Strange though it may seem, there are times when television can provide examples we can use to solve real-world problems.
One such example comes from Sergeant Joe Friday, the square but dedicated star of the radio and television police series, “Dragnet,” played by Jack Webb.
“All we want are the facts” was Friday’s motto in life.
If the conversation ever drifted into superfluous waters, or if a witness or suspect ever tried to burden him with unverifiable information, Friday would politely but firmly bring them back to the point, reminding them that all he and his department wanted were the facts.
Today, we tend to think that we are more sophisticated than Joe Friday and his cronies were half a century ago, but somewhere along the way, many Americans seem to have lost the importance of his simple message.
If people would stick to the facts, it would make it much easier to solve the problems that confront us.
These are challenging times, particularly as we approach the general election in November, but instead of engaging in thoughtful and constructive dialogue about the real issues, many people seem to prefer to sling mud and keep the focus on show rather than substance.
One still hears rumblings about the president not being a citizen, or of his being a Muslim, even though these questions were put to bed long ago.
At the state level, things are not much better.
Not only do people try to twist the truth to cast doubt on their political opponents, some people seem perfectly comfortable abandoning the truth altogether and making up whatever lies suit their purpose.
Even the “leaders” on either extreme of the political scale use little tricks, like suggesting things about their opponents, or implying things that may have no basis in truth, just to score political points.
Perhaps even sadder is that there seems to be a willing audience ready to lap this stuff up like thirsty dogs standing around a toilet bowl.
It seems clear that there are plenty of people who, unlike Joe Friday, do not want the facts.
These people are not interested in the truth, they just want to hear whatever lies anyone cares to tell that will undermine the candidates or groups with whom they disagree.
They do not want solutions to problems. They want to continue to fan the flames of partisan divisiveness.
Not only are they prepared to believe any ridiculous, slanted, or false statement that supports their pet cause, they enthusiastically pass this garbage on to whomever they can.
Every day, my e-mail in box is flooded with messages from political candidates, political parties, and people who support a variety of special interests.
There does not seem to be many positive, constructive messages outlining the senders’ vision for how we can resolve differences or make life better for all of us.
Many are vindictive, spiteful little messages or personal attacks.
Calling people names, or coming up with snide little nicknames to refer to policies with which we disagree is not going to solve any problems.
Acting like a spoiled brat and criticizing others might make some people feel better about themselves temporarily, but it will not result in any real solutions.
There are a few people out there who are making a genuine effort to focus on what is important. These are people who address issues, not innuendo, and create dialogue, not disparagement, and we need more people like them.
We need ethical leaders who will truly lead, and we need an informed citizenry who will say “enough is enough,” and put an end to the games and start acting like adults.
Perhaps it is just a wild fantasy, and maybe the bad habits are too entrenched to change, but the only way for things to get better is for people to take responsibility, not potshots.
One positive way to do this would be to borrow a revolutionary idea from the ultimate regular Joe.
If we want to solve problems and make a difference for the better, the best way for us to start would be to follow Joe Friday’s excellent example by demanding just the facts.