Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – September 2, 2010

September has commenced and with it autumn beckons even as we brace ourselves during the midst of yet another hurricane season. The doors of schools are opening all over the country but none of us should take a moment’s pause from learning every day:

Sticks and Stones

I must confess that I do not make a habit of watching the Fox News Channel. Its motto is “Fair and Balanced” but all I ever encounter is vitriol being spewed at anything that does not mollify the right wing of the right wing, fairly balanced between diatribes and shrieks of rancor. But it is important to understand the full range of positions in this country and to learn what millions upon millions of Americans rely upon for their “news” and their points of view.

So I watched the Fox News summary of President Obama’s speech to the nation on the withdrawal of combat troops from Iraq. For the life of me I cannot tell you the details of the criticism leveled at President Obama because it was drowned out by cacophonous insult after insult. The level of critique was eerily reminiscent of a sixth grade schoolyard, one commentator saying “…..Obama looked like one of those nerds with a propeller beanie….” Another pseudo-pundit made fun of the way that President Obama folded his hands on the desk in the Oval Office.

I was struck by the fact that no one on Fox News referred to him as “President” Obama, he was either “Obama” or “Barack Hussein Obama”, but never “President” Obama. The reality of President Obama in the White House will be denied in some circles until time is no more.
And I was also very, very concerned that millions upon millions of Americans get their “news” and points of view from this source of artificial news.

And I think that the “change” that many of us sought in supporting Barack Obama may be very different than what we wanted. We may have expected a more open, caring and humane society. The “change” that we are getting is that adherents of the right wing of the right wing feel emboldened to show their true faces and the speak with their true voices.

The Koch brothers (the right wing of the right wing owners of Koch Industries who have been billion dollar bankrollers of the most insidious and odious attacks on democracy as we know it) can continue to hide behind their billion dollar curtains and drapes. There are more than enough emboldened zealots prepared to hold forth with their vision of America, a vision that does not include openness, caring or humanness. It is a very sad vision. It is a very dangerous vision.

Give Peace a Chance

This past week, Ms. Julie Menin, the chairperson of Community Board 1 in lower Manhattan wrote a very interesting op-ed piece in the New York Daily News. For those of you who have been in a cave for the past two month, Community Board 1 in lower Manhattan is the local organization that gave community approval for the construction of an Islamic cultural center that has a perceived proximity to the site of the World Trade Center.

This perceived proximity has, of course, been the source of tremendous controversy along with the revelation of a deep and pernicious vein of Islamophobia in the strata of political discourse in this country. And while the controversy continues to swirl, Ms. Menin has a very useful “compromise”.

She proposed that the cultural center be built as planned and at the chosen location. She also proposes that in addition to a mosque within the facility that there would also be a floor dedicated to an inter-faith, non-denominational space. The center would celebrate all faiths and inter-faith understanding.

Ms. Menin’s proposal is beautiful in its simplicity and in its appeal to be reason. We should watch the response to this beautiful simplicity and reasonable appeal.

Have a great weekend!