other Chicagoans in the eatery, we may very well end up in a conversation about the Windy City.
On Wednesday, I bowl with friends. As I look over the other lanes, I see people of all kinds bowling together. A black homeless fellow we befriended will stop by to watch. One of my bowling partners will bring him home for a meal, a shower and to have his clothes washed. Occasionally, she will buy him clothes, reading glasses or other needs. During the summer, we might find scores of young kids on a bowling outing — again of all backgrounds. They goof around, laugh a lot and make a lot of noise – but none of us adults are bothered.
My neighbors include blacks, Asians, Hispanics, Arabs and virtually every nationality you can name. And they are all quite neighborly. What is not remarkable – but rather common – are the number of people who will offer a helping hand without being asked. There is the lady down the way who drops off cake every now and then – and for no reason other than kindness.
No matter where I go within my community or even when I travel to other locations, 99.9 percent of the people I meet and interact with are friendly, often with a good sense of humor. Oh yeah, there are a few jerks out there, but they are few and far between.
This sort of day is not unusual in America. I suspect most Americans have similar experiences. It is the way we live. We are overwhelmingly good, kind and moral people who care about our families, our friends, our neighbors and even strangers when an opportunity presents itself. We tend to be more tolerant and respectful than intolerant and disrespectful. We do know or even recognize those terrible masses of Americans we hear about on the news. They are not us.
Sadly, I fear that our media outlets give a false impression of the United States to all those who live beyond our borders. Led by the concentration of negativism and conflict that appears on the nightly news, those folks in foreign lands come to believe in the fictional ugly America.
It would do us all a lot of good if we were to occasionally look away from the America on the television screen and look out the window. Yes, we have differences of opinion and can play them out according to the rules in the ugly America cyber game the media produces, or we can look at the real America and feel good about this nation – and about ourselves.