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A Bedtime Story for Snake Oil Salesmen

09/06/2008 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

What do you do when someone is shouting at you? Make like a tree and leave or shout back? This is our choice now when it comes to cable TV "journalists." Have you listened, not just to the words, but to the tone of Rush Limbaugh, accusing Obama of treason or O'Reilly, wanting to send out a lynching mob to get Michelle Obama, or Lou Dobbs endlessly excoriating the Mexican government? The timber of their voices is full of staged righteous indignation and anger. Tune in and turn on to Jim Lehrer or Wolf Blizter if you want measured, responsible news information. Tune out the screamers. They do us harm. Stress is a part of all our hectic lives; indeed, too much stress is counted a health hazard. So, do we need human jackhammers increasing the noise levels? Calm, reasoned reporting would be a welcome and grown up alternative.

The name callers are just fanning the flames of their own fortunes and egos; they provide no enlightenment and no responsible information, just mindless, rambling hostility. Certainly not journalists, they are self-centered bullies. They hurl insults as if they were vaudeville performers.

As a country, do we need this kind of childishness? These are serious times that demand serious news content and serious searches for solutions. Yes, reasonable people can disagree, but if they want results, they don't shout epithets at each other. They put their heads together like Senator Richard Lugar (R) and Senator Joe Biden (D). Biden is the current chair of the Foreign Relations Committee; Lugar is the past chair. These two labor in considerable harmony for the good of the country they love. They don't belittle each other. They work together like adults, setting a good example for us all.

If it is a solution to the energy crisis, the banking crisis, or our over stressed military, we need expert input. For that input to morph into solutions, we need focused collaborative work and lowered voices.

Rancor and angry screeds on the airwaves of our country lull us into believing everything can be solved by blaming others and shaking our fists at whatever currently annoys us. Although tempting, that kind of behavior, as we all know, is counterproductive. What we need is more tolerance of other people's thoughts and opinions, not less. Above all, we need civility, not theatrics. Solving problems takes thoughtful work and concentration. It is time to make shrill cable commentators, who practice the techniques of distraction, stand in the corner until they can be part of the solution not the problem.

We do not need to shout at, scream at or bully other countries. Theodore Roosevelt was right. Speak softly and carry a big stick. Lowered voices, thoughtful, and well researched commentary will help our efforts abroad as well as frustrate our enemies.

A cynic might just wonder if the zeal and posturing of these commentators might be the staging ground for their future senatorial or presidential candidacies. Perhaps, at the top of their lungs, they are preparing to jump into the fetid swamp pool of the politics they so deplore.

I have lived many years abroad and learned from and loved the experience. But I never returned to my country without wanting to kiss the ground and without a heart full of gratitude that this was my home. That my country has flaws and has made mistakes, I fully acknowledge. Slavery and segregation, internment of our Japanese citizens during World War II, Guantanamo shame us and both our major presidential candidates. But do I love my country for its brilliant constitution, its history, its system of laws, its freedoms, its physical beauty and its people? Oh yes, I love all those things with a heart and a half. Will I defend them against all enemies? Oh yes. Will I criticize our government when it is wrong? Oh, yes, because it is my heritage and duty to do so.

So Messers O'Reilly, Limbaugh and Dobbs, Hannity and Colmes, do not dare to rail at serious people who learn from past errors and have no wish to repeat them. They are the true patriots, not you on air pitchers of fits and tirades.

Bullies do not succeed in the long run. They may have temporary success on the playground, but they end up on the dung heap where they belong. Remember, sponsors like programs to which real people listen.

So, turn them off, put out the lights and send them off to bed without their milk and crackers.

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