Saturday, July 26, 2008

Sound Advice

I'm told by a friend that the letter below appeared in Letters to the Editor in the Richmond Times Dispatch, Richmond , VA on July 7, 2008.

The writer has an important lesson to impart here although he goes a little too far with his analogy:

Editor, Times-Dispatch:

Each year I get to celebrate Independence Day twice. On June 30 I celebrate my independence day and on July 4 I celebrate America's. This year is special, because it marks the 40th anniversary of my independence.

On June 30, 1968, I escaped Communist Cuba, and a few months later I was in the United States to stay. That I happened to arrive in Richmond on Thanksgiving Day is just part of the story, but I digress.

I've thought a lot about the anniversary this year. The election-year rhetoric has made me think a lot about Cuba and what transpired there. In the late 1950s, most Cubans thought Cuba needed a change, and they were right. So when a young leader came along, every Cuban was at least receptive.

When the young leader spoke eloquently and passionately and denounced the old system, the press fell in love with him. They never questioned who his friends were or what he really believed in. When he said he would help the farmers and the poor and bring free medical care and education to all, everyone followed. When he said he would bring justice and equality to all, everyone said "Praise the Lord." And when the young leader said, "I will be for change and I'll bring you change," everyone yelled, "Viva Fidel!"

But nobody asked about the change, so by the time the executioner's guns went silent the people's guns had been taken away. By the time everyone was equal, they were equally poor, hungry, and oppressed. By the time everyone received their free education it was worth nothing. By the time the press noticed, it was too late, because they were now working for him. By the time the change was finally implemented Cuba had been knocked down a couple of notches to third-world status. By the time the change was over more than a million people had taken to boats, rafts, and inner tubes. You can call those who made it ashore anywhere else in the world the most fortunate Cubans. And now I'm back to the beginning of my story.

Luckily, we would never fall in America for a young leader who promised change without asking, what change? How will you carry it out? What will it cost America? Would we?

In America he would could be voted out of office after 4 years, the longest he could be in office is 8 years, but his actions could take years to fix.

The lesson we should take from this letter from a Cuban refugee is not that Senator Obama will turn out to be another Castro, but rather that when people give their support to a virtual unknown without asking any really tough questions just because that individual is charismatic and youthful, they put at grave risk the future of their children and their nation. The Cubans did that and it has cost them dearly for two generations.

I think the letter writer is urging us to ignore the "tingling feeling up our legs" (Chris Matthews on MSNBC) that the candidates might give us, to refuse to be beguiled by their eloquence and charm, and to find out all we can about who they are before we give them our vote.

I think that's pretty sound advice.

HT: Dick Francis


Postmodern F-Word

Comment Magazine's Peter Menzies has a few interesting reflections on Bono, John Lennon, Josh Hamilton, and the inability of journalists to sift the gold from the dross. Here's an excerpt:

Journalists and faith have never had a comfortable relationship. Given the skeptical role of media in society, that isn't surprising.

Neither is the awkward news that journalists are not typically very good with ideas. Yes, some are brilliant and most are okay with facts, great with controversial quotes (such as when John Lennon described the Beatles as bigger than Christ), and anything hypocritical. They are even okay when it comes to faith leaders such as the Pope or the Dalai Lama whom they understand to have political roles.

But when it comes to ideas-concepts that demand texture, nuance, and precision of thought-most journalists and their editors are lost. Too many have little memory of their social responsibilities, and they are unconscious as to how their suppositions undermine public confidence in the veracity of news and therefore their own credibility. Trust me on this: I have been directly involved in journalism for thirty years. I know. Too few of my colleagues understand that the stories they choose not to tell can be every bit as important as the ones they do tell. And they are.

If you read it all you'll probably learn something about John Lennon that you never knew.

Menzies refers in his piece to C&W star Paul Brandt's acceptance speech upon being recognized for humanitarian service. Here's the speech (9:50):


The Pilgrimmage

Gerard Baker at the UK Times Online has some fun with those in the media who seem to regard Senator Obama as the savior of the world in this send up of how the Obama World Tour might have been conceived, if not actually chronicled, by the Western press. It's pretty good.

The only thing he might have included would have been the narrative of how The One takes the three network anchors, Couric, Gibson, and Williams, to the Mount of Transfiguration where they behold his glory in raptures too ineffable for words.