In Europe in a single day, I often watch news broadcasts from several countries in different languages. BBC and Sky from Britian; FR3, TF1, Arte from France. Rai 1 from Italia and TSI from the Italian speaking part of Switzerland. I also watch Belgian and Canadian news when I find them, and recently had access to English language Arabic stations. Each channel covers stories with a unique perspective. The Iraq war viewed from France, Italy, UAE, the US or Switzerland means something different according to who has troops there, who agreed to it and who resisted. Everyone takes their own local or country angle first. They cover the Olympics in the same way. It makes life interesting to see it from different perspectives. But a basic thread of truth weaves through them. By watching them all I love to piece together an overview that gives me a broader perspective than I find within my limited world view as an American.
Tolerance and openness to other ideas can test our own beliefs for validity and make us stronger. Most political commentators on US channels wrangle and debate without respect for others’ opinions. They cut people off in mid sentence, especially if others’ beliefs differ from theirs; and they seek conflict rather than enlightened discussion that might promote understanding. Good manners and kindness in exchanges fly out the window. They foster division, not peace, understanding and unity. They present the false idea that only one point of view is right. But the American ideal has consistently promoted and thrived on integration and exchange.
I liked Abraham Lincoln’s humor and wise approach to politics and words. When a cabinet member chided Lincoln for keeping a contrarian in his administration, Lincoln replied that he watched a farmer plowing in a field with an old horse. A big fly on the horse’s rump kept biting it. Lincoln reached out to swat away the fly and the farmer stopped him. “If you get rid of that fly, the old horse just won’t go forward,” the farmer said. Lincoln said he needed the guy with the other perspective to challenge his thinking and keep him moving ahead. A variety of opinions and ideas presented in respectful and honest ways can move us ahead too. Open discussion and debate without conflict and rancor or a desire to convert others can bring about new solutions. But without truth and tolerance the whole discourse will be a futile waste of precious energy.
How do you feel about the media’s tolerance level?
Copyright: Debra Moffitt 2008