Recently, my fellow blogger and columnist, Devlyn Brooks, clarified why he, as a newspaper reporter, isn’t able to express his political leanings publicly. As a trained journalist and former newspaper reporter myself, I understand and respect the objective of needing to stay objective. I remember the day I learned how this journalist ideal can play out in real life. It was 1989, and I was an intern for KXJB-TV here in Fargo on one of my first assignments, mainly “shadowing” a veteran reporter. The Tiananmen Square Massacre had just taken place in China, and a large group of outraged Chinese students had gathered outside the post office Downtown Fargo to hand out petitions to garner support from the locals. As a fellow student, I couldn’t help but become swept up in their passion. So as they handed me the petition with a hopeful look, I signed with little hesitation. Their loved ones had died, after all, in a very brutal way, and for all the wrong reasons, it seemed. I was young and impassioned myself and not about to stand idle. But my mentor had another response. “Sorry, I can’t,” he said, walking past the crowd with his notebook. It was then that I truly understood the journalistic responsibility to remain neutral publicly. I don’t fault myself for signing. I was still learning the trade, after all, but it was a defining moment for me, having realized that in order to do my job and well, I wouldn’t be able to express my personal opinion in public.
Devlyn is right to hold back. As a journalist in our society, there’s no other way. And yet, in my current role of columnist, I am afforded the luxury of being able to express an opinion, even a political one. In fact, it’s somewhat expected. Opinion columnists, after all, have opinions and have been hired to write about them. Coming to terms with this after all those years of intentional objectivity has been freeing, and yet, although I am allowed to lean one way or another in my writing, that does not mean I will take full advantage, for I understand both the power and the responsibilty of words, and well-chosen words always trump those released in fury. And I simply still feel a responsibility to be as fair and balanced as possible; I guess I haven’t quite shaken the journalist in me. But I also feel privileged to be able to express an opinion or two from time to time, because, as a human being, I do have some.
My column yesterday on Sarah Palin was somewhat representative of my stepping out a bit and taking a stance, and yet I didn’t feel the need to go deep with it. In fact, one reader, who said she enjoyed the column, also commented that after reading it, she wasn’t certain whether I am a Democrat or Republican. I didn’t, in fact, reveal who I plan to vote for next month. After all, it is a parenting column, and I’ve named my blog Peace Garden Mama for more than one reason. I’m really not about inciting a riot. Plenty of other channels have taken on that mission. I simply aspire to share a few parenting insights and, hopefully, leave you with some new ideas, a bit of hope, some inspiring words and an occasional expression of encouragement. That’s why, when a few readers commented on my blog yesterday in a more negative fashion, I simply ducked and let the tomatoes hit the wall behind me. In my personal life, the issues are important and I will not shirk them. I do have convictions and will stand behind them. But for the purposes of my work here, I’d like to try keeping it light. Pardon the cliches, but I plan to do my very best to squeeze out every last bit of lemonade from those lemons, to see the glass half-full (even if I have to squint a bit at times), and, whenever possible, stay vigilant for the blessings. There’s enough seriousness out there, and that, too, has a place, but when you come to visit me here, I want to leave you feeling a little more up than you were when you first arrived. I might not do that every time, but I think it’s worth a try.
So, now that the debates are over, I hope we can go back to seeing one another as human beings first, and political affiliates third, fourth or fifth. We are more, so much more, than our political leanings. I hope we can let go of what we can’t control and stay intent on what we can, and then follow through. In the case of an election year, everyone can do something by voting. We can also, as parents, teach our children that just because someone doesn’t agree with us politically, that doesn’t make them a bad person. The polarity we’ve seen this election has taken a toll on everyone, but those of us who believe in a Higher Power can at least take solace in the fact that only one being is truly in charge, and it’s neither McCain nor Obama.
Earlier today, a friend shared the following with me. It’s a short poem written by the Christian mystic, Teresa of Avila, alias, St. Teresa of Jesus. Apparently, it’s become known as Tereasa’s Bookmark, having been found after her death on a card in her prayer book. Perhaps not all, but I hope many, will find solace in it this day:
Let nothing disturb you,
Let nothing frighten you,
All things are passing away:
God never changes.
Patience obtains all things.
Whoever has God lacks nothing;
God alone suffices.