A Belated New Years Resolution for the Silent Majority
We hear a lot about the silent majority and I must admit that I always assumed it meant that they just did not have their say. In other words I thought it was the opposite to the vocal minorities who are always making their voices heard to ensure they get all of their rights as a minimum and usually a lot more besides. Now I am not so sure that that is not just a cop out to cover something else. It is easy to let everyone assume that we are just complacent, and it is possible that is true for a lot of people, but I wonder if they are not just a splinter group of the silent majority who are going about confident in the rights they exercise. I wonder though, if the silent majority is a name for those who abdicate their responsibility; or is it another name for those who are afraid of fighting for their liberty. It is a long time since the words of Patrick Henry, ‘give me liberty or give me death’. Of coarse those words do not mention the alternative, although they could be taken as inferred, ‘do not die and learn to live without liberty’.
I make the statements in the next paragraphs as some personal observations and perhaps to make you think. One person makes them only, but the rules and laws of society must be based on a consensus of society as a whole on how they wish to interact with each other. You may agree with a few things I say, you may not with others, but just as what I say may make you stop to think, perhaps you can do the same for me. Please let me hear your opinions. I personally believe the society which has evolved here is fantastic especially when you consider the mix and intermingling of races involved, but the important thing is that it is not and cannot be static, and as it continues to evolve we are all entitled to our opinions.
Society made tremendous advances in the last century, and life in many ways is so much better than it was, but just as we think about the gains made we should also consider the costs. How many city centers died. How many people got hooked on drugs. How much has crime increased not to mention many other liberties and values lost. If we see someone commit a crime, how many walk away and ignore it and why. How many innocent people have been convicted and criminals turned loose because a lawyer was more concerned about winning rather than justice. How many times has a case been decided on the performance and sometimes theatrics of a lawyer rather than truth and a judge has gone along with it. If a lawyer is to be rewarded for his performance let us empower the judge to award him an Oscar, but let us have justice above all. The judge is there to ensure justice is served and if he is not doing his job he should be replaced. How many times have newspapers been more concerned with printing a story they think the people will like and ignore or give much less emphasis to a more deserving story, which in their opinion is not news. How many people got left behind, homeless, cold and hungry. Yes, it is easy to say it is their own fault, or that they should get a job, and perhaps in many cases that is true , but we could also stop a moment and think and maybe we would use the words my mother used to use ‘There but for the grace of God go I’.
We can bemoan some of these things and say they should not happen, but the truth is they can only happen because the so-called silent majority let them happen. We have many laws which guard peoples rights, but how many laws do we have to ensure those laws are not abused. The constitution guarantees the freedom of the press, but what guarantees that the press will not abuse that freedom. How many times have we seen the police make an arrest only to see the criminal get off with an insignificant punishment? How many times have we felt someone was guilty of a crime but because of his wealth he has been able to hire a team of expensive lawyers to get him off? How many times have politicians been elected on promises that they never kept, and probably never intended to keep, and no one holds them to account? When elections are over the promises made are not news anymore and are often ignored. How many times have politicians been elected because of stories they have spread about their opponent? Stories which many times are true , but often are not. A man should only be elected on how good he or she is, and not based on how bad he tells you his or her opponent is. How many times have we seen the character assassination of a crime victim used by a lawyer to get his client off and the judge allows it to happen?
We read in the bible where Moses judged between all individual Israelites and his father-in-law recommended he spread the load. The intent was to dispense justice, the judge heard the evidence and decided between the individuals. Justice has evolved since then and we have laws now to ensure justice is uniform, but how many times have we seen it where it is not uniform. The law for one person is not necessarily the law for another. There are many advantages to Laws, but Laws are often difficult to understand. I am not sure who came up with the statement that ‘ Laws are written, not so much that an honest person can understand them, but that a dishonest person cannot misunderstand them’. Unfortunately they often fall down on the latter part. How many times do we see the taxation laws thwarted because some clever accountant found loopholes for his clients? I guess we also have to ask how many times did the lawmakers put that loophole there deliberately because some lobbyist asked them to. How many times have we heard people using the law to demand rights for themselves that they have denied others. A mayor of a large city once said it is easier to get rid of your wife than it is to get rid of a bad tenant. That is just one example of a law which has many loopholes. Tenants need to be protected, but let us remember the intent of the law and not forget justice.
There are those members of the silent majority who have spoken out about abuses only to find they are subjected to unmerciful abuse by those they speak out about, and the media always looking for a good story pick up the ball and run with it. Then of coarse once an individual speaks out that individual is no longer a member of the silent majority. That is why I am proposing a belated New Year Resolution for all members of the silent majority. Let us abolish the club. Let all speak out against what we see is wrong. We tend to use the words ‘A free press’, but I would prefer to say ‘a free news media’, since so many get their news from the radio or television. A free news media is essential for democracy to survive and I am not suggesting any news source should be closed down. I am not suggesting that a news source be prevented from editorializing on a story, but I am suggesting that all news media has to be truthful. Though the news media is usually very truthful, often words are taken out of context and words taken out of context may not always be truthful to what the person who spoke them said. Where does reporting end and gossip begin? The media often use the phrase ‘The people have a right to know’, and many may be inclined to take it as a tired old cliché. The people do have a right to know, but I believe the media has a duty to be responsible as well, and sometimes a reporter’s ambition may be a Pulitzer rather than the welfare of the people. I raise the news story of the four captured pilots during the Vietnam War. They used their fingers to spell out ‘HELP’, and a reporter spotted it. It was treated as a great example of news reporting by many people, but I cannot accept it as such. Those poor men asked for help, but because of someone’s quest for that great ‘scoop’, they got a beating instead. Yes it was a great story, but maybe it could have been handled differently. Fortunately in today’s atmosphere everyone regardless about their feeling on the Iraq war support the troops, which was not the case in that sad time. As this great country grew and expanded the independent newspaperman was often the guardian of justice and some paid the price for it. Perhaps we need a few modern media men to pick up the flag. Let us forget the Pulitzers and perhaps if the job is done right the Pulitzers will come anyway.
When a sports team which was doing very well suddenly goes into a slump, we often hear the phrase ‘Let’s get back to basics’. I think we should all think about some of those basic values which made society strong. Let us get back to basics. Let us make sure everyone is treated with respect, compassion charity and justice, but it has to be justice for all. I think in many cases in the desire to protect the minorities we have written our laws with the need of a minority in mind, without giving thought to how that law will work when applied to society as a whole. Because a minority is involved we are often reluctant to speak out against flaws in that law lest we be branded as someone who does not respect the rights of minorities. In many cases that minority will speak up very strongly against any change to a law because they see that law as leveling the playing field and giving them an advantage. Laws should not be made to give one person or group an advantage over another; they should be made to ensure justice for society as a whole as well as for each individual.