It was on this day in 1989 that the U.S. and the Soviet Union came to terms on ending the Cold War. It happened off the coast of Malta, where President George Bush and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev were meeting — and it culminated with statements by both leaders signaling the end alas.
President Bush was picking up where Ronald Reagan had left off when he came to terms on the issue of arms control, to which both nations were willing to agree.
For his part, Gorbachev wanted desperately to move on from the hostilities so he could spend more time and resources pursuing his domestic reform agenda.
The U.S. media coverage of the vicious and undeniably newsworthy Paris attack has dwarfed the coverage of the Russian plane shot down by ISIS, the attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the daily carnage in places like San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
But what made the end of the Cold War possible wasn’t so much about arms controls or domestic agendas as much as it was about honesty and acceptance, because the Cold War was more than anything else about fear, a mutual fear that was at times neither rational nor honest. And it wasn’t until the U.S. media and the people of both the United States and Soviet Union were willing to courageously and honestly put aside that fear that both countries were able to move forward.
Essentially, the Cold War ended because we wanted it to end.
Compare that to today in our battle with ISIS, and what we see and hear is an entirely different scenario. While Americans in 1989 were willing to begin to put away their fears, Americans today seem to approach all matters relating to our dealings in the Middle East with an immovable foundation of dread.
It’s a fear that is unfortunately being stoked both in our media and in our politics. It is why two weeks into the tragedy in Paris, TV news presenters are still there live reporting breathlessly about “the next attack.” Viewers are not allowed to move on, nor are they provided perspective.
Perspective is about facts. It’s also about contrast and comparison. The U.S. media coverage of the vicious and undeniably newsworthy Paris attack has dwarfed the coverage of the Russian plane shot down by ISIS, the attacks by Boko Haram in Nigeria, and the daily carnage in places like San Pedro Sula, Honduras.
American media consumers are denied perspective and facts like these: almost 100 more people were killed in the plane shot down over Egypt than were murdered in Paris; Boko Haram has killed more people than ISIS; and San Pedro Sula is the most dangerous city in the world, a place where women and children are slain daily by the cartels who produce the drugs that are generally consumed in the U.S.
We seem to be told that those news stories shouldn’t scare us as much as ISIS, but they should. Each should provide us with the perspective to help us understand that dealing with a dangerous world involves more than fear, because all lives matter.
On this day in 1989, rationality and honesty won out over irrationality and fear. Can the media and our politicians allow us to look beyond the bogeyman under our bed? Can we muster that same level of comparative, sober rationality again? I pray we can, because we must.