As a journalist, I hear often about how “the media” distorts the news, and hence our understanding of the world and its many dilemmas. 

It’s hard to even know what “the media” is anymore, and – at least since the “fair and balanced” (not) network began broadcasting in 1987 – a dedication to facts, let alone truth, can no longer be assumed. 

Yet some complaints are legitimate. When the putative Afghan government fell apart far faster than anyone – probably even the Taliban – expected, the resulting chaos led to daily salvos against the Biden administration, as if anyone could “plan” for a catastrophe, human or otherwise. 

To say the denunciations lacked context is an understatement. The reality that Joe Biden’s predecessor had abandoned Afghanistan – as he’d done with the Kurds in Syria – to sign a May 1 exit agreement was rarely mentioned. Defeat and failure were bipartisan, a hard thing for the media, or citizenry, to accept. 

And if you follow daily bulletins from Congress about the $3.5 trillion budget bill Biden wants to pass, you’d think it’s dying a thousand deaths – usually based on statements from a handful of senators or representatives, or even one. 

Suffice it to say that Biden and Sen. Bernie Sanders at the Budget Committee, who between them have 68 years in Congress, are old hands as passing major legislation – as is House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, with 34 years. 

Unlike some recent presidents, they’re experienced politicians who understand what it takes. I wouldn’t bet against them, however tortuous the process remaining until a bill arrives on Biden’s desk. 

Then there’s the pandemic. No one can credibly argue that “the media,” collectively, is distorting things because, again collectively, the nation and its multifarious communities are resisting, and in some cases opposing, the common sense needed to get the virus under control. 

Far from embracing superbly effective vaccines, and using by now well-established public health practices like masks and distancing, many Republican governors are going all-out to endanger countless fellow citizens. 

Instead of cooperating with health professionals, or at least standing aside, they’re trying to punish local governments for doing the right thing – again increasing death and infection rates. 

It’s one thing to assess blame for Afghanistan or argue over proper levels of federal spending. It’s quite another to ignore all reason and experience in service of the abstraction some call “freedom.” 

Six weeks ago I wrote that “The time for persuasion is over. The time for mandates has arrived.” 

That’s still true, and in essence, what Biden was saying in a forceful national address that’s worth reading if you haven’t already. 

But we must go beyond that thought to use any and all means to “disenthrall ourselves,” and then “save our country,” as Abraham Lincoln memorably put it. 

That includes storytelling. For some, it might be the heartbreaking account of a California family with five children – one born while the mother was ill with COVID – who are now orphans since both parents, unvaccinated, died from the virus. 

For unlike the scenes at the Kabul airport, it’s within our power to prevent many deaths and disabling illnesses that still accrue from the pandemic, beyond the 660,000 deaths already officially recorded. 

For me, a story hitting closer to home was featured on WABI, about a Winterport woman who, preferring homeopathic approaches, declined to be vaccinated even though her husband was. 

Her entire family got COVID, but while her husband was hospitalized briefly, she spent nearly a month facing death, wondering what would happen to her family if she did die. 

Though she still faces more months of recovery – we know relatively little about “Long COVID” – she has a message for her fellow Mainers. 

She told the reporter why she was speaking out: “This is a second chance for life and I’m not going to waste my chance to make a difference in the world to help someone else, even if it’s just one person.” As soon as she can, she and her daughter will be vaccinated. 

In Maine, most of us feel relatively safe. There isn’t the weirdness of the early days of the pandemic 18 months ago, when we didn’t understand what was happening to us, and were all over the map in our responses. 

We now know what it will take to make this coronavirus “like the flu,” a constant, but tolerable threat to human well-being. 

But no one is truly safe until we reach that point. There have been three waves of infections so far, and perhaps we can return to reason, and not more lies, before winter sets in again.  

Douglas Rooks has been a Maine editor, commentator, reporter and author since 1984. His new book is “First Franco: Albert Beliveau in Law, Politics and Love.” He welcomes comment at [email protected] 

Comments are not available on this story.

filed under: