It was a dull yellow, square envelope that looked as if it housed an invitation. In a way, it did.
“Hope you and every other member of the FAKE media die soon so real Christian Patriots can once again live in this country. Fat ass,” it said.
Thus, my latest vague threat showed up in the mail Friday. No return address, no name and of course no direct threat.
These threats have increased since the 2016 presidential election – in large part because the president has said the media are the enemy of the people.
A “More you Know” moment on local television recently urged me to not judge by race, creed, color or religion, but to judge people “by action.”
I fear I’d be as guilty as the many who’ve judged me if I did so. Actions are not always transparent and judging my fellow man by their actions can be as emotionally and intellectually stifling as judging by beliefs. So I won’t judge the president for his actions. Judging actions is one thing - people another.
Here is where the true Christian might say, “Judge not lest ye be judged,” but I’m not taking on that role. I’m only speaking for myself.
That being said, as a man who’s been judged more in the last year for what I do for a living than how I’ve lived, I feel as a matter of personal responsibility to explain a few things to those who care to know – and for those who do not care to understand, there’s little I can do for you anyway, and I must tell you at the end of the day, I don’t care. I am, again, merely speaking from my own personal viewpoint and a desire to communicate to my fellow man who may have a desire to understand me even though they may not agree with me.
I do not claim to be a man of extraordinary intelligence or of experience outside the realm of most reporters. I consider my 35 years of experiences in my field as quite average, and if you can take that leap of faith with me, I’ll be on with it.
I’ve seen what happens when we arm more people in hoping to curb gun violence. It’s called a war zone
Before you judge us having any bias, I’d ask if you’d seen what most general assignment reporters see. When it comes to guns, have you seen people die in front of you from gun violence? Many of us have. I’ve seen close to two dozen. I see the faces of the victims in my dreams nearly 30 years after they’ve died. I remember the crime scenes from hundreds of shooting victims. I can recall a 17-year-old waving a gun in my face while an EMS first responder held his uncle, bleeding from a senseless gunshot wound. I’ve seen victims young and old. I covered a story in Texas where a man walked across the street to a Walmart, purchased a handgun and bullets and then walked back to his apartment and killed his wife, child and then himself. The receipt for the gun? Left at the scene.
I’ve seen what happens when we arm more people in hoping to curb gun violence. It’s called a war zone. I’ve seen police I’ve respected and admired shot – some of them killed.
I’ve been shot at, threatened with guns – directly and indirectly – and have seen hundreds of people dead and in every state of decomposition from the freshly dead to a prostitute in South Texas whose remains had to be scraped out of a tin shack after baking in the hot sun for more than a week.
I’ve seen corpses flash-fried that look like overdone barbecue, stark white bones protruding from crispy, blackened flesh as the result of wars and from building fires. I’ve seen skin peel away from dead bodies like boiled chicken – drowning victims found after days in the water.
Before you judge us soft – or accuse us of enjoying the ability to cover a mass shooting for the sake of ratings, perhaps you could visit reality for one day and walk in our shoes.
The last words of Mark White, a young man in San Antonio whom I’d interviewed a week before his death, will stay with me forever. “I’m sorry,” he said. I don’t know why he said it and never got a chance to ask him as he slipped into unconsciousness and death from a gunshot wound.
Watching such things leads to a macabre sense of humor with some of us – it’s a coping mechanism of course but a necessary one.
Before you judge us soft – or accuse us of enjoying the ability to cover a mass shooting for the sake of ratings, perhaps you could visit reality for one day and walk in our shoes. The callous, shallow and frivolous nature of an NRA spokesman saying such is so vile as to cause these and many more memories to rise in my throat like acidic bile.
The same can be said for the issue of immigration. In my formative years as a reporter, I covered the South Texas border, ran with the Border Patrol along the frontier and saw the great lengths people would take to enter this country – just to get a part of the American dream.
I fear a heavy reckoning is coming for us if we cannot extend a helping hand to those who need it the most.
On the night my wife threw a surprise birthday party for me, I was with a cameraman and a border patrolman at the train yards in Laredo, Texas. I watched as a young man – approximately my age at the time – run for and try to leap onto a moving train. His futile effort ended as he fell under the wheels of the train and lost both of his legs.
