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RTC Chapter Leader Column

Two different worlds

New York Teacher
Tom Murphy

Tom Murphy, Chapter Leader for Retired Teachers Chapter

People look at the same things, the same event and even the same truth differently.

Watching a PBS series on country music, it occurred to me that the same piece of music or genre can be so varied. Some early country music was gritty, unvarnished and sharply expressive. As the Nashville sound evolved, the music was smoothed over with the rough edges shaved down, apparently to broaden its appeal.

Tastes vary. Once, legendary entertainer Sophie Tucker, the Last of the Red Hot Mamas, was singing a song with the composer at the piano. He said to her, “I didn’t write it that way.” She replied, “You write it your way, and I’ll sing it my way!”

Did you ever listen to a recording of a Broadway musical like “South Pacific” or “The Sound of Music” and then hear the movie version of the same songs? To me, the music of Broadway is earthy and driven. The movie versions stretch with the panoramic scenery and soften the intensity.

It’s the same with politics. Members of the U.S. House of Representatives look at the prospect of impeachment that way. Should we or shouldn’t we? Should we confront presidential transgressions at once or build broad political and public support beforehand by layering on misdeed after misdeed until there is a sense of outrage? Politics, like love or justice, does not come in neat packages. It’s not easily measurable like mathematics and science. Notions of truth, justice, literature or politics, like country music, can be interpreted.

Take Social Security. Is it a burdensome entitlement that needs to be sacrificed on the altar of fiscal austerity? Or is it a progressive program that should be expanded to lift hardworking people into lifelong financial security? Is the Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) a socialist giveaway that saps personal initiative and responsibility and is doomed to failure? Or does it attempt to make health care an accessible, basic human right, allowing citizens to live productive lives regardless of class, wealth or social status?

Two groups of Americans look at the situation on the Mexican border through different lenses. One group sees danger of “invasion” and violation of our security. The other group sees a human rights crisis that hurts immigrants striving to make better lives for themselves and their families.

“All God’s creatures have a place in the choir; some sing low, some sing higher ...”

In some ways, it’s as if we’re living in two different worlds: The Fox News world and the CNN/MSNBC world. It strikes me that one media outlet resembles planet Earth while the other seems to be from an alternate universe. If the occupant of the White House makes an irrational, fantasyland utterance, his supporters line up in lockstep to sanctify it.

There is no agreement on common lyrics or guidelines on what is true. In the past, both sides would more or less agree on the facts and then enter the ring from their separate corners and duke it out.

There once was an understanding of the words of the song even if they sang it differently.

Since I’m reluctant to appreciate hallucinogenic twitter feeds, perhaps adding chords to one of those children’s kaleidoscopic telescopes would help me look at and listen to the world as we all hold hands and sing “Kumbaya.”

Do they sing that on “Grand Ole Opry”?