From today’s Our View editorial:

If the spirit of the United States of 50 years ago has not disappeared, it certainly has dissipated. It is something other than what it was when the founders declared each individual’s right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This is baffling. While I agree that our country has much work to be done before we can collectively pat ourselves on the back, I think it’s patently disingenuous for anyone to suggest that America was more at one with its “values” fifty years ago than we are today– unless, of course, we are discussing torture.

But that’s not what the editorial writer(s) at the paper are suggesting. They’re upset because, in the wake of a possible global swine flu epidemic, the President reminded Americans to take precautions such as washing their hands and covering their hands when they cough. You see, such simple advice is “paternalistic” and therefore insulting to our precious sensibilities (oh and potentially heretical).

Such paternalism sounded extreme to anyone with a discerning ear, an audience that is much smaller than the nation’s population. Smaller still is the number of Americans who know that such direction coming from the president would be considered heresy by the father of this country, George Washington.

“Government is not reason; it is not eloquent; it is force,” Washington said. “Like fire, it is a dangerous servant and a fearful master.”

That Obama spoke as he did is not an indictment of him. Obama is smart. On the campaign trail, recall, he told Americans to inflate their tires to save energy — and 69,456,897 people voted him into office.

First of all, I have no special insight into how George Washington would respond to swine flu, but I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t label a President as heretical simply for giving Americans sound advice on prevention. And second, even though the meme about tire inflation was used recklessly by Republicans, inflating your tires has been proven to reduce energy consumption.

When Donovan Rypkema was in Alexandria last week, he talked with a small group of us about how (he believes) the world perceives Obama’s election in the context of America’s history. How is it that a country in which fifty years ago a black man couldn’t be served at the same lunch counter as a white man has elected a black man to the highest office in the land? Who can tell that story? Where will that story be told?

But despite the paper’s refusal to acknowledge the civil rights movement and the numerous advances made by women and other minorities during the past fifty years, there is another more glaring problem with the thesis presented by the paper:

If the spirit of this country has been diminished because of our current President, then why are applications for Teach for America up? Why are more young Americans applying to join the Peace Corps? Why does our President enjoy such high popularity- not just here in America but all across the world? Why is it that, for the first time in five years, more Americans now believe the country is headed in the right direction than those who think we’re headed in the wrong direction?

Don’t expect the newspaper to answer those questions. These editorials are written and published by the same group of folks who buried their heads in the sand throughout the Bush administration. Now that a Democrat is in office, in their view, America’s spirit has diminished, an opinion that attracts lunatics (that’s the kindest word I can muster) on their online forum who, while AGREEING with the paper, advance opinions such as:

We are heading in a downward spiral! America has said it does not want God thru its actions. The a socialist/terrorist, a friend of the enemy… and yep we are headed down.. Obama is a satanic tool!

Congratulations Gannett. You must be so proud.

Seriously, if you still doubt the enthusiasm and spirit of America, listen to the crowd at Grant Park in Chicago:

That’s the true genius of America: That America can change.

4 thoughts

  1. I thought about commenting on this when I read it on their website, but I figured what’s the point? You could point out facts and figures to people like that all day, but they’re still going to twist certain part of the facts until their so out of context that perspective is utterly destroyed.

    What they also don’t seem to focus on is that they’re comparing Obama’s preventative advice on this to one of the keynote phrases of Kennedy’s speech. Totally out of context. Let’s see what advice Kennedy had for some minor crisis well into his presidency. I’m sure it would have had about the same degree of stature. If they’re going to compare Obama’s advice to Kennedy’s “Ask Not…” speech, compare it to “Yes, we can.”

    If our nation is diminished, it’s only because we’re still in the process of turning around the backwards sprint of the prior 8 years.

    1. Very good point about the mantra “Yes We Can.”

      I wouldn’t have as much of a problem with these constant far-right, blindingly ideological editorials if they were just letters from their readership. But throughout the past few months, the paper has made it abundantly clear that their editorial agenda (at least with regard to national politics) is vociferously anti-Obama.

      For (almost) 145 years or so, the Town Talk was a locally-owned and locally-operated newspaper that responded to and serviced the needs of the Central Louisiana community. Then they got bought out by Gannett and leadership was outsourced to the Gannett corporate structure.

      This recent injection of extremely partisan and poorly researched editorials should be cause for concern for local readers and local businesses, particularly considering that we live in an incredibly diverse community- politically, religiously, and racially.

      I mean this with all due respect: How can anyone expect that the paper will be around in a year or two when they’re consistently undermining their own ability to attract advertising dollars by taking divisive stances on important national issues? How is that a viable business model for the paper of record in a community as diverse as Central Louisiana?

      Maybe someone older and wiser can talk some sense into me.

      Just know this: There’s a reason I harp on the paper. I want it to succeed. I know many of the people who work there, and they are all talented and dedicated. The paper is the oldest continuously operating business in Downtown Alexandria (with the exception of the Catholic Church and, arguably, the government).

      And with the current economy and the national decline of the newspaper industry, it’s hard not to feel as if a newspaper’s divisiveness could only be exacerbating, particularly when such divisiveness is based on an incomplete and somewhat ill-informed interpretation of national political issues. (See last Sunday’s editorial by the paper’s chief sports writer on Janet Napolitano).

  2. Lamar, I will agree a a couple of points. Yes, I too wish the paper to succeed. A local paper is needed. However, in its present incarnation does this paper really deserve to succeed? Divisive stances are a matter of opinion. I do agree with your later point though that the stance should not be “based on complete and somewhat ill-informed interpretation of national political issues.” Great papers, by default, are controversial and probably divisive BUT are well researched.

    1. Divisive stances are definitely a matter of opinion and perspective, but as you point out, when those stances are not adequately backed up with sound research, they falter.

      I am glad you wrote into clarify the word “divisive.” I’m not suggesting- in any way- that the paper should completely conform with my own opinions of national political issues, just that – when they articulate their opinions- they should consult with more than simply their handy book of memorable quotations.

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