What possessed him to do it? Those who are sure that illegal immigrants are here to destroy our way of live, by design or by accident, should see what many reporters have seen.
Those desperate people, their desire, their spirit and their strength against all odds is something that is a credit to all of humanity – not their money, their education or the color of their skin.
Traveling to Monterrey, Mexico, I once saw a small village of destitute families living around an open sewage lagoon. Homes made out of hammered-flat tin cans and packing crates, they lived under conditions no American – even the poorest among us – would tolerate.
Visiting a refugee camp called “The Jungle” in France two years ago, I was immediately impressed by the grace and dignity of people who had nothing, but offered me a cup of tea and a place to sit – out of respect and manners.
I fear a heavy reckoning is coming for us if we cannot extend a helping hand to those who need it the most. They aren’t here to disrupt. Many have fled the very gang violence, the wars and corruption we accuse them of being a part of – and some of us do not accept the reality of that particular situation.
Those among us who are privileged can easily judge those who have nothing and ascribe make-believe motives to actions without ever once doing what the literary character Atticus Finch encouraged Scout to do. In “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Harper Lee wrote that it’s impossible to really understand a person from their point of view – until you climb inside their skin and walk around in it – or words to that affect.
Today when it comes to my profession, I’ve found from trying to walk around in other’s skins that Hunter Thompson’s “Fear and Loathing” dominates their actions. Or as Isaac Asimov once said, the “Cult of Ignorance” exists in the U.S. in our political and culture life that is nurtured by the false notion that “My ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.”
Ignorance isn’t stupidity though – it is merely the absence of knowledge and can be addressed if those who are ignorant then accept that ignorance and search for knowledge.
That will be hard to do if you’re degrading, discounting or threatening the members of the public who have the knowledge you are seeking.
For those who scream “Fake Media” and chide us when we make mistakes, are your political and philosophical beliefs driving your desire to denigrate us – or are you offering constructive criticism?
Have you ever been to a county council meeting? Do you vote? Have you ever seen victims of a mass shooting, covered a war, shed a tear on camera when a young kidnapped girl was found dead in a field? Have you ever been jailed? Unjustly? Have you ever gotten out of your comfort zone? If you have, would you share those experiences without judging us?
Again, I’m just an average reporter with the cumulative experiences of 35 years in the field, covering sports, politics, crime, and I’ve covered news in most of the 50 states and 15 countries. Unfortunately, most of the states I’ve visited I did so covering crime for America’s Most Wanted, so I have a very extensive knowledge of violence which has warped my sense of humor and scarred my average psyche. I can also remember most cities in the country for the horrific crimes committed there.
There is only one experience I’ve had which is beyond the average for most reporters – I was jailed trying to protect a confidential source.
I’m not all that above average though in that regard – just lucky or unlucky depending upon your point of view. There isn’t a reporter I’ve ever met who wouldn’t protect a source in an effort to provide information to the public.
I was just the scared individual – among about a dozen alive in this country – who’ve had to put that resolve to the test.
That is nothing compared to the reporters and photographers in this world who’ve been shot, stabbed, beaten and have died to provide vital information to the rest of us.
Those people are real heroes and had to put their resolve to the ultimate test.
We are not “Fake Media” and we’re not the enemy of the people.
You cannot deny reality for too long without losing the humanity you claim to represent.
At the end of the day, I think the threats I’ve received in the last year are less reflective of what I’m accused of; being “Fake Media” and more because reality and facts intrude on some people’s lives like an unwanted in-law.
You can’t shake them. You can’t ignore them. The only thing you want to do in your inability to confront reality is to try and make it go away.
But you can’t do that either.
Facts are facts. And at the end of the day, while denial isn’t just a river in Egypt, you cannot deny reality for too long without losing the humanity you claim to represent.
You have to live with your decision as I’ve lived with mine.
But my experiences – again nothing more than those of an average reporter – show me there is a heavy reckoning to be paid for those who will not recognize facts.
As for the latest threat – it would have been nice if the writer would’ve noticed my efforts to lose weight. But hey, you can’t have everything.