Whatever Happened to the Nice Curmudgeons?

For those of us old enough to remember, Andy Rooney was a fixture on the television show 60 Minutes for a large chunk of his career. Like your grandfather or favorite uncle, he was there to dispense wisdom from his vast experience and to make comments on the issues of the day through the eyes of someone who has seen many things in his years.

Unfortunately the only old white men we see today are Republican pundits who are angry that their world is changing and they aren’t in charge anymore. They are misogynist, homophobic, and even racist. They have absolutely no ethics or moral compass and say – and do – the most hurtful things to the people in this country. The country that clearly states “all men are created equal” in those documents they rant and rave are being trashed.

The great men of journalism, the Edward R. Murrows, Walter Cronkites,  David Brinkleys, and Dan Rathers, are sadly gone from us and we are left with screaming parrots who only repeat what they are told and take no time to research or even understand what they are talking about. Of course even if modern journalists did understand they wouldn’t be allowed to say it on the air due to the company that owns their network. It’s fairly obvious to those who understand real journalism that Fox News is simply a megaphone for the political right and they pick and choose their words with great care to ensure the propaganda machine is working perfectly. And you only have to chat politics with someone who watches Fox News to know that all their talking points have been pre-packaged and consumed off the shelf with no care for the ingredients that went into making those points.

If Senator Joseph McCarthy were in the Senate today, he would probably succeed in scaring all Americans against the “red menace”; although today it would be the “muslim menace”. He would be in good company with today’s congress who love assigning blame and chanting scandal at the current administration. They radical right in our government would rather blow millions of dollars on finding blame in Benghazi than use that money to relieve the suffering of Americans due to the sequester.

The internet makes a stab at trying to equalize the noise coming from Washington, D.C. but people have to take an active role in looking at both sides of an issue – something newspapers and TV news used to do. When the US Postal Service was being attacked by Congress when they couldn’t manage their budget, the fact that this government service had to fund retirement not only for current employees but future, not-yet-hired employees was brought to light. What business, public or private, has to meet that requirement? Private corporations would have a fit if they were held to the same rule.

On the flip side, the internet has done damage to political discourse in that people can find others online who believe exactly as they do; the Birthers are a good example of this. They lock themselves in an echo chamber where they hear nothing except what they want to hear and support each other in their conspiracy theories and often outrageous explanations for their beliefs.

I fear that even if Andy Rooney were still with us he would be labeled with the left-wing epitaphs that the right-wing loves to throw out. Because name-calling is the best way to prove that if you don’t agree with someone politically they must be “the enemy”, a philosophy that has driven our political discussion to the detriment of everyone.

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