The following are excerpts from the remarks of Laura Flanders, journalist, and host of The Laura Flanders Show, on the occasion of receiving the Women’s Media Center Pat Mitchell Lifetime Achievement Award, October 22 in New York City.
It’s an honor to have my name linked in any way with Pat Mitchell’s, let alone our achievements. What this amazing award has forced me to do is to tie two words together: “Life” and “Time.” Two words that, to me, have always lived in tension.
In my experience, life and time don’t snuggle up. They tussle. Will I harness every last ounce of the first, in the service of whatever I’m gifted of the latter?
A journalist alone on an island—or in their room, or their studio—is not actually able to practice journalism. If there’s ever an achievement in journalism, you can bet your bottom dollar it’s a shared achievement. I share mine with all those who’ve ever trusted me with their stories and their faith.
Amiri Baraka once wrote that:
Luxury is a way of being ignorant comfortably.
An approach to the open market of least information
Where theories can thrive
Under heavy tarpaulins
Without being cracked by ideas.
Our job is to crack that tarpaulin.
Today I’m not ready to bundle up life and time and put them away on a shelf. I can’t help but ask myself and us: Have we done enough to tear back the tarpaulin on the facts, in front of our eyes, that we have allowed lives to be ranked into the valued and the less valued, the precious and the not? Have we reported effectively, yet, on how we have permitted unimaginable luxury and comfort to pile up on the one side, and poison and peril to rain down on the other? And have we given anyone any clear ideas about how might live together differently in happier relationships with each other and planet earth?
That’s what we strive to cover every week on The Laura Flanders Show. I end every episode by asking my guests what story they think the future will tell about today. Recently, when I asked that of 20-year-old Ayisha Siddiqa, she didn’t hesitate. An organizer for Extinction Rebellion whose home flooded was flooded by Hurricane Sandy and whose neighborhood in the Rockaways in New York remains wrecked seven years later, she said it’s a matter of whether there will be one.
“I’m not fighting for freedom,” she said. “I’m fighting for a future.”
To that end, Mary Oliver said that poetry is a life-cherishing force. I’d like to think that journalism is too, or should be. Oliver also said what she thinks of all the time is not her last poem but: “how to have more patience and a wilder will—how to see better and write better.”
That works for me. And it will definitely take a lifetime.