The world is a mess. There are unavoidable tragedies, criminal tragedies and careless tragedies. Sometimes, they all happen at once. For whatever reason, I am most upset by the Senate's failure to act on gun control and by the carelessness related to other tragedies that appears everywhere online. I want to be informed, but I don't want more anxiety in my already-anxious mind. So, as Mr. Rogers once advised, I look for the helpers.
There are helpers in journalism who inform while providing a hopeful and/or empowering context. Today, The Guardian UK published a piece of fantastic journalism by Soroya Chemaly that covers the rampant misogyny in Facebook, and its apparent naivete about its own role in that cruelty. Many examples couldn't fit in Chemaly's piece, which is chalk-full of them. Last night, MSNBC's Chris Hayes called out CNN not on their untrue reports of an arrest in Boston (mistakes happen), but on their repetition of the adjective “dark-skinned” to describe the suspect:
What exactly that's newsworthy is communicated in that phrase? …
What 'dark-skinned' indicates is 'aha, all you folks who thought it was a bad Muslim who did this, you were right.'
Because, of course, let's be honest, that is the subtext that says all of this.
But our job, our job in the media is not to flatter those knee-jerk presumptions for the sake of momentary titilation, it's to wrestle that to the ground and get the facts right.
Even in “The News” I can find hope—the carelessness that contributes to so much anxiety is tempered by intelligent reporting that calls misogyny and racism by their proper names. Last night, both Chris Hayes and Rachel Maddow interviewed activists drawn to D.C. this week to advocate for gun control because they have personal experience with mass-shootings. It gave me hope to hear from these people, rather than the senators who failed them. This gives me the context I need to avoid blanketed fear and anger, and to focus on facts.
Facts keep my anxiety from spiraling out of control; by repeating to myself what I know to be true, I keep the “what if” thoughts at bay. I have a son. One day, he may be standing in the wrong place, at the wrong time. I can't know whether that will happen, or not. But I do know that he is safe and healthy. Right now, my loved ones are safe and either healthy or in good hands. I am grateful for that. My heart aches for those who have experienced tragedy this week. I feel anger about the carelessness that has hurt so many. These tragedies and that carelessness do not cause equivalent pain; they are simply examples of the mess I see when I look at our world, today, April 18th, 2013. These are examples I can point to, and say, “There is darkness, and here is what I do to turn my mind to the light.”
Tomorrow, the light of my life will be six-months-old. I can focus on the joy in the half-birthday of the beautiful boy I carried and brought into this world. I may have anxiety and depression that requires medication and frequent therapy, but I am also armed with coping skills. I look for the helpers. I repeat the facts. I stop the downward spiral. I turn to the light.