Posted by Linda
Every day the news is full of catastrophic “breaking news.” The stock market is plunging, oil is pulsing into the Gulf, high ups in the White House are offering job bribes, illegal aliens are streaming across our border. It leaves you breathless. “Do something!” our panic genes shout. Sell stock, head for Louisiana and mop up sludge, write the President, do a night shift along the Arizona border.
Breaking news, every day. Trauma TV creates a constant crisis mentality. Maybe we should step out of the line of fire of the breaking news barrage once in awhile and assess. Turn off the TV, leave the house, stroll down to a park, smell the roses (don’t worry, there won’t be any bees — oops breaking news). Sit down on a park bench by a sweet old lady and drift into harmony with the universe.
Now isn’t that better?
Then the little lady turns to you and says, “Is the President a numb chuck or what!? Can’t put a stopper in a oil hole or a pie hole…in bed with BP, ya know. Talking Spanish yet? Ya better step on it. By the time they get the border closed, nobody’ll know what English sounds like. Bought your gold?”
It is hard to escape the breaking news cycle, and bench warmers aren’t the only sages with ready advice. Almost everyone seems to have a firm opinion on everything from macro-economics to underwater drilling strategies. How’s that possible? Does anybody else sniff Oscar Meyer when people wax eloquent on everything?
Why do we do that? Maybe there’s an assumption, driven in part by our innate desire to fix what’s broken and restore order, that we should and could actually know about everything that matters. Friends ask you, “Where to do stand on cap and trade?” Few of us have the nerve to say, “What’s that?” Those of us who instantly visualized a hat swap, sure don’t say that.
We do need solutions to complex dilemmas that face us. Some actions are needed urgently, but we do not need to hear 100 voices, 90% of them uniformed, on each issue.
Becoming informed is not easy, but we want to understand, so we read, watch, and listen to our leaning-preferred media; but 2-minute commentaries, even heard 60 times a day, are still only 2 minutes of content. And even experts can’t lay out much of value about complex issues in 2 or 10 minutes, certainly not enough to create an informed opinion.
If we seriously want to know what to think about important economic, political, and social dilemmas, we have to study, as best we can without paying matriculation fees. We need to read and listen widely to thoughtful commentary from knowledgeable people, preferably in dialog. We need to recognize the difference between statements of fact and opinion no matter the volume. We need to check facts. After that, we may be prepared to hold a tentative opinion. We will also be equipped to act by sharing our information and sources with others, and also sharing our opinions, and naming them that. Finally, we can contact those who can effect solutions and press them to do so.
The breaking crisis may well have crested by then, and ebbed whether or not resolved, and another wave of news will be breaking, with the media beating feet to catch and ride it. What about the unresolved crises? Are they no longer a crisis because something new has arisen? Waves seem to rise and disappear on the beach, but in fact they do not disappear. They are drawn under the surface and out, sometimes with a vengeance, as any of you who have ever been caught in undertow know.
Some of us need to resist the allure of breaking news and remain focused on the deeper problems roiling under the surface. The engorging national debt comes to mind. Who will be accountable? Who will demand accountability? It is exciting to ride a challenging wave; not so a tsunami.