When I was a child growing up in a small town in Missouri, I watched wrestling every Saturday night on television with my father. Inevitably, I would cry foul at a cheap shot or when a tag team ganged up on one guy on the ropes. “That’s not fair,” I’d complain to my dad. Even as a kid, I had a sense of justice.
“It’s just a show,” my father would reassure me, turning back to the fake entertainment with a grin on his face and a beer and a bowl of popcorn in his hands, the ones made strong hammering nails all day long.
But then on Monday morning, I saw boys replay on the playground the wrestling moves they had absorbed on Saturday night. Bullies were born and won, and the weak huddled and learned that the world is nothing if not unfair—unless someone says, “Wait a minute.”
So when I saw Prez 45 tweet a doctored video of him body slamming a CNN reporter, I was back in my old living room, hearing my father cheer on some pretender.
Someday I will tell my granddaughters that I was one of those people the leader of our country wanted to wrestle to the ground and punch. I was a journalist (not for CNN), but I worked for newspapers in Missouri, Vermont, and North Carolina. I went to journalism school (University of Missouri-Columbia) where we were taught to be the ones who shouted, “Wait a minute!” Because the truth matters.
What people don’t understand about journalists is that being a truth seeker is more than a job. It is what keeps us going. We are intensely curious, have somewhat of a savior complex, and truly try not to take sides. We want to know the secrets, and we want to protect the public from unscrupulous politicians, tyrannical leaders, inefficient government, greedy businesses. (And, before this begins to sound all too altruistic, one’s name in the byline doesn’t hurt either.)
The Founding Fathers must have thought we were a useful breed. Freedom of the press is one of the five freedoms designated in the First Amendment—the only profession the fathers considered essential to protect for the survival of a democracy. They’d seen what happened when a country was allowed to operate on secrets, tyranny, and corruption. They decided America needed a watchdog.
Yet, today, reporters and editors are ridiculed and threatened by Prez 45 and the public—the very people the press, by nature, are dedicated to helping.
Maybe someday my granddaughters will look at me and ask if I am an enemy of the people. Me: the one who bakes them cookies and reads them Curious George books by the bushel.
If you are a parent or grandparent, I hope your children and grandchildren never call you a fake farmer or a fake doctor or a fake bus driver.
Instead, I hope they call you open-minded, willing to look for the truth no matter what side you are on or where it leads you. Because there are times when we all need to “press” for more information and shout “Wait a minute.”
Times when we all need to remember: This spectacle we call politics right now is really just a show.