Monday, August 29, 2011

'If You Can’t Say Something Good . . .'

When I was a boy, my friends and I were encouraged to speak about others with kindness and consideration. When we didn’t, we were disciplined. “If you can’t say something good about somebody, don’t say anything at all” was an oft-heard adage. Such sensibilities, however, have been cast aside by our society.

Hurricane Irene barreled through the East Coast and Northeastern United States over the weekend. Although the impact of the storm was extensive and some lives were lost, it was less severe than originally predicted. Since I have family members in New Jersey, that’s good news to me. But apparently not for everyone.

Rather than expressing gratitude for major disaster being averted, some people are complaining. The storm was “overhyped,” many grumble, and they question decisions by government officials to order the evacuation of vulnerable areas as the storm approached.

Of course, if the storm had proved as devastating as originally projected, and if officials had chosen not to direct residents to leave in a timely manner, those same critical individuals would still be griping, except for different reasons.

I understand the media being upset. They were poised to cover an Armageddon-quality hurricane. I’ll never forget working on a daily newspaper in suburban Philadelphia where I heard the term, “good fire,” for the first time. The editor meant because of the magnitude of the industrial inferno, newsstand sales would spike as readers rushed to digest the gory details.

Because TV news is all about viewers and ratings, network and cable executives were salivating for an extreme event – although they would never admit it.

But for average citizens, why complain instead of counting their blessings?

I suppose they never read the admonition of Ecclesiastes 10:12-14 – “Words from a wise man’s mouth are gracious, but a fool is consumed by his own lips. At the beginning his words are folly; at the end they are wicked madness – and the fool multiplies words.”

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