These days, one of the most important civic virtues is resistance.
In order to keep our hearts open and minds alive, and to reject the national anxiety that sees scapegoats and boogeymen around every corner, we must resist the politics of fear.
In order to love our neighbors and ourselves, we must resist the undercurrent of societal violence.
In order to live with mercy, beauty and joy, we must resist the defeatist narrative of terrorism.
"Live one's life as fully as possible," says the storyteller Michael Meade.
Many forces in American society make us afraid and fragmented, yet none is as omnipresent as Big Media and the 24-hour news cycle. So often, they are the great peddlers of anxiety and irrelevance — panic at the town square followed by Kardashian gossip — into our hearts and minds.
It's manipulative, unhealthy and inaccurate. As a citizenry, we're getting played.
In his essay "The Braindead Megaphone," George Saunders compares American society to a party. At the start of the party, people are casually and intimately talking with one another. The mood is congenial, intelligent, easy.
Then a stranger arrives. He's haughty, somewhat dumb, and, most important, he's carrying a megaphone. And he uses it, ruining what was once an intimate party.
With his megaphone, he tells a fool's stories. ("We're eating more cheese cubes — and loving it.") He encourages controversy. ("Wine running out due to shadowy conspiracy?") Asks hollow questions. ("Which quadrant of the party room do YOU prefer?") Quickly, the evening dissolves into ridiculous assumptions and lowest-common-denominator conversation.
Were he a normal guest, you'd just walk away. But you can't escape the megaphone, which puts his voice everywhere.
"In time, Megaphone Guy will ruin the party," Saunders writes. "The guests will stop believing in their value as guests, and come to see their main role as reactors-to-the-Guy."
Is this not what's happened to the state of our national conversation since Big Media?
"They'll stop doing what guests are supposed to do: keep the conversation going per their own interests and concerns," Saunders continues. "They'll become passive, stop believing in the validity of their own impressions. They may not even notice they've started speaking in his diction, that their thoughts are being limned by his. What's important to him will come to seem important to them."
People condemn the GOP for creating Donald Trump, yet the equal villain is Big Media and its megaphone-call of distortion and panic. These last 20 years, we could have invested in media-based discussion on wisdom, virtue and depth, yet instead, we squandered it with entertainment presented as news, and news presented as the apocalypse.
The Greeks had the Sirens. We have Rush Limbaugh. (And, lest we forget, NBC, which gave Trump his first show.)
So in times like these, it is important to recognize and praise those who resist such distortion, and instead encourage our better selves.
For nearly three decades, Jed Mescon has been a cornerstone of local news. At WRCB, he anchors the morning news, then follows it with the community-humanitarian-themed "3 Plus You."
On Monday, he'll broadcast his final show.
"His enthusiasm for Channel 3, our viewers and the entire community is legendary," WRCB President and General Manager Tom Tolar said.
He is a constant encourager and servant, befriending more causes, nonprofits and community groups than any of us realize.
This takes discipline, and Mescon's discipline is kindness. By resisting this larger megaphone of pandering, Mescon instead relies on age-old virtues of humility, service and compassion. Who says a newsman can't?
The fabric of our community is upheld by nothing less.
Judaism speaks of "Tikkun Olan," which is Hebrew for "repairing the world." In a time when so many are vested in tearing apart our sense of America, let us praise Mescon for his long role in helping us repair and hold it together.
David Cook writes a Sunday column and teaches at McCallie School. Contact him at email@example.com or 423-757-6329. Follow him on Facebook at DavidCookTFP.