Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Let us sing the praises of the daily newspaper!

In his book Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam expounds the theory that our American society has suffered tremendously because of the loss of organizations and agencies that bound us together as a people in the past. While he speaks of the unifying nature of the schools, churches, clubs and the like, I don't believe he considers the power of the daily newspaper as a unifying force.. While the younger generation may look to the Internet and myriad television channels to provide information, I can't help but feel that this cacophony of voices can be more harmfully divisive than informative, and I become nostalgic about the importance of the daily newspaper of my youth.  I wonder how much our country suffers by that constant broadcasting of doubt, fear and suspicion found on the internet rather than the considered, tempered analysis of events that is more likely to be found on a quality newspaper. 

As a lower middle class family with limited income, we not only subscribed to one daily paper, we had twoThe San Antonio Express in the morning and The San Antonio Evening News in the afternoon. And ours could in no way be considered an intellectual family.  Others of a different mindset had the opportunity to subscribe to William Randolph Hearst's, The San Antonio Light.

Rather than considering the deeper philosophic positions of censorship and which is the more valid democratic position, I want to share three recent newspaper articles that cause me to renew my appreciation of the power of the press, America's 4th Estate.

1.  The Washington Post for Friday, June 12, 2015 on Page C1

Michelle Obama commences telling it as she sees it"

These are among the quotations that our First Lady shared with high school and college graduates that could serve as a basis for discussion were they read by more of the populace.
  • "I want to encourage you to actively seek out the most contentious, polarized, gridlock places you can find. Throughout our history, those of been the places where progress really happens."
  • "There will be times when you feel like folks look right past you."
  • “There are so many kids in this country who look at places like museums and concert halls and other cultural centers, and they think to themselves, well, that's not a place for me, for someone who looks like me."
The article goes on to state how vital her message was to those in attendance. How honest and direct she was in her statements. I couldn't help but think of how she was vilified for her statement just after her husband's nomination for the presidency that for the first time she felt proud to be American. Indeed this has been underscored personally for me as I have seen the crowds of African-Americans who for the first time are eager to visit a president who felt they could relate to in the White House. In a single day I think  I see more Afro/Americans visit the house than I did in a year previously.

2. While not at the same level of importance, I found the article on page D1 in the sports section on Monday, June 29, reflective of one of the joys of an earlier generation: "through 66 seasons, Scully hasn't lost voice". How remarkable that Vin Scully was at the same job for 66 years – and one constantly before the public eye. There's something to be said for longevity.  Beyond looking at the joy of sports the article could spur thoughts about the present tendency to hire "temps" rather than commit to permanent employees in order to save money

3. Also on June 29 Page C1 Sarah Kaufman had an article, "A return to the grace of God – and of man". Regardless of one's religious or atheistic or political persuasion, one has to appreciate her view of the president singing a song that can unite us.

Thanks to any of you who've stayed with this rant and rambling until the end. I could say much more about the miracle that I believe the daily newspaper to be. Think of it: "That in retirement I can venture out my front door at 7 AM and hold in my hand a thoughtful report of events from sports to dramatic worldwide events or catastrophes that occurred less than eight hours previously".

Let us all sing the praises of (and subscribe) to the daily newspaper.  

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Insights about America thrlough the eyes of German tourists

After a couple of months without ranting or raving, I have a lot of pent up R&Ring to do.  I'll be getting a lot off my chest in the next few weeks.

During the past two months it is been my pleasure to show relatives and friends from far and near around our great city. Each time I do this I feel anew the marvelous opportunity which is mine to have retired in our nations capital.

Perhaps the most remarkable of these visits was a mother and daughter, distant cousin of mine, from Germany.  It was the first visit to the United States for both of them, although they have traveled throughout Europe and on two occasions to Israel. It was fascinating to me that high on their list of MUST SEE were Arlington Cemetery, the war memorials and the United States Holocaust Museum.

I found there reactions extremely fascinating. I felt that I was indeed reliving Alex de Tocqueville's, Democracy in America, however, not as an aristocrat might report, but as an average German citizen sees things. Their observations included:
  • That so many Americans were willing to sacrifice their lives to secure freedom for others in far off places ranging from Europe to the Middle East and Asia.
  • That during a visit to Arlington when the cemetery was crowded with eighth grade tour groups, the children were so well behaved giving their attention and respect to the learning experience.  
  • They were particularly impressed by the volunteerism present at so many of the venues we explored. It seems a concept not present in their society
They were also highly impressed by the honesty and clarity with which the Holocaust Museum, particularly, The Story of Daniel, depicted the horrors of the Nazi era and that we have a government that makes such museums free to all.