I’ve been thinking of something truly revolutionary for me: turning off television and radio news. I’m not exactly a news-junkie, but on weekdays I listen to and/or watch news from about 6:30 to 9:00 a.m. and often I’ll supplement that with shows on political commentary for two hours in the evening and Sunday morning talk shows. If there is a such a thing as an information overload or too-much-information syndrome, I may be afflicted.
Call me a stark-raving rationalist, but I don’t do “crazy” well. The political news and what is euphemistically called “debate” (which is more like two ships passing in a very dark night) is enough to make you want to commit yourself to a mental institution just to get a break from insanity.
Part of my syndrome is undoubtedly related to a lack of preparedness for a time when American politicians would cease representing “Americans.” I’ve now realize our country has changed to one of warring factions, like Shias and Shiites, otherwise known as Republicans and Democrats, with some Libertarians and the new kids on the block, Tea-Partiers, thrown in the mix. Like some other governments that I never thought we’d try to emulate, no one can win a majority. Hence, it’s impossible for Congress to do anything without alliances. Now, you might think that Democrats, with a majority of members, would have control of Congress, but that was so yesteryear! Now it takes a super-majority (60 votes in a 100-member Senate) to pass any legislation. And when the other major faction refuses to travel down the alliance or compromise road, nothing gets done. They just plant their feet and say no.
Apparently, they are more comfortable governing by taking positions based on the President’s religious affiliation, his birthplace, death panels, or solving the terrorist anchor baby problem. And, I know I should move on, but I’m still having trouble with the Naysayers’ production of “Terri Schiavo Must Live.” Poor woman. In her darkest hour she acquired her 15 minutes (plus) of fame in front of the entire world. Whatever her wishes might have been in regard to end-of-life decisions, I guarantee you that she DID NOT wish for her poor dying body to be virtually dragged into the U.S. Senate chamber so that her life, her husband, and family, could be dissected piece by piece. That may have been the moment when the terms human dignity and decency were torn out of the political playbook forever.
Even the non-political news makes me want to stop the world and get off: floods, oil spills, earthquakes, plane crashes, bombings in Iraq, and African famine. All of these are events that I have no control over and little way to help. All I do is feel increasingly vulnerable to the fates because, as this all proves, bad things happen to good people.
I remember watching the report about the trapped coal miners in West Virginia. What can one do but sit here and agonize for them? Unless I were to give up my job, I can’t run off to Appalachia and organize for increased mine safety, or protest coal production . . .or even help rescue. All I can do is feel bad for these people . . . and not just those trapped in the mine. After the first day or so, I’m grieving for the plight of all the generations of men tied to these mines and lamenting the human costs associated with coal extraction.
And then there are the Katrina victims in New Orleans, the earthquake victims in Haiti, the floods in Pakistan and the pain around the world that seems beyond human comprehension. When confronted with these realities of our existence how can we not bemoan a world that can be so good, but so cruel and unfair at the same time? As I alternate between survivor’s guilt and gratitude for my survival, I have to wonder if this constant news feed of tragedies du jour is about finding pleasure in the measurement of our own life against another’s tragedy,
And then I wonder, how long do you watch the unfolding of the world’s disasters before we all become inured to the pain and it just becomes entertainment?
In simpler times we heard the news that would get us through the day, that had relevance to us . . . wars, elections, polio outbreaks, etc. Today, there is no discernment of what is important for me to know. If it happens it gets reported. If a child is killed in Minnesota, it might as well be in my back yard.
If I turn off the television and radio news, I won’t give up on print and on-line journalism. There, the information is not thrown in my face . . . I know what’s coming by skimming the headlines and I can choose to look away. Maybe I’m too sensitive for the world this has become, but I value human dignity and privacy too much to think we are justified to “eye-witness news” every reaction of people losing their homes, their loved ones, their ways of life. And I’m pretty sure I value my sanity way too much to hear many more political discussions about what sayeth a ditzy brunette with a rifle, yelling “Reload!” If that doesn’t define insanity, what does?