Letter to the editor- Newspaper is irresponsible
I am disturbed by the language that is appearing in front-page headlines since the tragedy. Headlines such as “Acts of War” and “Struggle of Good vs. Evil” can stir people’s emotions toward anger and vengeance, and appear to serve no useful purpose other than selling newspapers. While such language may be quotations from our leaders, using these statements in bold headlines suggests to many people that the newspaper endorses them. I believe newspapers have a duty to act more responsibly.
What is the meaning of “act of war?” Characterizing a terrorist act as an act of war seems to provide a justification for America to declare war. However, only Congress can declare war, and it has not done so. What does it mean to declare “war on terrorism?” This statement is like declaring war on war. We will destroy terrorism by beating it to death – and killing innocent people in the process. And, in so doing, we will be acting no better than the terrorists.
“Struggle of good vs. evil” suggests that America is all good and someone else is all bad. Most religions teach us that there is good and evil in every one of us. Clearly, the terrorists have perpetrated grossly wicked acts and caused unspeakable suffering. While I love my country, I know that we too have committed evil in our history, beginning with slavery and continuing to the present day. When President Bush said we’re going to “root out evil in the world,” I hope he meant that we are going to look at ourselves, too. (I am not saying that evil committed by America justifies terrorist acts. Rather, I am saying that we need to be honest about our own conduct, and that such honesty will be healing to America and for the world.)
On the night of the tragedy, the president told the nation that America was targeted by the terrorists because we are the “beacon of freedom” in the world. When I shared that statement with my 17-year-old son, he replied, “And people hate freedom?” Again, what purpose is served by making a statement that doesn’t make sense? Or, is it just another poor choice of words?
To overcome this tragedy, truthfulness is required. One of the principles of Buddhism is, “right speech.” Much of what our president and other leaders have demonstrated so far is not right speech. Newspapers and other media (and the public) have a responsibility to use right speech too. While it may be good journalism to report the actual words of our leaders, turning those words into bold headlines is a bad choice, if the purpose is to sell newspapers, and the result is to incite people to be vengeful. Each of us has an important role to play in creating a better world from the ashes of this tragedy, and it starts with the words we choose to use.
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