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Words In The Face Of Tragedy: Choose Wisely
Who Said It Better?
I don't think it's a far stretch to say that United States' President Donald Trump is not one of the world's best orators.
In the aftermath of the another United States shooting—this time at the Capital Gazette in Maryland—the president offered these words from the White House (per secondnexus.com):
"To the families of the victims, there are no words to express our sorrow for your loss. Horrible, horrible event — horrible thing happened. When you’re suffering, we pledge our eternal support. This suffering is so great. I’ve seen some of the people — so great. My government will not rest until we have done everything in our power to reduce violent crime and to protect innocent life. We will not ever leave your side. So, our warmest, best wishes and regrets. Horrific horrible thing."
I don't know that I would be the smoothest public speaker in the face of tragedy, or at any given moment, really, but I would hope that I would be able to use words beyond "great" when called upon to do so. However, that's just the proverbial tip of the iceberg when it comes to Trump's response to the shooting at this Annapolis-based newspaper.
As we know, largely because the president has made no secret of his disdain for the press on a regular basis, Trump regularly refers to various news agencies as "fake news" and has on at least one occasion gone so far as to call the American press the "enemy of the people." According to the Brookings Institution, a non-profit public policy organization based in Washington, DC, Trump referred to the press as the "enemy of the people" shortly after assuming office in January 2017. Anyone who follows the president on Twitter - his preferred social media platform - knows that he continues to level accusations of "fake news" to any news agency that, in effect, denigrates him.
By no means is the newspaper a perfect medium. Having worked briefly as a small town reporter, it is challenging at best to keep yourself objective and have whatever your story might be at that moment told in a factual, balanced way. When a world leader says that virtually anything you might write about him is fake, even though you've tried to do your due diligence and support everything with quotes and appropriate research, it is terribly disheartening and might inspire you to write in a more subjective way. However, as a reporter, you know you have a job to do, so you continue to do it in the best way you know how, even when you're accused of fakery.
All of that said, because of President Trump's prior and undoubtedly ongoing attacks on the press, his expression of condolences and promises of support for those journalists from the Capital Gazette seem awfully insincere. There's a certain flatness to his words, if only because of his prior vitriol against the press.
Canadian prime minister Justin Trudeau took to Twitter to comment about the shooting, and while Trudeau has had his own fair share of negative press coverage since taking office in November 2015, he does not approach his relationship with the press in the same way.
"Journalists tell the stories of our communities, protect democracy, & often put their lives on the line just to do their jobs," Trudeau tweeted. "Today’s attack in Annapolis is devastating. Our hearts go out to all the victims & their families."
Regardless of how one might feel about either Trudeau or Trump, there is a sincerity and warmth to what Trudeau says that just is not there in Trump's White House address. Granted, Trudeau has not come out and attacked the press on an almost-daily basis as Trump has done, but at the very least, there's an acknowledgement there that sometimes journalists are taking their lives into their hands just to do their jobs.
Also of interest is Trump's statement that "Journalists, like all Americans, should be free from the fear of being violently attacked while doing their job."
Yes, all Americans - actually, all people, regardless of where they live or work - should be free from worry that they'll be violently attacked. That should be a given.
There continue to be concerns about teachers being attacked in their schools because of school shootings. Health care workers can at times be victims of workplace violence because of the wide range of incidents that can bring people to emergency rooms.
There shouldn't be a concern about people being violently attacked in their workplaces, and yet, the shooting at the Capital Gazette shows once more that the concern exists. Once more, world leaders - and President Trump in particular - have offered words.
Now, will President Trump put his words into action?