For about as long as I can remember, the front page of every major paper has been covered in crises and negativity, in numbers and names of the dead.
It has been a rough year.
By now, our violence is down to a pattern, and there is a choreography to our reactions.
A killer seeks out a nightclub, a church, an airport, a courthouse, a protest. Someone is shot on video, sometimes by the police, and marchers fill the streets. An attack is carried out in France, America, Turkey, Bangladesh, Lebanon, Tunisia, Nigeria, and then claimed and celebrated by a radical terror group.
Our phones vibrate with news alerts. The talking heads fill air over cable news captions that shout “breaking news” in red. Rumors and misinformation abound. The comments erupt on Twitter, Facebook and news sites.
And then what? We sigh and shake our heads, mutter to our friends about how fucked up the world is, and then turn our attention back to our daily routines. I have always believed in the power of good journalism, but what happens when the message is so constantly negative? Does journalism lose its purpose when the potency of the message is lost?
When I read about the shooting of Alton Sterling, or the hate speech directed at Leslie Jones, the heinously sexist merchandise sold at the RNC, the latest ISIS attack abroad, or Donald Trump’s most recent speech, I feel anger. I feel anger, sadness, frustration, helplessness, anxiety, and guilt. And I am reminded of the Desmond Tutu quote:
If you are neutral in situations of injustice, you have chosen the side of the oppressor.
When thinking about all the violence and injustice in the world makes me feel literally ill, I ask myself: have I done enough? I believe that everyone can make a difference by choosing to lead by example, but how can I do more?
I make a monthly contribution to Hillary Clinton’s presidential campaign. Not because I believe she is perfect, but because I believe that if she is elected, she is capable of doing good for this country. My individual $150 might not make a difference, but I know that I am not alone in making a small contribution, and together our small contributions make a big difference. Likewise, every year I choose to donate to the Michael J. Fox Foundation for Parkinson’s Research, and to the Planned Parenthood Action Fund. As I have limited funds, I choose only to donate to a few causes, and motivation for my donations is very personal.
Sometimes I can’t help it, but I try to avoid daily online media sharing of sensationalized political or social opinions. I personally find oversharing of “current events clickbait” to be annoying and incredibly unhelpful to anyone but the trolls. When I do feel the need to voice an opinion, I try to make it my own via this blog. Sometimes others say it better, but I hope that my Facebook friends read a little more closely and think just a bit harder when the words are coming from someone they personally know, rather than an impersonal link to a video or article whose sole purpose is to go viral and garner as many shares as possible.
I applaud those people out there who are teachers, or activists, or community organizers. Thank you to those who put their time and effort towards charitable causes and bringing about social change. But as for the rest of us…. How do you respond to the news? If you also feel anger, sadness, frustration, helplessness, anxiety, and guilt, what do you do about it?