9/08/2010

On fear and anger

This is the 500th post I've written for this blog, which I started several years ago to have a public place to type a few words about the events of my life. Looking back, I can see I've written a lot about my children, my jobs, my interests, and my beloved Court Square Tavern.

What I don't believe I've written about are my fears about the world. I've also not used this platform to lash out at items I am angry about. Certainly someone could find a few passages that might say otherwise, but I'm comfortable in stating this is a place where I calmly describe how I see things on a given thing.

I also don't write about politics because as a journalist, I have taken a virtual oath to not have a public opinion. It's very important to me that people not have the idea that I am influencing what people take from a story.

I work hard to strip out what may or may not be my personal biases from what I turn in to my editors. This is what I was taught to do by my teachers and my mentors. Fred Echols of WVTF Public Radio once told me that I should be skeptical of everything, and especially of my own opinions.

My job is to see all sides of an issue and to report a combination of the facts and what I believe to be the arguments put forward by groups and individuals who want or don't want certain things.

What I do not want to do is report people's fear and people's anger. Of course, both emotions have flooded into our public discourse in such a profound way that I can't trace its geological history. I cannot put myself in the shoes of the people I interview, but I do try to write stories that advance their arguments, and not their emotions.

I'm an odd journalist in the sense that I don't want the sensational in my stories. I don't want to be first, I don't want to have a big scoop. I simply want to make sure I've got things as accurate as I can on any given day. I'm always puzzled and saddened somewhat when I hear other reporters saying they only look for the confrontational.

Every fiber of my being aspires to live in a world where we can agree to disagree, and where those who are on the losing side of arguments try again. I don't like to use military metaphors in my stories because to me, a battle is an event in which people get killed. Words matter to me.

So, am I this Pollyanna who simply wants to play kumbaya on my sitar?

I don't think so.

I'm a person who for so long was governed by his fears, and who acted out too frequently in angry moments. That was destructive and counter-productive. Both of my marriages collapsed in part because I'd lost my compass when it came to what actually matters in life. In the second, I was so frightened I was going to be bankrupted by taking on a mortgage that I never allowed myself a moment to take in the positive. Fear guided my life, and I lashed out so many times in response.

I've learned since to think about what my emotional state is before I take any action. This way is so much more conducive to being a member of a society. I've learned to breathe deeply when I'm confronted with fear or sadness. As such, I think I've improved a bit in the last couple of years.

Fear and anger and sadness are not easily brushed away. And, I can only speak to the way I interact with my demons. But, I thought I had to write this in my public space to mark 500.

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