I hear “debates” wherever I go about the war in Iraq and I’m reminded that nearly none of us have firsthand information about what is happening in that country. We get it from the mass media. The mass media isn’t really in the business of keeping us informed nearly so much as making a profit. So we should be careful with the data we get from them. On the other hand, the “debates” almost always sound like the debaters have a complete and accurate database on the war in Iraq and that their conclusions are the only reasonable conclusions.
Here is just a part of Ted Koppel's graduation address at Berkeley recently. He points out that we must set aside how we feel about what we know in order to conduct the nation's business even on our own city block. We must be informed and think as clearly as possible before we become part of the problem rather than part of a solution. Koppel said, “We have become so embroiled in the distaste we have for one another's ideologies that we are losing sight of the real peril that confronts us. Iraq had nothing to do with the attacks on 9/11, and invoking the war against terrorism for the U.S. invasion of Iraq invites skepticism. Still, terrorism is not a figment of this administration's imagination. It doesn't matter what you believe the United States is doing or may have done to earn the enmity of so many people around the world; someone has to be thinking about the consequences of that hatred, even as we consider what can reasonably done to address it.”
No matter what our government has done and no matter whether we agree with what has been done, we still have an obligation to become informed before we attempt to communicate what we think ought to be done. Knowing how to communicate is important, but it is not more important than the things about which we are expected to communicate.
Seek balanced information. Don’t rely on the efforts of the mass media to inform you and your community. Use every available channel, think about the information and then communicate. That is, after all, the only hope we have to live in the community of our own choice. We must help to build it.