You never stop learning

Posted on June 21, 2017by johnnymaraca

One of Elvis Presley’s early tunes, on Sun Records, was Good Rockin’ Tonight, which had been done in the late ’40s by two rock and roll pioneers, Roy Brown and Wynonie Harris.

Have you heard the news?

The musical answer was, there’s good rockin’ tonight but in general terms the response today is often people don’t want to know, couldn’t be bothered to find out or mistrust every reporter, editor and publisher on earth…you know…the “mainstream media.”

We lost my Dad, Joseph O’Mara, over a decade ago. We looked everywhere. And my father, who loved the clever, sarcastic works of Oscar Wilde, would have appreciated that joke. He was fond of telling and retelling the tale of a man…not sure if it was a relative or just someone in his Manchester neighbourhood…who informed his wife that he was going out for cigarettes.

And never returned.

Not a nice thing to do but who knows, maybe they all lived happily ever after. But…”I’m just going out for cigarettes.”

“Okay, dear.”

Father’s Day has passed and it made me think of what my Dad instilled in me. Curiosity. The desire to know and understand things. To never stop learning.

The O’Maras in Scarborough, late ’60s

Dad subscribed to Newsweek and while he celebrated his Irish roots far more than his English upbringing, he did take pride in the newspaper produced in Manchester. Still one of the world’s finest, The Guardian. He also watched the MacNeill-Lehrer report on PBS, and Mom stil watches the news on that station.

HELLO, GONZO!

And, when I was a journalism student, and Dad had passed on buying the new family car that I fancied (too sporty), his consolation gift to me was a copy of Hunter S. Thompson’s collection, The Great Shark Hunt.

So, the end result has been, I want to know things. Sure, in the Facebook and Twitter world it’s so convenient to repost stories we haven’t even read and add a comment of “OMG, check this out!” So easy to hear things, like Trump does (stop hearing things, Orange Man, and read…oh, what am I thinking? He’s too busy winning and living the life we’ll never come to close to seeing, playing golf and making Robin Leach’s caviar dreams seem pale by comparison).

I get it. We have jobs, bills to pay, kids to feed. In my case, a cockatiel named Ringo.

Who has time to read a newspaper or magazine piece, let alone a book? And they’re so biased, aren’t they? Twisting people’s words and making stories up, pushing their own agendas.

FAKE NEWS…UH HUH

No, most of them aren’t. Give your head a fucking shake. Fox News is opinions. Newspapers and major magazines, whether left or right leaning or somewhere in the middle, enploy reporters who actually talk to their sources. That’s followed up by fact checkers, corroboration and more fact checking and even more corroboration. Read Robyn Doolittle’s book about Rob Ford and you’ll know the time and effort it takes to get the story.

To get the story right. Do they get it wrong? Occasionally. Do they invent stories to win awards? Sometimes. But those are the exceptions. It’s human nature. In all walks of life, people lie and cheat.

So, a salute to everyone that wants to discover the truth and isn’t satisfied with second or third-and coffee shop ramblings and is always ready to call bullshit. Hunter S. Thompson. Woodward and Bernstein. HL Mencken. Matt Taibbi. Tabatha Southey. Newsweek, Rolling Stone, The New York Times, The Toronto Star, The Washington Post (I subscribe to it) and, if you think I’m only mentioning big or small L liberal publications, I also get MacLeans, which is regarded as conservative.

NOT EVERYONE WITH OPPOSING VIEWS IS AN IDIOT (OKAY, SOME ARE)

And a challenge.

Try to find a writer on the other side that makes you reconsider your views so you can experience shades of grey instead of black and white. Most won’t. It’s so easy to follow and repost articles that reinforce your opinions. David Frum (son of Canadian broadcasting legend Barbara Frum) was a speechwriter for George W. Bush. I’m liberal leaning but I enjoy David’s pieces for The Atlantic.

And thanks to my Dad (that’s us in Florida in the mid-’70s) for encouraging me to keep learning. In 2007, because he read Newsweek and watched PBS, my father was following the career of a young senator from Illinois and, a year later, wasn’t surprised when Barack Obama defeated Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries and went on to become President of the United States.

Hillary had it in the bag. Hmm, that sounds familiar.

I am still learning, still curious, and still calling bullshit when I see it, and I always will.