In today’s world of discord and polarization, we need to appreciate the beauty of grey

It was the perfect song for this past week.

The song? “The Beauty of Grey.”

The band? Live.

This is not a black and white world
You can’t afford to believe in your side
This is not a black and white world
To be alive
I say the colors must swirl
And I believe that maybe today
We will all get to appreciate
The beauty of grey

Ed Kowalczyk, the lead singer of the now-disbanded Live and is now embarking on a solo career, played Sunday night at the Park Tavern at Piedmont Park. It was the final night of this year’s 99x Unplugged in the Park concert series. He played many of Live’s top hits, including: “The Beauty of Grey.”

Before playing that song, Kowalczyk said he was still proud of the song he wrote 20 years ago when he was only 19, and he was still able to play it to enthusiastic audiences.

For me, the song had special meaning. I had just come from the studio of Georgia Public Broadcasting where the Atlanta Press Club held three debates — the races for Insurance Commissioner, Attorney General and U.S. Senate. Full disclosure: I chair the APC debate committee.

The highlight for me was the debate between Republican U.S. Senator Johnny Isakson and his opponents — Democrat Labor Commissioner Michael Thurmond and Libertarian Chuck Donovan, a pilot and military veteran.

In this year of back-stabbing, insulting and divisive politics, it was pleasure to see three candidates speak respectfully to one another and calmly discuss their different views about healthcare, taxes, abortion, public television and a host of other issues.

Unfortunately, this was the only televised debate that has been held so far in the U.S. Senate race. Instead we’ve been subjected to countless debates across the nation where candidates have reached new lows in their attacks on each other.

Character flaws and skeletons in people’s closets have created such a polarized atmosphere — a stark division of red and blue, black and white, tea and coffee — that we have lost sight of the beauty of grey. We have lost the art of bi-partisanship, cooperation, mediation and intellectual discourse.

How nice it was to hear Thurmond call Isakson a good guy. How nice it was for Isakson to thank Thurmond and Donavan for being willing to run for public office. How nice it was to hear candidates debate the issues rather than trying to hit knock out punches to their opponents.

Why can’t races like this one grab the headlines? After all, isn’t it news today when candidates actually can treat each other like adults? The country desperately needs a refresher course on governance and discourse. In our black and white world, we need to relearn the beauty of grey and the art of compromise.

That point also hit home for me Thursday when Vivian Schiller, president and CEO of National Public Broadcasting, spoke at a Newsmaker lunch of the Atlanta Press Club.

The luncheon speech could not have been more timely. Just one day earlier, NPR had fired Juan Williams, an NPR radio “news analyst,” for comments he had made on Fox News about how it made him nervous to board a plane when he saw people dressed in Muslim garb as fellow passengers. He went on to say that it was wrong to label all Muslims as extremists.

Schiller’s argument for firing Williams was that he was an NPR “news analyst,” not a commentator or a columnist. And as a news analyst, Williams needed to adhere to the rules of objectivity of straight news reporters.

I asked Schiller to describe the nuances that differentiate a news analyst from a news commentator or a news columnist. She acknowledged that defining the differences was like “dancing on a pin.”

The question was a personal one for me. Am I a news reporter, an analyst, a commentator or a columnist? As Kowalczyk sang, this is not a black-and-white world. If I had to describe myself, I would use all of those words depending on the story, the topic, the venue and the media outlet.

In this modern day of communications — where the exploding number of media outlets and multi-dimensional journalists — the line between reporters, analysts, commentators and columnists will keep getting blurrier and blurrier.

Fortunately, since I’m now self-employed, I have the luxury of wearing many different hats, and as such, I repeatedly re-evaluate whether I’m sending out the right message and information for the appropriate venue.

I might not always hit the right note, but I do hope that my readers give me the benefit of the doubt that I’m trying my best to maneuver in a new world that is evolving in the ways that news and views are presented.

It brings me back to Kowalczyk’s insightful words:

And I believe that maybe today
We will all get to appreciate
The beauty of grey

Maria Saporta, Editor, is a longtime Atlanta business, civic and urban affairs journalist with a deep knowledge of our city, our region and state.  Since 2008, she has written a weekly column and news stories for the Atlanta Business Chronicle. Prior to that, she spent 27 years with The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, becoming its business columnist in 1991. Maria received her Master’s degree in urban studies from Georgia State and her Bachelor’s degree in journalism from Boston University. Maria was born in Atlanta to European parents and has two young adult children.

2 replies
  1. Carol says:

    In my own life and sometimes in observation, it seems that increased fear tends to = increased black and white thinking…it’s almost like the reptilian brain takes over. Thank you, beautifully put. I like the Thurmond/Isakson exchange, an illustration of how we really need each other during the miniscule time we have on the planet.

    Don’t like to sling quotes much, but this one relates, I think:

    “I feel that we are in desperate need of a new paradigm that inspires us to stop fighting against ourselves and each other. I would like to see a world in which people no longer think that the best alternative is to destroy whatever opposes them.”~Tsultrim AllioneReport

    Reply

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