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My Way

My Way

'Negative' is the new 'racist'

March 03, 2010 - Back in the 1950s, when right-wingers wanted to silence, discredit or blacklist their opponents on the Left, all they had to do was scream "Communist!" and the shunning began.

Whether they were in reality Soviet agents or sympathizers mattered very little. Paint them Red and society will ostracize them.

Later on, left-wingers used the same tactic on the Right, but they substituted the word "racist."

Someone's opposed to affirmative action?

Call them a racist!

Someone's criticizing a corrupt black political leader?

Call them a racist!

Someone believes welfare programs are wasteful, ineffective and unconstitutional?

Call them a racist!

It seems like these days if you want to discredit or dismiss someone or their opinions, all you have to do is use the N-word.

Yes folks, I'm talking about "Negative."

Please kids, don't repeat that word in school because you might be suspended or worse, sent to a Tony Robbins seminar.

The world, including Oxford, has become dominated by the Cult of Positivity with its mush-filled self-help books and slick motivational speakers hawking their snake oil.

Now, if someone wants to go through life ignoring reality and focusing only on the positives – be they real or imaginary – that's fine with me.

We all have a right to live as we want, think as we want and do as we want. We are constrained only by the law, the rights of others and our own consciences.

But tolerance is not a virtue in the Cult of Positivity, which demands that ideas, opinions, information and even people perceived as "negative" be stamped out.

I was reading an article published in the Feb. 1, 2007 issue of Harper's Magazine, in which author Barbara Ehrenreich penned the following line that caught my eye – "Many champions of positivity urge one to ostracize negative people – complainers and 'victims' – because they are 'committed to lose.'"

That article intrigued me because not only do I see this type of persecution happening here in Oxford on a daily basis, I've been a target of it. It doesn't matter how much positive reporting you do on the community every week, criticize The Powers That Be and you're a negative leper.

I started reading on-line passages from Ehrenreich's latest book entitled "Bright-sided: How the Relentless Promotion of Positive Thinking Has Undermined America."

In the book, she wrote, "When gurus advise dropping 'negative' people, they are also issuing a warning: smile and be agreeable, go with the flow – or prepare to be ostracized."

It's insidious, but very true. And it doesn't stop there.

"It is not enough, though, to cull the negative people from one's immediate circle of contacts; information about the larger human world must be carefully censored. All the motivators and gurus of positivity agree that it is a mistake to read newspapers or watch the news," Ehrenreich wrote.

Ultimately, it seems the key to happiness, in the Cult of Positivity is to plaster a smile on your face at all times (even when you don't mean it), get rid of people who don't conform to your outlook on life and stay as uninformed as possible.

I found Ehrenreich's words particularly insightful – and chilling – given what happened recently when DDA Executive Director Madonna Van Fossen decided to edit out an informational item from a DDA newsletter article because she perceived it as "negative." The item referenced a proposed change in the collection of school property taxes and its potential effect on businesses.

(See last week's story "Volunteer quits over censoring of DDA newsletter" at www.oxfordleader.com.)

"The overall context of that article was, I thought, negative, and I had four other people read the article, and it had a negative undertone," said Van Fossen when asked to explain her actions.

"I want everything that comes out of this DDA office to be positive because there's enough negative things out there that you report about, the newspapers report about, the television stations," Van Fossen continued. "Our newsletter is our PR piece and it's not a place to make judgments and/or comments about other (entities), for example, the school board and how they're spending their money or not spending their money or what they're doing with the taxes or what they're not doing with the taxes."

Call me crazy, but I – and I think most people – want the information they receive from their government to be truthful, accurate and informative above all.

That's why we have silly things like the Freedom of Information Act and the Open Meetings Act. In both of these laws, there's not a single, solitary word mandating that the information governments dispense to the public always be positive. Why? Because we're not all 3-year-olds looking to hitch unicorn rides through rainbows.

Sometimes news is good. Sometimes news is bad. Life is filled with both.

It's an inconvenient thing called reality.

I consider myself to be a rational realist, not a pessimist or an optimist. I choose to see things as they are and ask lots of questions – no illusions, no rose-colored glasses.

When I don't like something or someone, I bluntly say it. Life's too short to be a phony.

Contrary to what some believe, I view the glass as half-full, but I want to know who's been drinking out of it, what's in the glass and do I have to pay for the whole thing?

There's nothing wrong with naming the dead elephants lying in the middle of the room and showing them to the public.

I don't believe, as some people do, in just ignoring the stench of their giant rotting carcasses while telling people, "They're so cute when they're sleeping."

CJ Carnacchio is editor for The Oxford Leader. He lives in the Village of Oxford with his wife Connie and daughter Larissa. When he's not busy working on the newspaper, he enjoys cigars/pipes, Martinis/Scotch, hunting and fishing.
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