Then And Now: Lies, Distortion And The Way We Measure Progress (video)

BY ON May 23, 2012

Vintage picture of a man sitting by a lake

This was written by Jesse Kornbluth for The Head Butler:

It’s no one thing, just the drip drip drip of inaccuracies and misrepresentations, the hatred of the poor and the darkly pigmented, the lust to punish people who can’t fight back.

This retro thinking and hateful speech pops up in surprising places — even, I can attest, at New York dinner parties — but it can most reliably be found on cable “news” shows, where the hosts seem to think what’s happening in this country is a sporting event and they’re Charles Barkley and the guests either have no clue what the facts are or don’t give a damn.

“One gets used to things getting harder; one ceases to be surprised that what used to be as hard as hard can be grows harder yet,” J.M. Coetzee has his protagonist say in Disgrace. Coetzee was writing about post-apartheid South Africa. But for tens of millions of Americans, that’s a fair description of how it is here right now.

How do you live with yourself when you click on a web site or read a pundit’s column or turn on a “news” show and find yourself exposed yet again to hatred and stupidity and raw prejudice delivered so slickly it almost sounds like reasonable opinion?

If you’re like me, you armor yourself by keeping very busy. And so my day is a long and satisfying sprint. Do. Accomplish. Facilitate. Help. Give.

Then, two rooms away, I hear the television on and my wife screaming, and I know she’s not watching a horror movie.

Screaming at the screen isn’t my style. Flight is. Memory of better times is. When I feel like I’m drowning in lies and distortions and the astonishing lack of compassion for those who missed the brass ring, I think back to a time when someone said words that cut through the fog.

Like Robert Kennedy, at the University of Kansas, in Lawrence, Kansas, on March 18, 1968:

Photo: RFK, Snake River, Idaho, 1966 by Harry Benson

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TOPICS: Pollution, Social Justice