An Obituary for the Free Press
George F. Regas
I was Tony’s pastor here at All Saints church for a number of years. On Easter eve, April 15, 1995, I baptized Tony. It was my last baptism before I retired two weeks later.
From the depth of my spirit, I want to give thanks to God for Tony’s life — for those 74 years he walked across this earth and blessed it in ways that will last forever.
First, I want to say a few words about the world of media.
Although newspapers are struggling economically, newspapers are still the dominant media of our day.
This force, the media, is a force that cuts deep to the foundation of democracy.
The forum, the free market of ideas, the public discussion and debate were considered central to the operation of our democracy in America’s earliest decades. “We The People,” made it clear where the ultimate authority lay.
Today, the free marketplace of ideas is under sustained attack. It is permeated with slogans concocted by big corporations, ideological interest groups and their lobbyists and their think-tank subsidiaries. Bill Moyers writes, “They have even managed to turn the escalation of a failed war into a ‘surge,’ as if it were a current of electricity through a wire, instead of blood spurting from the ruptured vein of a soldier.'”
On the issue of the Iraq War, the media failed us. The watchdog group, FAIR, found during the three weeks leading up to the American invasion of Iraq — only 3% of U.S. sources on the evening news of ABC, CBS, NBC, CNN, FOX and PBS — only 3% expressed skeptical opinions of the impending war. Is there any wonder why two years after the tragedy of 9/11 almost 70% of the public still thought it was likely that Saddam Hussein was personally involved in the terrorists’ attacks that day?
There are some great, courageous reporters today, but it is utterly astounding how so many reporters have said that it never occurred to them that high officials of government would manipulate intelligence to go to war.
The truth lies where facts are hidden and great news people dig for them. They know media should be a sanctuary for dissent.
The media must, they absolutely must get alternative content out to the people, or this great country is going to die of too many lies.
Tony Day brought to the Los Angeles Times a brilliant, searching, courageous mind. From his beginning days at the Times in 1968, he turned the searchlight of truth on the carnage in Vietnam. His reporting days in Vietnam had seared his soul, and he was convinced the U.S. should end the war. Many of us will never forget how, on June 7, 1970, Tony Day’s editorial appeared under the headline: “Get Out of Vietnam Now.”
How desperately we need leaders in media today who, like Tony Day, have the courage and brilliance to speak truth to power, who are willing to put their face to the wind and move against the power structures that impede justice and peace. Tony stood in the midst of great uncertainties, powerful corporate forces, and he pointed us to peace.
This newspaper leader will never be forgotten. In a world so soiled with moral ambiguity, so much blatant dishonesty, so much callousness before the anguish of human need — a good man with integrity is a magnificent offering to the world.
Standing right here in the chancel, I baptized Tony at age 62. We had a challenging, beautiful journey together as Tony made the decision to formalize his Christian commitment in Baptism.
Many of us knew Tony as a tough agnostic. Just as he tried to deal honestly with complexities, uncertainties and doubts in life as a reporter and editor, so too in his spiritual journey, he had to come to terms with so many troubling doubts.
He had his doubts about so many dimensions of Christianity. With the tragic death of his daughter, Julie, he was troubled by many aspects of a religious commitment. Death is the most crowded highway in the world, for we all travel it. What is eternal life all about? So many questions. But we all do.
What Tony, and so many of us, finally came to terms with is that the Christian life is not about certainties. It is about our struggles with doubt. It is about trust — trust in the goodness of Creation, and the goodness and mercy of the Creator.
With so much religious fundamentalism here and throughout the world — many think skepticism and doubt disqualify us from full Christian life.
Don’t believe it. The noblest faith comes out of struggle. A faith that has no doubts and refuses honest questions has little strength. No one really possesses vital faith without fighting for it. That was Tony’s story.
The desire for certainty is deep in us. Resist it. It is the corruption of religion.
A life-giving religion is probing, questioning, believing. At the deepest levels, doubt walks hand in hand with belief.
I love what Rollo May wrote: “The most creative people neither ignore doubt nor are paralyzed by it. They explore it, admit it and act despite it. Commitment is healthiest when it is not without doubt but in spite of it.”
That’s the spiritual life I saw in Tony Day.
God has taken Tony home and he dwells in eternity with God. There he stands, tall and healthy, breathing free — standing arm in arm with his beloved Julie and all he loved and had lost in death.
Into the mansions of eternity, we have committed the very finest of human life. Lucky heaven!Wait, before you go…
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