In this Rolling Stone article, Matt Taibbbi wrote, [Roger Ailes] "is on the short list of people most responsible for modern America's vicious and bloodthirsty character.
"We are a hate-filled, paranoid, untrusting, book-dumb and bilious people whose chief source of recreation is slinging insults and threats at each other online, and we're that way in large part because of the hyper-divisive media environment he discovered."
I had a personal taste of the effects he writes about this week.
This headline appeared in the English rag, the Daily Mail, in March of 2013. "FDNY lieutenant breaks down on the street when he is confronted about 'racist tweets' that called mayor 'King Heeb' and used ethnic slurs." Read the article here. For some reason is was posted by a person this week.
There were several derogatory comments in response to the individual in the article. I offered these conciliatory remarks. "What's happening to us? Why are we so willing to condemn others for some of the same things we do? Why can't we accept the sincerity of another person's regrets and apologies? I'm not pointing fingers. I do the same "crap" myself." (I use the word crap instead of the word I use there.)
The responders took issue with my comments. Their responses proved the point I was making and Mr. Taibbi's quote above. "We're in trouble as a society."
The trouble I speak of is the fact that there lives in the United States an element of people who believe in the same hate the FDNY lieutenant believes. And there's also an element who would rather blast, condemn and denigrate anyone like me who sees this man's breakdown and personal regrets as a teachable moment. A moment in which real progress can be made in fighting the disease of racism that infects our society.
I've learned that personal change is rarely the result of direct confrontation. Instead, I've seen a firm re-entrenchment by the subject struggling to defend an indefensible position.
With enough authority, a frontal attack will sometimes produce submission, but it will never produce real change unless that person feels the need to change. Until that time, their resistance very often seems to produce new and unique ways of justifying their original beliefs.
The resolution of conflict starts with acceptance of differing points of view, no matter how unpleasant we find the other side's to be. The end can be redemption. But very little progress will be made if acceptance is confused with agreement. We don't need to agree with another person's point of view to accept that they see the world the way they do.
We can look to South Africa's Truth and Reconciliation for evidence.
Racism, and one its forms, Nazism, are horrible diseases. Yet, in our society, we have such an entrenched sub-culture that to attack it is to guarantee its continuity. These people must be engaged constructively. And when the opportunity presents itself during that engagement, authentic change can be the outcome.
Mahatma Gandhi said it in fewer words, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
As my detractors pointed out in our online debate, I'm an old man. But accusing me of cowardice is particularly disturbing. Not because I think I might be. I'm quite sure I'm not, and the assessments of people who don't know me are not going to change my mind.
What is disturbing is these young people think compassion and forgiveness are signs of cowardice.