Here is my column from Monday’s Kenosha News.
Being Wisconsin, I could have entitled this column “Make Your Own Beer,” but there is a fair chance you are already doing that. Or, I might have used the title “Make Your Own Sausage,” but nobody really wants to see sausage being made. So, I will stick with, “Make Your Own Cheese.”
The metaphor has its origins in my education as a pastor. I vividly remember a homiletics (the art of preaching and writing sermons) professor from many years ago, saying, “Gentlemen (It was not an egalitarian denomination.), milk a lot of cows, but make your own cheese.” It’s a quaint, archaic, rural Midwestern, way of saying, “Do a lot of research, but write your own sermon.” He was also reminding us not to plagiarise.
I listen to WPR/NPR everyday as I get ready in the morning. Then, I usually tune into Fox News as I am eating lunch to make sure nothing earth-shattering has happened since I listened to WPR/NPR earlier that morning.
I suspect, half of the readers of this column think I am an idiot because of my NPR habit, and the other half think I am an idiot because I watch Fox News. Well, that settles it. Now everyone thinks I am an idiot. I tell people that I am either totally schizophrenic, or perfectly balanced.
But, I am neither. That’s just me “milking cows.” I milk lots of other cows, too, but I try hard to “make my own cheese.”
My concern is that far too many Americans are neither milking multiple cows, nor making their own cheese.
It’s so easy to gravitate to one news source that we are comfortable with. It’s easy to have a favorite news show host, a so-called news analyst, who really is an entertainer talking about current events.
It is easy to be filled with outrage as he parades the most outlandish example of the abuses of “the other side” before your eyes as something or someone to be ridiculed, feared, and stridently opposed. He exhorts you to get fired up and “for the sake of our nation’s wellbeing, to uphold the values that were set forth by our founding fathers, and defended by the brave men and women in our military.”
Our two-party system also encourages you to choose a side, Democrat or Republican, liberal or conservative. It’s convenient. If you get your news from limited sources, you don’t have to think for yourselves. The same is true, if you buy into party politics. Just do as you are told.
Each side has some good ideas and some bad ones. But, when either side is un-tempered by other perspectives, the American people get shortchanged.
I am sick to death of the partisan hack guests on news shows that repeat the same old party mantra, rather than address the issue at hand, or even answer the question on the floor. Their response is designed to deflect, rather than enlighten. You can watch these people till the cows come home (staying with my metaphor) and learn zip about an important topic, which is intentionally lost in the idiotic political rhetoric.
It gets worse. A huge segment of the population is so fed up with the system, or willfully ignorant of how it functions that their only news sources may be Comedy Channel parody television shows or tweets from their friends. Yet, they are probably well informed about the Kardashians or Justin Beiber’s latest incident of adolescent acting out.
Some things are obvious. Fox News leans right. NPR leans left. MSNBC leans forward (whatever that means.) Bill O’Reilly and Ed Schultz are entertainers who fire up their fans and make their enemies mad to get ratings and make money. Steven Colbert is a brilliant satirist comedian, and Jon Stewart is looking for something real, but funny to ridicule on his show. The Democrat and the Republican parties are structures organized to wield power, money and influence to get people elected and partisan legislation enacted.
Try a different “cow,” every now and then. Sift through the rhetoric. Discern the error and embrace the truth, wherever you find them. Then, develop your own opinion.