Face the challenge

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

To the editor,

As a licensed clinical social worker, I encounter people who are depressed or anxious. Sometimes depression is disguised as anger. Is it because of the pandemic? The economy? Politics? Or is it ignorance of history? To paraphrase Santayana, are those who cannot remember the past, really condemned to repeat it?

Montana, America, the world always had cycles of prosperity and hardship. Humanity will always have challenges that require cooperation, innovation and perseverance. That is how we survive or risk extinction. Some say, let’s make America great again. America has always been great for some folks and not so great for others at any given time.

As a child, I fell in love with history, spending time perusing old newspapers and books at the Montana State Historical Society in Helena. To get there, I walked past the State Capitol, stopping sometimes to view the artwork or to sit in the balcony watching legislators work.

In 1849, European journalist Jean-Baptiste Karr wrote “the more things change, the more they stay the same.” That is true. For example, in the 1890s, two wealthy publishers Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst battled to manipulate Americans by publishing sensational stories to sell newspapers that deceived readers. It was called yellow journalism, and it was an embarrassment to those who valued truth. Today, two wealthy corporations, FOX and MSNBC, present widely divergent opinions (not news) 24 hours a day, dividing viewers and making lots of money doing it. Facebook and other internet tools do the same. Propaganda proliferates faster than a speeding bullet—none of it is impartial news. I long for those stalwart journalists: David Brinkley, Chet Huntley and Harry Reasoner who presented the news without a dramatic or opinionated air.

How about turning off the tube, spending less time on the internet, and get back to reading books? Two good ones are Howard Zinn’s “A People’s History of the United States” (written by a WWII veteran) and “Montana: the Stories of Land.” They chronicle stories of the past where life was tough, but people endured. A copy of each book has been donated to the Dillon Public Library.

Or, if reading is not for you, sit down with someone who might have a different opinion and just listen to their viewpoint. You may still disagree, but you may get a better understanding of why they think the way they do.

Jeanette Prodgers