Vance: Let's celebrate America - at least for a day
The year 2020 is just halfway over, and if you're like me, it feels like it's been years since it began.
To be honest, it feels like it's been years just since the beginning of the coronavirus shutdown back in mid-March.
But here we are, on the cusp of the Fourth of July holiday in this most unusual year in our country's history. On a day designed to honor our country, it feels like America is more divided than ever.
It's so easy focus on the issues that have dominated the news this year and to see how they divide us. And it's especially easy to get stuck in the 24/7 news cycle and social media whirlwind — with all their attendant bad news and divisiveness — when we're separated from jobs, friends, churches, boyfriends/girlfriends, family members, sports and more.
What we really need is some good news, so here we go.
Most of us — most of us in St. Helens and Scappoose and Columbia County and Oregon and the United States — agree on a great many important and substantive things that ought bring us together and keep us together.
Here's a few that apply to 99.9% of all Americans — a rate close enough to 100% that I will equate it to mean "everyone."
Everyone — everyone — in America believes that police brutality is wrong and wants to see it eliminated.
Everyone — everyone — in America believes that what happened to George Floyd was wrong and ought to be punished.
Everyone — everyone — in America believes that racism is wrong and wants to see it eliminated.
Everyone — everyone — in America supports the right to protest.
Everyone — everyone — wants their fellow Americans to have equal opportunities.
Everyone — everyone — wants their fellow Americans to be treated well.
Everyone — everyone — wants to see businesses succeed and their employees to benefit from the fruits of their labors.
Everyone — everyone — wants their fellow Americans to be safe from crime and safe from war with foreign adversaries.
There's more, too, that we have in common, a lot more if you look for issues on which 90% of Americans agree, or issues that 80% of us agree on, or 70%.
With all that we have in common, it begs the question posed by that great American philosopher Rodney King — "Can't we all just get along?"
Some days, I admit, it seems that we can't. But why?
Part of the answer is just commonsense stuff. While we all agree that police brutality is wrong, there are many and disparate views about how to address it. On one side of the fence are the people who want to continue police reform. On the other side, there's the recent rise of the defund the police movement. Admittedly, those two groups have very different methodologies in mind while sharing the goal of lowering instances of police brutality.
But I think there's more to our seeming divisiveness these days. As a longtime member of the news media, I would suggest that the news media (and social media) plays a huge role in our feeling of disunity.
First off, the news media — especially national media — is not so much in the "news" business as it is in the "bad news" business. When American businesses (or schools or government or churches etc.) do what they're supposed to do and serve their customers (or students or citizens or congregants) well, that's not a story.
But in the relatively rare instances when something goes wrong with one of these institutions — when a policeman improperly kills a citizen, or when a teacher or priest abuses a student or alter boy — now that's a story.
Some of that is appropriate. News media ought to expose wrongdoing in our institutions such that it can be corrected. But it is also incumbent on the news media to present those wrongdoings in context, to make sure their audiences know how often — or how rarely — those wrongdoings occur.
It is my opinion that the media falls short in that respect, and by doing so, it makes our country appear more violent, more racist, more criminal etc. than what's real.
There's more, too. Because there is so much competition in the world of 24/7 news, and because cable news networks/news radio stations must fill their airwaves 24/7, you get a small percentage of airtime dedicated to actual news (here's a thing that happened, when it happened and who did it) and a huge percentage of commentary related to the thing that happened.
It is there, in the commentary — pundits offering opinions on why the thing happened and the motivation of those involved — that discussion veers into political lanes (both right and left) and leaves the realm of news behind.
So for one day, for July 4th, can we leave the punditry and divisiveness and anger behind and celebrate a country that allows us to air our grievances like no other? Can't we all just get along?
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