Michael and I noticed a while back that the news media seems to thrive on fear and alarm. "Something terrible has happened, news at eleven!" and for the rest of the oatmeal-flavored drama we were watching before that we wondered, gosh, what happened? Even my good old standard "Good Morning America" with it's well-groomed familiar faces will run segments on "poisons in your food" or "ways to protect your family from home invasion or pesticides or microwaves or whatever." I started thinking that maybe keeping us in a state of fear and readiness for disaster was a deliberate thing that they were doing, and started pondering why.
Right after 9/11 there were the colored alert levels. I remember one day we were on Orange. How alert must one be to comply with that color? Should I be crouched under a piece of sturdy furniture? Ready to duck at any time? Just not making travel plans? How alert is Orange anyway? The one time I remember them upping the ante to RED status I said out loud "The only way I can be any more alert is to throw myself screaming onto the floor and freak out!" Thank God the regular color updates have seemed to calm down, I don't know how to relate color to fear.
Now that Bush is gone to the glue factory I still notice that the news is still at it. All the presidential messages seem to be words of hope and progress, but the news itself is still full of dire warnings. I didn't let Molly go to school for days when Swine Flue, later called H1N1 Virus became the disease du jour. Really though, the news is fear, disaster, dead toddlers in a mass shooting, words about government people whose names I no longer have memorized, who's been secretly gay all this time, or who's having an affair while they're supposed to be governing a state. I always feel a bit dirty yet better informed after watching.
In the last few weeks I've done something that I never thought I'd do. I turned the TV off, and the music on. I've always listened to music, but only in between bouts of TV. Turning on the TV was the first thing I did when I woke up, or walked into the house. There might be something I really needed to know, some developing situation I needed to keep up on. Some new name in the administration I needed to memorize, some outgoing cabinet member I needed to know about and why they were leaving. Some disaster either near or far, something to watch out for. I turned it off.
I have some friends here on FaceBook that are well known publicly, who write only political commentary, and I am rapidly losing touch with what the hell they're talking about. I used to feel very smart, knowing immediately the names and situations that the intelligent people were discussing. Oh, the hours I've spent debating with my Big Daddy about current issues, I would be completely unprepared to enter into one of those contests these days, I am becoming unaware. It alarms me on some level that is off to the side and down a few levels, what if there's something I really need to know about and I'm missing it? I'm starting to believe that there always has been, but the things the media chooses to report are a smoke-screen to keep me busy being afraid of inconsequential little things so I never take the time to think about the larger things that are truly frightening. The sad truth is that I have absolutely no control over any of these things, either large or small.
What about genetically engineering the food supply? It's not on the news, but it's happening. What about the Federal Reserve and the way they print money that didn't really exist in the first place and then use it to create more debt that none of us will ever be able to get out from under? That's happening too. So many things are really happening and deserve my attention while being outside my sphere of influence, and none of them are on the news.
I turned off the TV to see what would happen. I'm writing more, making more art. I'm trying to lower my stress level to see if it helps with my headache. I feel less fearful for the country and have a smaller and possibly more manageable fear for myself and my family. It's an experiment, but I find that I'm not missing Diane Sawyer and Contessa Brewer, CNN and MSNBC as much as I thought I would. I would still like to put a pillow over Nancy Grace's face and hold it till she stops struggling, but that's just on general principles.
What we do watch is the Science Channel and the History Channel. There are a lot of things there that I find interesting, whether they are speculation or not. The History Channel over-does it a bit with the God VS the Devil stuff, I refuse to consider Christian theology as history, but hey, the remote is in my hand, I can flip. The Science Channel so far is my favorite. Speculation about what that star did thirteen billion years ago is not current, but it doesn't raise my blood pressure. I have learned not to let Michael hold the remote, or we'll end up watching two movies at once by flipping between them. He loves Star Trek and the Terminator, and I'm sorry, but NO. If neither of those are on he'll just flip every twenty-two seconds or so, endlessly. This makes me build a rage that I am unaware of until it explodes and I yell at him to "just pick something dammit!" and by "pick something" I don't mean some stupid old movie that's halfway through anyway. Do you see why we're better off without TV?
What has begun as an experiment may just become a way of life. Here's the thing though: Part of my self-image is that I am an incredibly well-informed person who can discuss current events with ease, and possibly stay one step ahead of any conversational partner. What would it mean to give that up for good? Feeling superior is one of my greatest loves and character defects, I have a deep and abiding need to feel smarter than anyone I'm talking to. Not that I flaunt that like a big obnoxious know-it-all, I just quietly think "Yep, I'm smarter than you are." What if this means I'll have to give that up? Who will I be then? Will I be able to maintain that secret personal edge by having read more books than almost anyone? Do I even need to feel that way at all? For the moment, yes. Otherwise I might just become another one of the sheep, and that would be like dying but still walking around. Smart and funny, a theme I return to repeatedly, it's always been my one beloved asset, I've left the rest for the pretty and thin girls, and we all know what happens to them at fifty or sixty don't we?
I'm like a butterfly, wings still damp and emerging from my chrysalis, what color will I be? I hope it's not the Orange or red of high alert, I've had enough of that.