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If 6 Year Olds Can Do It Why Can't We?

I received this email/newsletter from the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer on July 30. If you like it as much as I do, please be sure to share!

Letter from the Editor

So much outrage. We published a political cartoon last week showing President Joe Biden looking at his Covid test and declaring, “Finally, some positive numbers.” The cartoonist was playing off the idea that Biden can’t catch a break, and even a positive result is a negative result. Here’s an email I received: Which “editor” approved the offensive cartoon of July 23? When will he/she be fired? Now we giggle at a president’s illness? Your publication has become a laughingstock. Outrage. Over a cartoon. When did we all become so intolerant? It’s a tough time to work in a newsroom. Anything we do in the political sphere likely will bring outrage. I get it. We’re surrounded by outrage. National television news outlets overflow with it. Social media abounds with it. Politicians grandstand with it. In some places, politicians seek to stoke outrage by arguing that their opponents are intentionally trying to destroy America because deep down, they hate our country. That’s ridiculous. Americans love their country. We’ll always disagree on what we need to do to make it better, but to run for office by arguing people in the opposing party secretly want to destroy the nation is needlessly inflammatory. It works, though. People are enflamed. The mirth that once marked America has been replaced by sneering and rudeness. Gone is the spirit we once had of getting a job done. We did not come together as a nation to fight COVID, falling instead to the arguments of leaders who believe they could gain traction by keeping us divided. This is not to say that outrage is never warranted. The refusal of Ohio’s elected leaders like Gov. Mike DeWine to uphold and support the Ohio Constitution by obeying what it says about drawing fair Congressional and Legislative districts is outrageous. What’s going on with abortion is causing plenty of justifiable outrage. And our reporters and editors are in the middle of it all, trying to navigate the furor as they report the news. Is divided our new natural state? Does it have to be? I had the good fortune recently to spend a lot of time with a 6-year-old, and weeks later, I keep thinking about what I witnessed, twice. First, we took him to a Legoland Discovery Center in one of those endless mall/shopping centers that are loaded with outlets, restaurants and attractions. He liked the various Lego activities well enough, but the thing that lit up his smile was something called the Lego Playzone, a modern version of a jungle gym with climbing walls, tunnels and protective padding everywhere. He launched himself into it and introduced himself to the first kid he met, and they then progressed together. They met more kids, introducing themselves, and within minutes, most of the children climbing through this thing were playing a game, in which they captured each other and then worked to free each other. They were yelling each other’s names from one end to the other and whispering strategies. I was surprised how quickly children who did not know each other could organize themselves into such fun. Later, when we took him to the food court for a snack, he spied a huge play area in the center of the court, with foam floors that felt 2 inches thick. The place was strewn with fiberglass boats, lighthouses and creatures for climbing. He wolfed down his snack, kicked off his shoes and raced in. For the next 45 minutes, he and a dozen other children raced about that play area playing tag. Boys. Girls. Different races. A range of ages. They did not know each other, but they had a common purpose: to play. They had a ball. These were kids, untainted by the rage that surrounds adults in this land. They don’t have leaders telling them that some of the kids on the play area hate their country and have evil intent. They’re just kids who looked at each other and saw kindred spirits -- kids who knew how to work together to accomplish a common goal of joyous play. We’re doing what we can in our newsroom to avoid the outrage and the hate. More than a year ago, we announced we would not quote the hate being spewed by some of the candidates for U.S. Senate in Ohio. We’re working to provide perspective and facts about the issues that some political leaders use as the basis of lies they tell us. But the people spewing the outrage and the hate are winning. Which is why, I suspect, when a reader encountered an innocent cartoon, he leapt to the worst-case reading of it and then wrote in with his outrage. The only way out of this is to stop rewarding the leaders who trade in outrage and hate with our votes. Watch the ads as we get closer to November and ask yourself whether the candidates are trying to win you over with truth or manipulation. Are they trying to play on your anxieties and fears, to trigger your basest thoughts, or are they trying to inspire you with a vision for a brighter future? A bright future is what we owe all those kids I watched playing so happily in the middle of a sprawling shopping center. We are better than the people the cynical politicians see. Thanks for reading.

Chris Quinn Editor and Vice President of Conten Plain Dealer

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