|The Independent Thinker by Ann Wren Howard 5/16/13
Seeing who the call was coming from, Margot answered on the second ring. “Whatcha want, dahling?” she said to her friend Wren.
“You’re in a good mood. Do you think you could stop over for coffee this morning? I need another perspective.”
“Sure, I’ll drop my dust mop and be right over.” Margot’s house was the little vine- covered cottage across the street.
“It isn’t, uh, urgent or anything.”
“That’s okay. You know me. I’ll drop my dust mop for any good excuse.”
Five minutes later, Margot knocked as she let herself in. “Where are you? Do you want me in the living room or the kitchen? I brought my own coffee.”
Wren came in from the back porch with a freshly potted plant in her hands and set it on the counter. “This is that cutting I’ve been rooting in the kitchen window, more like pinching I guess since I “pinched” it without asking. It was growing all over the place at the resort in Oxnard. It’s looking pretty good, isn’t it?” She washed her hands and poured herself a mug of coffee. “Look, I even have cookies today. I baked for the ‘Loaves and Fishes’ meal at the church and saved some for us.” She handed the blue china plate to Margot and sat down.
“Good planning. Something to shut me up while you talk.” Margot grinned at her. “So, what’s on your mind?”
“All sorts of things. For one, I never got an introduction written for my writing class, at least not one I liked, but that’s nothing you can fix. Then there’s all this stuff in the news about Benghazi and the IRS and the AP. You know I can’t talk to Bernie about it. And something else too.”
Margot looked puzzled. “But I thought Bernie loved politics…oh, yeah, I get it. He’ll do all the talking and try to tell you what to think. Yeah, gotta love him. He’s completely loyal. Do you ever wonder where he gets his talking points?”
“I think he secretly listens to Rush when I’m not around. Whoever it is he’s spouting, I really do get tired of hearing it. Doesn’t he question anything? I’ve spent the last year looking up facts and setting him straight. I never used to like politics, but this has really got me going.”
“So I’m going to sit here quietly now and munch cookies while you tell me how things really are? Is that what you want me to do?”
Wren studied her friend’s face. Was she hearing sarcasm? Usually she could tell. Margot was not subtle, but this time her voice had its normal playful tone she thought.
“No. I want conversation. That’s the point. I can get monologues at home, first me, then Bernie. I want someone to hear what I’m thinking and we can talk about it.”
“Okay then. Start.” She picked out a cookie that promised to have more than its share of chocolate chips and had a bite.
“I never worked on a newspaper or anything, but when I was a freshman in journalism school I had an interesting assignment. It was during the Nixon-Kennedy election, and my class had to monitor the news in two big Chicago papers and three television networks. We each had a different day and different programs assigned, and we had to keep a record of how many column inches and minutes of air time were devoted to each candidate, and what bias they showed.”
“Just out of curiosity, which one did you vote for?”
“I wasn’t old enough to vote, but it would have been Nixon. Not for any good reason. Just because my family was Republican.”
“What did you find out? Was there a lot of difference among the media in their treatment of the candidates?”
“Enough to know which paper supported which man. It wasn’t as easy to see it on TV—at least for me--no editorials or letters to the editor.”
“So you felt like they were all mostly fair?”
“More or less. I thought they were basically objective, and that journalism was supposed to be that way. And, stupid me, I was sure that it probably still was, that it was still believable to this day.”
“Even though Bernie must have pointed out many times that only Fox News gets it right.” She laughed, and the laugh sounded real.
“Exactly. I thought he was just playing the same old party line, ‘the media are all against me….’ So I started watching and comparing, and it’s pretty interesting. Things that might reflect poorly on the administration or its agenda were often left out entirely by the ‘liberal’ press.”
Margot was quiet a minute and then asked, “Are you sure that isn’t what you wanted to find? To prove Bernie wrong?”
“Yes, I’m quite sure. I felt good when I’d read an occasional article in the Washington Post about the alarming national debt, or in the New York Times about the lack of effect gun control has had in the past. Ideas that weren’t lock-step with the president. Not that that happened very often.”
“I didn’t know you were against gun control.”
“I’m not. That’s not my issue. Neither is abortion, or gay marriage. I can see both sides. But the point is, the media is pushing its own agenda, or somebody’s, and that’s not objective reporting.”
“So, we’ve got three or four major networks basically on the President’s side, reporting on stories that make him look good, or make somebody else look bad. Or editing the stories in ways that lead the reader that direction. Have I got what you’re saying? ” Wren nodded, and Margot continued. “Then here comes Benghazi again, followed by these other nifty scandals that the networks can’t avoid reporting on. Has anything changed?”
“Yeah, actually there has. The administration is taking some heat from several networks now, not just Fox. Reporters are not buying some of Obama’s answers, no matter if he’s acting angry or dismissive or condescending. It’s good to see them press ahead. That’s their job.” Wren smiled and took a cookie. “What do you think?”
“He’s so easy with his answers though. He smiles and looks relaxed, points out to his audience that it’s just those stupid Republicans trying to make something out of nothing. He looks so honest. Like a lot of people, I guess I just want to believe him. And I don’t want to be bullied about it.”
Wren looked at her carefully and saw she meant what she said, but not angrily. “Do you think people who don’t believe him are racists?”
“That word has been used really weirdly recently, hasn’t it? No, I don’t think you’re a racist, if that’s what you mean. Maybe I am though. My main reason for voting for him was because he’s black and I wanted to see a black man succeed.”
Wren nodded. “Me too.”
“You voted for him? You aren’t still a Republican?”
“Bernie thinks I am, but I prefer to call myself as an independent thinker. My first husband said I was a fuzzy headed liberal.” She laughed. “Bernie doesn’t know how I voted though, so please don’t tell him.”
“Anyway,” she went on, “so now comes all this stuff about the IRS and the AP, and I’m beginning to wonder if maybe their conspiracy theory isn’t so farfetched after all. Have you thought about that?”
“Wren, I don’t think… I can’t even begin to think about that right now. I don’t even know if we’re a red state or a blue state. I’m sorry, but I’m no help to you. It’s all too much for me.” She picked up her coffee cup and started to stand up. “Oh, what was the third thing you said you wanted to talk about?”
“Third thing?” Wren had to stop and switch gears. What was it she’d had on her mind? “Life coaches, that was it. Do you know any, and what do they do?”
“Actually, I have met a couple of them, no, three!” Margot squinted her eyes as if picturing them in her mind.
“They are all about the same age, 50-60 I’d say. All seem to be religious, or more likely “spiritual”. There’s kind of a distracted quality about all of them, now that I think about it, as if they’re still half stuck in their own mid-life crises. As to what they do, one told me she helps people figure out what story they’ve been living and come up with a new chapter. Whatever that means.”
Wren reached out and touched her friend’s arm. Her hand was shaking slightly. “I don’t want to spend the rest of my life being a fact checker. People want to believe what they believe. No one wants to know the facts. So I need to figure out what to do next. Would you get her name and number for me?”