Friday, April 30

Ham 'n' eggers Don Cherry and Pat Marsden are both in the headlines this week. Two broadcasters who gain most of their charm through their codger unpredictability and direct, unedited, political incorrectness. Not to mention strong, empirical insights and the integrity of being self-made.

Are these fellers national security problems? Surely not. Yet, they seem to provoke heaps of anxiety and the stomping of little feet when they make statements that are seen as prejudiced.

All of us have expressed some form of ethnic bias--mild or otherwise--whether through a shared joke or, at the very least, a conscious acknowledgment of differences regarding customs, manners, or appearance.

Prejudice is omnipresent. It's part of the human animal. The mitigating factor is the capacity to be kind, understanding, and unafraid of the notion of difference, and unafraid of one's own ignorance regarding less familiar people and places.

The fact is, only decent people can hold a high-profile media job. If you're actually a closet Nazi, you're simply not going to break into the business.

Broadcasters embrace the notion of inclusion and tolerance. No one I've met would consciously impede the progress of another decent human being.

What we don't have are balls.

We are progressive ... except in the area of elevated discourse.

How about having someone actually challenging Cherry on some of his mono-cultural biases?

Or, in the case of Pat Marsden--who made an on-air reference about Muslims and Pakistanis with regard to terrorism--how about a discussion qualifying the distinctions in the Muslim world? Pakistanis are not Palestinians, you see.

No less an employer of the ignorant statement is Ariel Sharon. His rhetoric proclaims that America should join their war on "terrorism". In lumping all Muslims together, Sharon is obviating the political arguments and context for Palestinians.

Suicide bombers are ugly. So is war, which historically concentrates almost exclusively on civilians (from World War II through Korea, Vietnam and Iraq). But, with today's bad guy there's a difference: Osama bin Laden does not seek to militarily coerce political behavior. 9/11 was enacted simply as public relations and propaganda.

To paint all Muslims with the same brush, instead of parsing and qualifying the nature and geography of their oppositions, is exactly what Osama wants. This is how he gains unity and becomes a kind of Patron Saint.

Pakistan has many regional and internal problems and grievances. So does Iran. The suicide bombers are not the Pakistanis of which Pat Marsden speaks.

But I guess Marsden is in good company. The difference being, he and Don Cherry are entertainers. And until Osama and Ariel start doing stand-up, we'll have to settle for that.