When you are carried away with your worries, fears, cravings, anger, and desire, you run away from yourself and you lose yourself. Thich Nhat Hanh — Taming the Tiger Within
In an interview last week with the on-line news/entertainment/opinion website “The Daily Beast” the chairman of Fox News, Roger Ailes, declared that NPR executives were Nazis for having fired long-time political correspondent Juan Williams. It was a stupid statement by a foolish man. The interview is replete with inflammatory and bombastic statements directed at a host of liberal institutions and pundits, but none as grievous as Ailes’s invocation of Nazism.
His comments were so preposterous that to repeat them risks granting Ailes attention he does not deserve. But I was so troubled by this story. I was distressed on two levels: that Ailes could so casually toss about the one of the most horrific chapters of recent history simply to create headlines for his own agenda; and that his remarks were emblematic of the current state of political discourse. Ailes as an agent of fury isn’t an exception - his voice is just one more in the cacophony of deluded Cassandras that have been howling themselves into a frenzy of late.
This is hardly news. And it certainly isn’t new. There have always been sides chosen and partisan rhetoric slung, but I am far from the first to observe that the nastiness has increased in the past decade to a level not experienced in living memory. What occurred to me over the weekend is that we are all responsible for Roger Ailes. Each of us, regardless of political views, have created the conditions under which a Roger Ailes can find an audience and thrive.
I know when the change occurred. It began that late summer morning in 2001, a day that began with such beauty and ended in complete horror. In the months and years that followed 9/11, our shock and grief has turned to fear. And it is fear that creates anger. We fear what we cannot control, we fear what we do not understand and our natural reaction is to lash out at that which is foreign to us. We end this decade at war, our sons and sisters fighting in distant lands, and at war with each other, our nation divided into shades of blue and red.
On the eve of this most precious of American holidays, a day for gathering together to celebrate the bounty of our lives in this most generous, spirited, and positive of nations, I wish for a day of détente. I cannot bring home the men and women who are risking their lives in our names, but I can honor them by not contributing to the angry rhetoric that ripples on the surface of our national conversation. I can hope that we will come to our collective senses and move forward out of a shared commitment to healing and progress. I can support the public calling out of those who deserve a thump on the head, such as Mr. Ailes, without resorting to mockery or defamation. I can act out of compassion rather than contention.
There was a girl who, thanks to her diary that chronicled life under Nazi occupation, gave voice the horrors of World War II. She was one among the millions slaughtered during that dark time. Yet her voice has always been one of light and hope. She is the memory we need to invoke, a voice of peace and reason to overcome the ugliness we create:
“I do not think of all the misery, but of the glory that remains. Go outside into the fields, nature and the sun, go out and seek happiness in yourself and in God. Think of the beauty that again and again discharges itself within and without you and be happy.” ~Anne Frank