As an avid fan of NPR, I have to say that I generally tend to tune out when the painfully 1950’s era “This I Believe” comes on. For a news organization that prides itself on “balance,” the listener statements of personal convictions you choose to broadcast are, for the most part, decidedly… saccharine. I cringe every time I hear Edward R. Murrow’s voice and expect it to be followed by Whitney Houston’s heart-felt essay reading, “I believe that children are our future, teach them well and let them lead the way.” Looking back through the archives, I found such classic statements of personal conviction as “The Kindness Of Strangers,” “Tomorrow Will Be A Better Day,” and, one of my personal favorites, “There Is No Such Thing As Too Much Barbeque.” Just to keep my teeth from falling out with all the cotton candy sweetness, I have to pop in a Nick Cave CD and balance it all out with some songs that more closely coincide with my beliefs, like “People, They Ain’t No Good,” “Darker With The Day,” and “Heart Disease, The Silent Killer.” OK, that last one’s not a real song, but I hope you get my point. In fairness, I guess one could say that these motivational speakers you choose to feature in your series are balanced out by the grim realities of the news itself. It seems like not a day goes by without a story about some crackpot dictator like Kim Jong-Il in North Korea, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad in Iran or President Bush seeking to expand their nuclear arsenal to wage war on whoever disagrees with them. Maybe it would just be redundant for you to have an essay entitled “I Believe There Will Never Be Peace In The Middle East,” but I can’t be the only “glass-is-half-empty” kind of listener out there who feels that they’re not being represented by your re-hashing of Mr. Murrow’s charmingly quaint series. If the ultimate goal of these essays is to be uplifting in the face of today’s catastrophic events, then at least be honest with your listeners and say so in the opening so those of us who don’t see the silver lining around the gathering storm clouds can stop feeling even more ostracized by society. If you really do want to give everyone a voice and offer a free and respectful exchange of ideas, then I think you owe the cynics their five hundred words. What do I believe? I believe that, when the time comes, cockroaches will make better stewards of the planet than mankind has proven to be. Do I say this only for the grim satisfaction of being able to yell, “I told you so,” when the nuclear apocalypse brings on our extinction? No. I say this in the hopes that someone will hear my words and do something to put off the nuclear apocalypse for a while and make the greedy little arthropods wait a while longer before we hand over the reigns.
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