Charles Adler Monologue January 10/2013
On the community’s response to a rut of a week.
Ladies and Gentlemen
I have this week tried to the best of my ability to patiently listen to everyone calling in and emailing and tweeting.
I have tried this week to be the kind of host who when confronted with a public emergency, allows the public as much access as possible to voice their frustrations, their anger, their sympathy toward their fellow Winnipeggers, their contempt for some of their fellow Winnipeggers, especially those who are abusing their power by making poor decisions and then delivering not an apology, but a spin job.
Based on the amount of response in volume and substance, I think we did as good a job humanly possible to have every point of view represented. I appreciated the notes I got from you, on how we did our job on this show and on this radio station. Some of you seemed to be genuinely surprised that I was willing to hear so many voices, genuinely surprised at how tolerant I was with people who may have had views that I might not have agreed with, and surprised that I wasn’t only engaging people who were the most eloquent in the community. I received lots of email from people saying ‘Charles you were a pleasant surprise this week – You had a choice to go ugly on a lot of people who called in and you holstered it. You showed us something we haven’t seen in a long time’.
I have been seen by some as too partisan, too opinionated, too interested in the sound of my own voice and not the voices of the common people, ordinary people, real people. I have been hearing that for many years. I never hear that during emergencies. I never hear it during floods or blizzards, during what we had this week, and I never heard it during 9/11 and the days that followed. When the big stuff happens, I suddenly seem to people not to be a Pompous Right Wing Bully. Real human events, important events, bring out my humanity.
There is an old Hungarian expression that my dad used to use in the days when I was just a boy. Loosely translated from the original it goes something like this: “when everyone tells you your drunk, it’s time to sit down”. You sit me down on a regular basis and you really do sit me down when the stuff really hits the fan, and lives are lost or at risk of being lost. And please let’s not kid ourselves, we got really lucky in the last ten days. This event that we have experienced could have resulted in many serious injuries and deaths. You don’t have to take it from me. You can take it from the drivers telling me how close they came to killing people in oncoming traffic in bus shelters on sidewalks at bus stops. You can take it from the firefighters and paramedics who told me how much longer it took to get to where they needed to go, and so this community in many ways didn’t just dodge a bullet -it dodged a bomb.
The people running this community rolled the dice and lost when they chose to keep the hardware in the garage for too long. It wasn’t about lack of knowledge, lack of a crystal ball, which is how the spin went in the last few days. It was about bean counting. The bean counters were running the show until the people in the seats started to throw tomatoes at them and then they unleashed the power of the plows and the plow drivers and the truck drivers. But until you put the pile driver to their heads, through this radio show and this radio station, it wasn’t happening.
The political leadership of this community, led by a gambler, gambled on your safety. They lost. We lost. But the losses could have been much deeper. I will never forget the decisions made by our top decision makers at the end of 2013, and I know that I as a resident of Winnipeg, am at the end of my rope with Arizona Katz, with Yugo Swandel and some others. And when I say I am at the end of my rope, I know that I am not just speaking for myself, even though the critics will say that is just one blow hard’s opinion. No, I am speaking for the overwhelming majority of you who have contacted me. This wasn’t a political choir that contacted me. I didn’t ask whether your politics were right wing or left wing, whether you worshipped at a church, a temple, a mosque or at all, the colour of your skin, the colour of your politics, the colour of your bank balance. I just didn’t care. And guess what, regardless of what you may have been told by others or what you have been told by others, I don’t care.
On the things that matter most, I care about your heart. I want to know what you are feeling about the story, the event, and the issues that really matter. The only reason for us to be here every day is that we as a community need to be connected with each other. We are not 700 thousand islands. We are connected. Stories like this public safety emergency have shown us how dependent we are on each other. And so this show is designed to have you feel connected, by hearing the voices of your fellow Winnipeggers. Hearing the voices of the governed and the voices of those who govern us. This show when it’s firing on all cylinders is a series of word pictures of democracy. Democracy, the messiest form of government there is. Democracy is herding cats. Autocracy is much easier – there is one dictator and he has a security force that ensures that all communication leaves out all criticism of the dictator and his actions, a security force that censors dissent, and imprisons and exiles and executes dissenters. I am in this country at this microphone because I was brought here by two people who did not want me to grow up in an autocracy in a dictatorship. These two people had lost so many so people in their families to war, to famine, to holocaust, that they felt that their two-year old son, who was a mouthy little baby, was never going to survive a dictatorship. And so now I am here, and I am here to tell you that no matter how messy democracy is, I love her like a mother.
Democracy is the mother of creativity, of community, of friendship.
How do you exercise creativity? How do you offer the best of yourself, which means taking a risk on your own thoughts, your own ideas, when you’re afraid that your thoughts and ideas are out of sync with what he dictator wants you to say? How do you trust members of your community when you live in one where your neighbours can be rewarded by the dictator for dropping the dime on you, for ratting you out, and not because you killed somebody or stole from somebody or hurt their child. No, I am talking about being rewarded for turning in because you dared to be an individual and express yourself and you made the mistake of having an opinion that was different from that of the dictator.
Friendship. Democracy is the mother of friendship. When people say to me ‘why Winnipeg? why Winnipeg?’, my answer is no different than thousands and thousands of others who choose to be here. Friendship. Friends you make in Winnipeg you make for life. Friendship matters. In the end nothing else does.
In the last few weeks how did we endure this public safety emergency? Through friendship. We talked to our friends, had coffee with our friends, face to face and on Facebook and on CJOB. No radio station I have ever worked with was as connected to a community as this one. But that has to do more with the community than it does with the radio business. This radio station is rockin’ when it’s connecting with who we as a community really are. When it mirrors the best of us, the worst of us, and the real us, that’s when this radio station feels like your very special friend for life. As far as I am concerned, the great thing about the last few days is that you showed me, and through me you showed yourselves, that we are a vital democracy. Alive and well.
We count on each other and we are supported by our friends and we are allowed to ask good questions and not so good questions. We are allowed to make mistakes, to fall down occasionally, knowing that a friend, a neighbour, a person who you never knew is willing to help you not because of how you vote or where you worship or if you worship, but because you are a human being. Why do I love doing what I do here with you every day? Because you impose on me through your loyalty, your feedback, your opinions, you motivate me to be the best human being I can be. And so I cannot thank you enough, I cannot be grateful enough for your trust and your friendship. I say this on behalf of the hundreds of thousands who listen to CJOB every week and are proud to be who they are and to be living where they are.
Thank you for being my friend.