Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 6/15/2008 [Archive]

The Quiet American

The Quiet American

By Martha Randolph Carr

The passing of Tim Russert this past Friday is mourned by so many because of the quality of the man and in part because of the way he could get his job done so effectively without ranting in an arena where so many have failed. He was able to comment on the American political landscape without resorting to mimicking anyone else or attacking personal character, which happens so often these days that most people have come to accept it as appropriate behavior. It still isn't, and Russert never forgot that. Visitors to Meet the Press knew they would be grilled, maybe even skewered, but the questions would stick to policy and the guest would have the opportunity to thoroughly respond. Viewers got the idea that Russert was always hoping for the better side of a candidate to emerge, no matter the party. It's a style that could have looked quaint or na´ve if he hadn't always been so prepared. Instead, it gave everyone watching, in other words the voters, a chance to consider who we were voting for based on something more than attack ads, gender, race or age or picking someone based on party lines. We saw the individual and were able to decipher what mattered to them and ought to matter to us. He was Jon Stewart with more time and fewer jokes.

Everyone who watched came away a lot more informed and that probably made for a better government in some small way, whether we realized it or not. To inform without trying to overtly influence is actually the higher purpose of journalism and when done well is an art form. The fact that so many people pondered later whether or not Russert was a Democrat or Republican spoke very highly of his abilities. He even proved it wasn't necessary to inflame in order to garner high ratings and it was possible to use the really big words and ask the tough questions and viewers would still be there, waiting for the answer.

So far, in the great presidential race of 2008 much of what occurs on the political forefront has been co-opted by those who are willing to yell the loudest. At least in this area of American life we have achieved equilibrium with both the far left and the far right emitting the same volume of pointless dialogue.

But, Russert proved that the masses are looking for something more, which means that most of us are apparently looking for a dialogue with some give and take, maybe even a little compromise. This is, in part, his great legacy and the door has been opened for all of us who watched him to keep the conversation going with each other. We can try listening like he did, as if our minds might actually be changed but at the very least with respect for the speaker. We can ask questions that have more to do with the direction of the country with the intent of hearing the answer and stop asking up front what party someone belongs to as some sort of sorting process.

It's already a very unique summer with some very old barriers being broken down and opportunities have emerged to see what great things might happen. Perhaps it's time to start holding small town meetings where all of us come together to talk about what really matters to us: the economy, the war, the environment and getting along as good neighbors. We can get up and speak with the intention that solutions are possible and might come from anywhere and we'll spot them because we're listening. It doesn't mean we don't ask the tough questions, it just means we won't leave our manners at home and we'll remember there's a greater purpose.

It can start in your living room and include a few faces from around your neighborhood that you didn't really know before. Leave all party affiliations behind and decide to see each other, including yourself, from the broader platform of an American citizen. If anyone follows this lead, please let me know and I'll report on the reemergence of the quiet American. It will be the best tribute to an old school journalist who served all of us so well. More adventures to follow.

© 2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Sales@cagle.com.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: www.newvoicespeakers.com. Author's email: Martha@martharandolphcarr.com or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.

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