The Rediff Special/ Hari Sreenivasan
Today, I find anger at myself and at others.
I'm angry at myself because I am a member of the media, because I saw, along with an unprecedented amount of cooperation between the major networks in sharing video, some absolutely irresponsible coverage that today has caused me to be angry with others.
Let us see if you can figure why. While waiting for a washing machine at the laundromat this morning, a couple of young men walked near me, having a rather loud conversation on what we as a country could and should do with the living body of Osama bin Laden, and frankly anyone that can even pronounce his name correctly. Trying to mind my own business, I sat on the bench, staring at remnants of the news in the local paper, wondering whether with emotions running this high, the president could launch a nuclear response on Afghanistan.
At seeing me ignore their conversation, their pitches changed, they came closer, and were speaking at me, every once in a while, looking back at one another when I looked up at them. They pointed out the level of glee, with which the old ladies in Palestine were laughing, the little kids were dancing in the streets, how the Lebanese were firing machine guns into the air, when those people heard the news. These young men saw all this on television.
How could I argue with that, I thought quietly, those were horrendous images, they happened, the media delivered them, they didn't create them. And it began to occur to me that the media had just as much a responsibility to point out immediately how the overwhelming majority of people from the Middle East, or people of the Islamic faith, are not interested in seeing harm done to others. As soon as the networks had the footage with reactions from corners of the Middle East, could they not have called any one of the dozens of Muslim leaders in the United States who were crying out against this terrorism from every mosque? I suppose it would have taken too much time, they might not have been 'first' with the video. Whatever happened to balance?
Here, today street corners like this one is where balance could have made a difference. It could have made a difference to the Muslims being inundated with hateful phone calls from strangers, it could have made a difference to Islamic community centers who are reconsidering whether they should hold schools for their children.
I could see by now that these two young men had every interest in engaging me in some way, whether it be conversation or otherwise, and I was torn between becoming defiant and challenging them, or quiet in some Gandhian way. I thought in my head whether I should point out that I'm not even from the Middle East, that I'm Indian, I'm not even Muslim, I'm Hindu but then I realized how cowardly that would be, and that ultimately it didn't make a damn bit of difference to these closed minded men where I was from. I was brown, that's all that mattered.
I'm not at all asking for pity, I have no idea what it must be like for the families of those affected directly, I've been blessed, I'm not playing the victim card here, there are people much worse off then me. To my own peers in this profession I ask for balance, and some modicum of forethought, that the information we present this instant, will shape ideas, minds and hearts, when the radios and television sets are turned off.
I saw a cross around one of the young men's neck, and as I picked up my duffel bag full of dirty clothes to leave, I succumbed to my anger. I asked one of the young men whether he was Catholic -- he said yes, with a condescension Jesus would have condemned. I asked him next whether he bombed abortion clinics, knowing full well, that I was making a very bad wager. The two young men stood there, looking at one another, looking at me, and then at their feet, as I walked between them.
Hari Sreenivasan hosts CNET TV.com
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