On this fifteenth anniversary of the tragedy in Oklahoma City, as we are forced to consider what is worst in us, I am sure we can summon what is best.
But first we’ll have to meet the worst with eyes wide open.
There is every indication that the same anti-government fury that fueled Timothy McVeigh is on the rise. This time, though, it’s a reflection of shifts in the wider society we find ourselves in, where the extreme voices are leading the discussion and internet and TV fan little grass fires that are popping up. If there is another Oklahoma City, our national leaders, the media and maybe even you and I bear some of the responsibility.
Former President Clinton spoke about this last week, stressing that the words we use matter: “There is a vast echo chamber and [the words we’ve chosen to use] go across space and they fall on the serious and delirious alike.”
The delirious, you know the ones who would repeat Oklahoma City.
And on our part: The little cheats we make daily – the times when we go with the easy way, pile onto the anger and hate with a little guilty pleasure – stoke the partisan fury. Our private television habits speak loudly and publicly that we’re not so interested in hearing the other side, as CNN can attest to if they can attest to anything as their ratings circle the drain. We are fueling television networks and publications that strike matches amid all the tinder.
Yet it is ultimately only the average citizen who can work to dry up the market for fury. But we’re too busy having it our way to notice our power and our responsibility. We’ve become a nation taking the easy way when there is only one way out and it’s the hard way.
We have so much influence with people on our side of the aisle if we can fix our loyalty to the highest calling. They will hear us. We even have influence with people on our side of the street. And if we venture out to cross the street, everyone can be on our side of it. We can inspire if we step forward to live up the who we say we are and who we want to be.
Pulitzer Prize winning columnist Kathleen Parker writes about how we can walk this back in the Washington Post:
The only palatable answer is what conservatives say they love best: self-control and personal responsibility. When someone spews obscenities, shout them down. When politicians and pundits use inflammatory language, condemn them.
When you choose to remain silent, consider yourself complicit in whatever transpires.
Ultimately when will each make private decisions about where we chose to sit. Where are you?
Part 2 in this Friday’s Purple Post: Why factual accuracy in the media isn’t a small thing, it’s everything.