Let’s calm down and live with each other
We know these are tense times, politically, but instead of diving into the hysteria, we wish more people would take a deep breath, keep calm and carry on.
Or better yet, do this: Stop, listen (or read), learn, make an informed decision, and then act on it.
Decades in the newspaper business has gradually thickened our skins, which has been good amid this past week of hearings on the potential impeachment of President Donald Trump. Believe it or not, we really are just trying to let people know what happened, not trying to sway readers in any political direction.
Think about it. Financially, it’s in our best interest to report news fairly without a political agenda — we don’t want to alienate half our readership. Newspapers were political engines 125 years ago when the Enterprise was founded, but we are not in the business of politics today. Sure, people who work here have opinions, and we use editorials like this one to voice the opinions of the paper’s leadership. But when we report news, we have to set aside any biases we might have, the same way a police officer or a judge does in upholding the law. We would lose more than we would gain by catering the news to any agenda.
Yet amid the current stress, it seems more people, of various political persuasions, are lashing out on the fly without taking time to think first, like a video gamer in battle mode.
Also, it seems more people are becoming less tolerant.
One example happened Monday at SUNY Binghamton, where student protesters shut down a talk by economist Arthur Laffer, former adviser to President Reagan and Trump. He is best known for the Laffer Curve, which predicts economic activity at different levels of taxation. It’s a key part of Republican supply-side economics, which holds that lowering taxes increases economic productivity and strengthens the economy overall.
Laffer is an academic, not an activist. He wasn’t going to foment violence or threaten anyone. He just wanted to talk about economics, as he sees it, maybe take questions and ultimately give students something to think about. Those who disagreed could have asked him tough questions, perhaps countered his approach with one they believe is better. But he only got to tell one weather joke before activists interrupted him 11 seconds into his talk. Chaos erupted in the room, and Laffer was escorted out.
These students apparently believed Laffer was a menace and should be banned, never to be heard from. That’s not America, and it’s not academia. It’s important for students to hear from influential thinkers. If you can’t handle that, you can’t handle college. These students disrupted others’ learning, and they should be disciplined.
This incident is a stain on the academic credentials of SUNY Binghamton, which is generally regarded as the best of the SUNY schools academically and this year produced a Nobel Prize-winning professor in chemistry.
This followed a similar act of intolerance at Northwestern University in the Chicago suburbs. When students protested an appearance by former Attorney General and Senator Jeff Sessions, the school’s highly regarded newspaper covered it, of course. But students badgered the student journalists, and the editor publicly apologized that the paper had taken pictures of the protesters and asked students if they wanted to comment, contacting them through the campus’ internal text directory.
The young editor said reporters invaded students’ personal space by photographing their supposedly attention-seeking protests in public spaces, and by reaching out through a directory available to all students to offer students the opportunity to be heard. The editor said he realized Sessions’ mere presence had traumatized students, and that journalism on top of that was like pouring salt in the wounds.
We saw another kind of hair-triggered hysteria from some Enterprise readers on Facebook who fiercely defended President Trump, not only against the members of Congress deciding whether to impeach him but against the messenger trying to let them know what’s going on. It’s the old notion of, if you aren’t for us, you are against us.
Yet some of those unable to tolerate our reporting also can’t stop reading it. They comment day after day on our articles’ social media posts, sometimes in a constant stream all day long.
In general, being informed is healthy, just like eating vegetables. But if allergies to broccoli and carrots make you break out in hives, maybe you are better off getting your vitamins another way. And if you cannot see the news without freaking out, maybe it’s better to take a break.
Again, stop, listen, learn and think before you act or speak up.
Also, please remember this: In this world, in this nation, in each of our communities, there are all kinds of people who have different ideas, different ways of thought. And it takes all kinds to make the world go ’round. We have to live with each other.
It’s a matter of national security. The more we decide we don’t have to live with each other, the more we open ourselves up to foreign adversaries trying to divide and conquer.