13 January 2011

Dear Reader

We really should acknowledge that these posts are like letters, of a sort. I know that in these days even this much writing, these past few words, are excessive. So called 'tweets' are limited to something less than 250 characters.

But I am a man of letters, who thinks the written word, sent to a friend, is a powerful and precious thing. Actual paper is better than email, and handwriting better than typing, but I shall resign to the advantages of the Internet which saves both time and postage. What I will not resign is the prose itself, the old form which is a conversation held at a distance, aimed toward a particular person.

Now, I know there are many who read these electronic missives, and that most 'bloggers' think of themselves as journalists with an audience. In fact, though, dear reader, there is only you and me here. There may be others out there, but at this moment it is just you and me.

And that suits me fine. I prefer thinking of each of you separately, as sitting there reading this, imagining a voice and a face next to you, and hearing your own voice responding. Please do respond, by the way. If the best way to have a friend is to be one (as Emerson said) then the best way to get a letter is to send one.

We can no longer actually talk to each other, despite all the powers of the Internet. Most of what we read on blogs or tweets or webpages is to pronounce, proclaim, protest, promote. No one actually talks to someone else.

I suppose this lament comes to me now as I watch the parade of punditry after the horror of Tucson. (I will not call it a tragedy because it is not. No one who has experienced Othello or Oedipus would equate Tucson with them. It was a dastardly disgusting and demented crime, more suited to The National Inquirer or the Police Gazette than to an adjective applied to great drama. if you infer some judgment on our national media, feel free.) After it happened it was as though everyone with an attitude felt obliged to share it - proclaiming, protesting, promoting - not actually talking or listening.

The situation reminded me of a time long ago, just after I was born, when Senator Joseph McCarthy riveted the nation with his hearings investigating communist infiltration he asserted was widespread in the government. With words bordering on demagoguery, he cowed many people into cooperation even when there was little or no evidence of the accusation. It all fell apart, though, when someone finally had the nerve to call him on it. "Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last? Have you left no sense of decency?"

I miss decency - the deliberation, the speaking to actual people not to galleries or viewers or market shares. People should respond to the present pontifications and rumors and character assassination as Mr. Welch did so long ago. Newspapers and other media should say "have you no decency," or even "you should be ashamed" when half truth and spin and punditry are bandied about as fact and principle. Sadly, I do not hear it.

I come from a time when leadership was practiced by example. We followed those whom we wanted to be like, and abandoned them when they ceased to be admirable. Their power was not defined by their celebrity, wealth or position but by their nobility. When they abused that power they lost our respect and we said so, "Have you no decency," we said, or "you should be ashamed."

So it seems to me this morning. I do wish there were some famous folks out there like a Joe Welch, who had the nerve to say "have you no decency." But I fear the need for market share and viewers will keep them quiet. Until they find their voice it will be up to you and me and the rest of the real world to say it.

Shame on us if we don't.

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