If a Tree Falls…

A man in a suit standing behind a podium giving a speech

Remember the old thought-provoking question, “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it still still make a noise?”

Ask the squirrels.

They know.

However, let’s apply that principal to life today,  with a twist.

If a politician steps up to a microphone today, does anyone really hear?

It’s clear to me that many of our frustrations today center on the fact that no one really listens.

Oh, hey! We HEAR something but do we LISTEN?

We shouldn’t confuse “hearing” with “listening”.

They’re two different functions.

Or, we only “listen” to what we want to “hear”?

How’d this all come about?

I have a theory.

Or two.

There was a time that I remember “politicians” in a different light than today.

There were statesmen.

There were gentlemen.

Forget the gender implications.

Those words meant something.

They were used to describe folks who had a certain amount of decorum, of civility, an ability to rise above the dust and noise to say or do something that would calm us or help us understand.

Where have those individuals gone?

I think they’re still here.

We just don’t or can’t hear them in this modern media, “soundbite” society we currently reside in.

Set aside politics for a brief moment and hear me out.

When I think “statesman”,  former Indiana Congressman Lee Hamilton comes to mind.

I had the pleasure to meet him at a news event in southern Indiana years ago and when he walked into the room, his demeanor, his mannerisms just oozed confidence and control. When he spoke, you felt as though you had to listen or you would miss out on something very special.

Gentleman.

Current Vice-President Mike Pence comes to mind.

I had the pleasure to first meet him when he was getting his statewide radio talk show in Indiana underway.

I met him with Lew Middleton, the network representative at Peter’s Bay Restaurant in the Commons in Columbus, Indiana years ago.

(Both structures are long gone, now.)

But I was immediately impressed with this Pence guy and made contact with him frequently as he became a solid current events broadcaster, then Indiana Congressman, Indiana’s Governor and now our nation’s Veep.

But he always exuded a sense that he was above the fracas and fray and would had something meaningful to say.

Still others, although I differed with, we got along quite well.

Current Ohio U.S. Senator Sherrod Brown was someone I met when  his political career was just starting.

My sister actually helped him on his first run for Ohio State Representative so I would bump into him frequently at our old Crestwood Drive home in Mansfield, Ohio.

Now, Sherrod and I are about as far apart on the political spectrum as two people can be and still be within earshot of one another.

But I was always impressed with Sherrod’s candor and the obvious  “caring” for things that impacted folks in his district.

However, today, I’m hard-pressed to name anyone, man or woman on the political scene that gives me that ,feel.

One man’s opinion.

And, being a “media geek” I wonder where the Walter Cronkites, the Paul Harveys, the Huntley and Brinkleys, the Harry McCawleys of the world are today.

I hear or see no one plying either trade even coming close to those standards.

Long before the last Presidential election, this “aura” that used to envelop our national leaders started to fall apart.

And, as a society, we have expectations of these “leaders” being something we never will be.

Perfect.

Now, this may be a case of “which came first, the chicken or the egg?”

It seems clear for me that the national media has little respect for political figures.

I hear it in the way they ask questions and report.

But maybe these elected officials don’t command respect.

Here’s the problem.

I’ve always believed that if someone behaves like a moron, that’s no reason for you to act the same.

Sometimes you have to take the higher ground.

The minute you respond, in-kind, you’re no better than the idiot who dropped the conversation to that level.

George Bernard Shaw is quoted as saying, “I learned long ago, never to wrestle with pigs. You get dirty and besides, the pig likes it.”

Oink!

So, will things continue to “devolve” when it comes to politics and news reporting?

I’m a big believer in the free enterprise system.

As long as you provide a product or service to the public that they value and enjoy, they’ll purchase or use it.

But once you start making changes “willy-nilly”, just for the sake of change, folks will turn away.

I’m hoping that news organizations and politicians will seize on this  once they see that fewer and fewer folks are consuming what they’re serving.

Remember, this is a slippery slope we’ve gone down so simply stopping will require significant effort.

While I also believe you can never truly “go back” (don’t want to do that anyway), I do think were experiencing a societal “pendulum” swing.

We swing right or left but when we get to the extreme position on either side, normally we go, “Whoa!” and we start to move back to the center.

Not the same center.

But a new one, borrowing from both sides of the experience.

We’ll see if my theory holds water.

In the meantime, I’m gonna see about those trees falling in the forest.

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