Thursday, February 3, 2011

How do we know the truth when the rioting breaks out?

In Berkeley - that not so long ago - it was curious to read the Letters to the Editor in the local newspaper. If you drew concentric circles on a map, the closer the address of the writer to the actual events, the more positive the comments were on behalf of the “protesters.” The further away from the scene the more negative were the denunciations of the “rioters.” My observation was that the break was about ten miles. Sadly, when I crossed the U.C. campus and could see what was happening, I rarely could recognize the events of the day when I watched the evening national news. Something happened between the reporter on the ground and the man reading off the teleprompter. What to believe?

I once had a photographer who was a stringer for the New York Times drive up from New Orleans to get a photograph of me. I questioned him as to whether that was wise. He pointed out to his beat up old car. He remarked quietly that it had the biggest motor he could buy for it. “I can outrun anything up here.” He carried about an eighteen inch lens, which he said was useful in covering riots. Personally, I am very fond of anyone with a good mix of common sense and courage.

I have long since decided that if I had to decide, it would be that whoever was beating up the reporters was in the wrong. Even then, it is not so simple. He went on to confide that we journalists were going to “rub their noses in it until a reporter can go do his job safely.”

Truth is always hard to come by, perceptions are always relative to personal bias, self interest, or some blindly brilliant snatch at idealism. Old experiences seemly never die, they just put out underground shoots. Objectivity is even always at war with our individual biologies. So often we, who so long for divine guidance, go to places in scripture where we think we can interview someone like the Great Apostle so as to be able to report back authentically. Alas, it would be so much better if we allowed Paul to interview us. Even then we always wind up having to sin bravely.

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