Joe’s Journal

A modest proposal

Ramblings from an old scribbler
Wed, 06/15/2022 - 7:15am

The sun is shining, the temperature is just right, our rhododendrons exploded in a blaze of color, and our village streets are seeing dozens of Saturday night strollers.

Restaurants are opening, except for the Thistle Inn, which recently closed, much to the dismay of the house ghosts – T’Donald and Leonie. Our high school seniors graduated, traded their jeans for ties and gowns, and marched around the gym to the cheers of proud supporters.

As the pandemic wanes (at least we hope so), we all look forward to a good and productive tourist season. Things seem to be looking up unless you bought gasoline, heating oil, groceries, read the newspaper, clicked on your phone, or watched the TV news.

Then you might spiral into a slough of despondency as headlines scream of the European war, raging inflation, climate change, school shootings, abortion law, the crisis on the border, and even grocery store shortages ranging from Similac to Tampax.

I seem to remember that a year or so ago, we yelled Heavens to Murgatroyd while worrying we might run out of TP.

So what can we do about it all? Some place the blame on the current or the last president. To my friends on the right and the left, I wonder if the current president is responsible for the shortages of both baby formula and Tampax. And I wonder if the last one invented COVID or was responsible for the TP shortage. Neither president forced Putin to invade Ukraine or triggered a migrant crisis on the border.

So what is the solution? Some would ignore it all.

Take, for example, Gannett, the biggest American newspaper chain. They recently said no one reads or believes editorials, opinion columns and letters to the editor, so they decided to bury their collective head in the sand and eliminate them.

Then Fox News ignored a Congressional committee hearing that challenged their political positions and beliefs. That noise you just heard was rumblings from the graves of Ben Franklin, George Washington, Tom Jefferson, and the Adams family. I mean Boston’s John and Sam Adams, not Gomez and Morticia.

In a nation founded on free speech and a free press (see the First Amendment), America's biggest newspaper chain decided to silence free speech by eliminating opinions that might offend someone.

The second-largest newspaper chain seems more interested in selling off its real estate holdings to fund employee buyouts.

Have the new owners of the legendary papers decided the solution to declining newspaper readership is to shrink content by eliminating reporters who gather the news, write editorials, and encourage opinion columnists and letters to the editor? Is that like the hypothetical grocer who quit buying veggies and fruits and then blamed slugging produce sales on the customers?

What does all this mean for us all? It means that newspapers that used to cover officials and analyze their actions are disappearing.

The elimination of the opinion pages means we are censoring our friends on the left because they complain the folks on the right are wrong. Also it means our friends on the right no longer have a place to respond with clever slogans pointing out the error of their misbegotten left-wing ways?

We have local, state and national elections coming up. What might our leaders do or say if there are no local news reporters watching? Should we pretend there are no substantive policy differences at stake? Should we not examine the pros and cons of our candidates? Should we take them at their word and shut up?

Remember, a wise man once said: If there were no traffic cops, everyone would speed.

Maybe, just maybe, we will have to do it ourselves, do our homework, pay attention to the issues, study the facts and make up our own minds rather than parroting a position from some official who will say anything to keep his job.

I understand this is a tough assignment. We face confusing and complex problems. Besides, we are all busy with home and work and would rather spend time with our kids and grandkids. But is the alternative accepting easy solutions from some political snake oil peddler or a slick legislative clown?

I fear without newspaper reporting, editorial analysis, and thoughtful opinion columns, coupled with letters to the editor, we will leave the playing field to politicians and their myrmidons.

Maybe the answer is to seek answers on our own by talking to our friends and, gulp, sitting down with those who hold other beliefs. Maybe talking things out might lead to something we call compromise and consensus. In the eyes of our founding fathers, the art of political give and take was not a mortal sin.

Be well, be safe.