Ellen Ratner is the White House correspondent and bureau chief for the Talk Radio News service. She is also Washington bureau chief and political editor for Talkers Magazine. In addition, Ratner is a news analyst at the Fox News Channel.More ↓Less ↑
There is a huge lack of loyalty in the United States. People are all too willing to throw people under the bus, and they do so at any convenience.
Before the Internet and even fax machines (late 1980s), there was much more direct communication. You had to pick up a telephone or go see someone if you had something to say.
Now, you can find someone to date on the Internet, get rid of someone you are dating on the Internet or de-friend someone on Facebook without having to make an effort to talk to them, or even to have to avoid talking to them in a social situation such as the neighborhood supermarket. It is a lot more difficult to throw someone under the bus when you have to talk to them.
Two weeks ago there was a fundraiser for Charlie Rangel’s 80th birthday. It was good to see that some major figures did not abandon him. Rev. Al Sharpton said that the media had started and executed the political crucifixion of Rep. Rangel. Rev. Sharpton was right; he has been tried in the media even though Rangel has asked for a trial. He was not about to make a deal on his years and years of good public service. Nor should he.
I am friendly with one of his primary challengers, Adam Clayton Powell Jr., and, like Rangel, he is a good man. Both State Rep. Powell and other challengers deserve to put their records against Rep. Rangel’s. All voices should be heard, and the media should not be trying a case nor running an election. No wonder people are angry. It is clear that if you do something wrong or make a mistake, you might not get a chance to explain yourself before being tried on the Internet as well as the old media.
Has our society become a place where if someone does something wrong we forget their record of service? I saw this with my friend, Helen Thomas. Frankly, the way I saw my colleagues act with the Helen Thomas issue at the White House made me want to give up the beat. If people whom you work with for years can simply abandon you, what does that say for our society?
This week, Vice President Joe Biden spoke at Alaska Sen. Ted Stevens’ funeral. Considering that the press and others treated Stevens as a has-been who was considered a crook because someone had put additions to his home, it was gutsy of the vice president to speak at his service. The vice president is one of those old-style politicians. He had friendships across the aisle while he was a senator and did not forget them as vice president. Clearly, he did not care that someone might be critical of his relationship with the partially disgraced Stevens.
Despite the climate of under the bus via the Internet and the 24-hour news cycle I was glad that Sen. Schumer and Attorney General Cuomo came to the Rangel birthday/fundraiser. It shows that they stick with their friends and care more about friendship and loyalty than they do about how they are going to be perceived on the Internet and media.
Maybe when civics is taught in school we should remember that one of the glues that holds our society together is loyalty. Sticking up for old friends and realizing that no one is perfect is an attribute that we need to teach. Our small towns are all but disappearing, and now our community exists mainly on line where it is easy to take pot shots at others while remaining relatively anonymous. Loyalty and friendship are lacking.
Without loyalty and real friendship, the boundaries of society will be destroyed. The court system is there to hear all sides of a story. We do not need our friends and social network to be judge and jury. We need to return to some of the values of real relationships where someone can make a miscalculation, a mistake and still be remembered for the good they have contributed to their communities.