As a little girl, at about 7:30 a.m. in the morning, I’d open the front door, crack the screen to peer outside and determine if the newspaper had landed on our driveway. Listening, reading and watching the news constituted an important part of our daily lives and every morning, I watched as my father and mother passed the pages of the paper back and forth dissecting the front page, the coupon section or the business guides. I hopped into the news too – grabbing the comics, Beetle Bailey, Blondie, Garfield and the Love Is cartoons garnering my attention. On the weekends, I loved scouring the Target circular or reading the weekend morning profiles in the USA Today glossy color pages. We would spend entire Sunday mornings sinking into the news.
In the car, my father preset his dial to talk radio or one of the other news stations, while at home watching Dan Rather and Walter Cronkite were a must during the evenings. At 5:30 p.m. all of us came to heed the call of the nightly news with my father asking that my mother keep the blender noise to a minimum, as well as warning my sister and me not to make too much noise when we crossed the living room. At night, I could hear my father reading a few passages out of the paper to make certain my mother didn’t miss a story. He’d say, “You have to listen to this. It’s important.” The external world, the political climate, the stories which captured much of the world and nation acted as a compass for family discussions.
In graduate school when I couldn’t sleep at night I often tuned into the news. It’s funny what acts as a lullaby – it reminded me of home and my family and the comfort of engaging in a routine I shared with my mother, father and sister. Connecting with the news seemed like a luxury ten or twenty years ago – today, with a click on our mobile devices we are able to access current events instantaneously. News pulses everywhere, even when you aren’t looking for it. Skimming through profiles on Facebook, pop culture updates might come up on the side bar or news of a terrorist attack. The stream never stops.
This past weekend I did tune into the coverage of the Paris attacks. All of it horrific. The darkness is so consuming sometimes it is futile to even attempt to make any sense of it. Because I don’t think we can. After a few minutes of watching some of the headlines, I became aware of my daughter walking into the living room. She has studied the Eiffel Tower and has expressed interest in traveling abroad to both Paris and London. She’s at the age where she is learning about the sadness, melancholy and terror of the world. Last week she mentioned concentration camps and slavery as subjects which were discussed as a part of a social studies review. When she brought it up, the tilt of her awareness drew a gasp from me. I know this knowledge will lead her to explore the importance of sadness and joy and the pendulum between the two – something I often try to grapple with in my writing.
I surprised myself. I turned off the news. I knew what happened and I wasn’t ready to delve into the world of terrorism and the complicated layers of explaining atrocities I will never understand. But I realized this wasn’t the first time I started ignoring the news. We don’t tune in to the 5:30 p.m. nightly news or rush to the driveway to gather the paper – news doesn’t hold the same allure as it once did, sitting in my childhood living room. It’s the accessibility, the tempo of it and yes, the melancholy of learning about such sadness in the world – and knowing there is very little I am able to do about it.
Ignoring the news certainly doesn’t mean I am unaware of it, but I am choosing to siphon it in a way which makes sense for me and my daughter. Grappling between sorrow and happiness means learning to let go in unexpected ways.
Image: Newspapers B&W (4) by Jon S via Flickr