What have we become? Whatever it is, we are better than this

So, there is this annual ceremony held to celebrate the Foley American Hostage Freedom Award.

The award is named for James Foley, the American journalist who was kidnapped and beheaded by the Islamic State. It is meant to honor exemplary work to free American hostages.

Did I say it’s an annual award? Correction. They skipped it in 2019.

The omission was at the last second. And the sponsoring foundation did have an honoree named and ready to receive the award.

Their mistake? They named Secretary of State Mike Pompeo for the award in recognition of the Trump administration’s work in releasing Americans held hostage abroad.

At the last minute, the award and Pompeo’s invitation to the gala event were rescinded due to pressure from the event’s media partners. Sources said the “media partners” promised to boycott the event if Pompeo received the award.

Who are the media partners? Well, CNN anchor and PBS host Christiane Amanpour gave the keynote address. Others listed as partners include Facebook, Atlantic Media, Reporters Without Borders and the Committee to Protect Journalists. No one fessed up to engineering the cowardly action.

Awards are subjective, but tear yourself away from whatever biases you might have long enough to consider the award’s purpose and the related facts.

To date, the Trump administration has engineered the release of almost two dozen hostages, including 17 Americans, from foreign captivity. Those freed range from businessmen to pastors and missionaries to college basketball players.

The total released is more than the total brought to safety by the Obama administration in eight years.

And the work has been done without concessions that encourage more hostage taking. No Taliban leaders were freed from Guantanamo Bay. No wooden pallets were stacked with cash and sent in an unmarked cargo plane to Iran.

Clearly, the intended recipient was deserving. Just as clearly, reckless hate and pettiness got in the way. Those responsible for rescinding the award disrespected the man for whom it is named, a journalist who gave his life to perform his profession with honor. By extension, they spit on the family that lost James Foley.

These are the times we live in, when the political temperature in this country has blurred our objectivity vision as if we are wearing glasses in a steam room.

Fueled by a major media that has mostly dropped its major function – objectively reporting what is happening and letting readers and viewers make their own judgements – we have become a country divided by political tribes.

And if it continues, we will regret the casualties – lowered precedents for impeaching presidents, inaction on national problems that need to be solved, and a culture that divides us based on politics when there is so much more to each of us.

We have a Speaker of the House say — correctly — that impeachment should be a process that evolves from bipartisan thinking one month. A few months later, she pursues it on purely partisan grounds, supervises a contrived hearing process that violates all principles of justice, purchases ceremonial pens — reportedly with your tax dollars — for the impeachment articles signing ceremony and then brags it is forever, regardless of a predictable and correct acquittal in the Senate.

By Nancy Pelosi’s measure, President Obama surely was guilty of treason and impeachment for promising on a hot mic to a Russian leader that he could be more flexible toward the Soviets after his re-election. Is that not more impeachable than the transcript of President Trump’s conversation with Ukrainian leaders? It was clearly improper. Thankfully, no one rushed to impeach President Obama and national division was saved — temporarily.

How proper is it that Joe Biden, a candidate for president, is on video bragging about withholding American aid while vice president until a Ukrainian prosecutor investigating his son’s questionable dealings in the Ukraine was dismissed? Given the national security implications, this was worth probing and Biden’s candidate status should not gain him an exception from debating possibly dangerous indiscretions.

There are lessons to be learned and applied this election year if we all turn our blood pressure down a notch. We should not elect or evaluate presidents based on likability. This is not about who we would prefer to have a beer with. It’s about who has practical solutions to prescription drug prices, needed health care reforms, immigration issues, unrest in the Mideast, worldwide terrorism, the homelessness situation and the opioid crisis.

Ripping up State of the Union speeches, a dumbed down impeachment process and childish obsessions built on media-fed tribal hate won’t get us closer to bringing home another American hostage or solving the problems we all should want to solve.

All of us — liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican and all shades in between — are better than that.

David F. Troisi is retired as editor of the Sun-Gazette.


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