Laughter or tears sometimes spring from an unexpected source. Somewhere between humor and pain is a no-man’s land where feelings mingle, rendering us incapable of defining them. That could be the definition of the daily news that seems to be trying to manipulate our minds and emotions rather than stimulate us to problem-solving activity.
The poet Robert Frost wrote: “I shall laugh the worst laugh I ever laughed,” trying to define the gap that separated a man and a woman at the death of their child. It can be applied to the widening disparity among governments, religions and individuals. The world many of us thought we knew dangles in sight of Eden, but over the abyss, with only one’s point of view determining which is closer.
Not long ago I lingered over the front-page picture of a man sitting cross-legged in the bombed-out rubble of Syria’s civil war. The dull gray of crumbled concrete and the dead brown of spoiled earth surrounded him. The accompanying news article attempted to explain once again the various “-isms” for which they fight. I had one painful thought: There are children who will be born and die without ever seeing the color green.
The first thing to acknowledge is that no single one of us can solve the world’s problems. Accepting that prevents bursting blood vessels while listening to what is perhaps the most biased news reporting in history. Whether it is the Fox channel’s Hannity or CNN’s Anderson Cooper, the reporter’s ego filters through all, coloring every news byte until we feel we are living in one giant, nightmarish reality show — “The Newspersons and their Clones.”
In an article for the June/July National Geographic Traveler, Stephanie Pearson spoke of the Swedish concept of “jantelagen”: “…a foreign concept to Americans…It means never wanting to think you’re something special.” Maybe we see that as a negative, robbing us of our worth or self-esteem. In truth, taking the spotlight off ourselves is the only road to objectivity.
Rather than being reporters, too many newscasters are actors, attempting to build their own images. They use the airwaves to “come out,” challenging the viewers to spar with them, to “let us hear from you,” to “follow us on Twitter,” a medium which brought this remark from the classically trained stage actress Helen Mirren: “…the kind of grumpy, horrible, moldy, old meaningless crap that you read on Twitter” (June/July AARP Magazine).
Watching the so-called news experts’ panels “discuss” issues, we could wonder if anyone — parent, teacher, lover — ever required them to wait their turn or be quiet while others speak. Shouting matches worthy of the Jerry Springer Show may entertain the mindless masses but are not allowing the kind of great, selfless, problem-solving thinking we need.
Minimizing distractions and putting things in the context of the bigger picture, time management concepts, could help free us from the no-man’s land the daily news has become. The sad reality is that we are reaping what the majority sowed and want. Until times change, for better or worse, compassion demands we “rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep” (Romans 12:15), regardless of how their news presents itself.
Finding truth requires the right starting point. That is the quest of this column. If we seek simple truth, we can find it together—side-by-side.
Linda M. Downing is a freelance writer. Contact her at lindadowning.com.