[oasis] [columns]

Matt Barton

November 1996

My Minister Told Me So

I believe that many, if not most, Americans fail to see past their own television sets. As an American citizen, I feel that I can make such a rash judgment about other people. I live in a society that, as a whole, is an undereducated and short-sighted bowl of opinion.

Many people actually believe everything they see in the news as factual. The main sources of information in our society are television, newspapers, and radio. In the media, there's always more information than space available. In reality, those who actually bother to read a newspaper or watch the nightly news only see a small fraction of all the news that's really out there. Before it reaches us it is streamlined to be of interest to the demographic of the audience. For example, it is an unlikely case that a religious radio station would broadcast a news piece that would be supportive or positive about homosexuality. They would more likely broadcast something that is much more anti-gay. In a more realistic approach, a newspaper such as the Indianapolis Star/News, which has predominantly been a conservative newspaper for years, is less likely to report more liberal topics such as equal rights, gender issues, etc.

The big problem that this represents is our nature to assume things about a group of people based upon a medium that is supposed to unbiased and objective. To give clarification to what I mean, we see Mmoja Ajabu, the leader of the Indiana Black Panther Militia, on television criticizing a public official. People see and hear what he says and for some reason assume that all, if not most, black people are militant and angry. Maybe we see a woman who doesn't quite fit into the regular feminine role that women seem to play, and assume that she must be a lesbian. We see the worst of the worst on talk shows and somehow believe that we have a huge moral crisis in America. Many go as far to say that the family unit is breaking down. I ask whether they can explain the dynamics of such a claim or not. It's been proven that children raised in non-traditional homes are just as well-adjusted as someone who was raised by both parents. We hear something that sounds good that seems to make sense, and assume that it's correct, especially if it comes from a person of authority. I'd be rich if I had a nickel every time I've heard someone say, "...my minister told me so."

I think the real solution to this problem lies within all of us. We live in a nation where a loud minority can make radical change. In the 1994 election, the Republicans won the majority in Congress as a result of less than half of all registered voters actually voting. Why is this so? In a nutshell, I will say that I believe most people aren't educated enough about the government and the way it works. People don't understand it, and as a result they have no active interest in voting, or express a form of apathy towards the decision making process.

I beg to differ from the above in that I try to go out of my way be informed on both sides of all issues. Many times I won't take a stand on anything. Abortion is a perfect example. In all honesty, I don't care because both sides make a lot of sense to me. At the same time, there are many issues which I have an opinion about that affect me directly and indirectly.

In conclusion, my biggest pet peeve is someone who has a narrow and uninformed opinion about something trying to force their belief down my throat. So many people grow up seeing a narrow and unfocused view of the world. We all have to live here whether we like it or not. Change is within us all, and we all are what makes change happen within this country and the world. We are responsible for our own fate. It's not a matter of whether you've found salvation or discovered your meaning of life, it's what we do and how we deal with life that makes the difference.


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