I've been worried about myself this week. A little worried about how indifferent I've become to hearing horrifying news. I'm too used to clicking over to Yahoo throughout the day and reading headlines like, "150 killed in Baghdad explosion" right underneath, "Will Sanjaya Whatshisface get the boot tonight?"
Just checked Yahoo.
"Iraqis bury victims from deadly attacks"
"Lisa Rinna to replace Joan Rivers on red carpet"
And then I think, God, Iraq is hell on earth. Didn't know Joan Rivers was still around. Then I click away.
On Monday, when I saw the headline about the shootings at Virginia Tech, I thought about it the same way. Which is to say, I didn't think about it all that much. I don't remember what non-story was also included in the list of headlines. Probably something about John Edwards getting a haircut.
Oh God, another horrifying school shooting. John Edwards is so young looking. Wonder how his wife's doing?
When I turned on MSNBC Monday night, Tucker Carlson was asking one of the VA Tech students something like, "I know this is just pure speculation, but why do you think he did this?" And I thought, what kind of question is that? And then I thought, this kid is probably in shock, stop asking him stupid questions. And then I thought, I hate cable news. And then I turned the TV off and started reading Anne Lamott's new book, Grace (Eventually).
Why am I so indifferent to tragedy lately? I can't figure out if I'm getting too much information or not enough. I'm either getting too many meaningless sound bites or too much psychobabble. And because of that combination, I'm just checking out. But, I finally read something this morning that gives me a glimmer of hope that maybe my heart is not entirely turning to stone.
I don’t know what’s happening to me, but it seems like the bad news of any given day can always be made worse by the coverage of the bad news. I turned on CNN in search of a succinct here’s-what-we-know summation, and found Paula Zahn wondering “what sort of counseling students will need” to process their feelings. On the blogs, the usual yapping about guns — hey, let’s arm everyone! Then this will never happen again! (Advice: Move to Detroit, where that’s pretty much the case, and see how well it works. A woman shot at the tires of a truck she thought was tailgating her, and recently said she thought it was entirely justified.)
I’m confining my reading on this story to one or two excellent newspapers. I solemnly promise to avert my eyes from any chin-scratching columnists seeking to explain it all to me, to keep the TV turned off, to change to the hip-hop station if I hear Daniel Schorr rumbling to life on the subject on NPR. On this story as on no other, all I want are facts. I’ll handle my own analysis.
You want to know who finally said something last night that made me feel human again? Jon Stewart, genius. He launched his show by saying something about the day’s awful events, not frowning, just speaking honestly. And then he said something like, “But I’m not going to dwell on this tonight. I’m going to do what I always do. I’m going to repress it, try to forget about it, not think of it at all. And then, in 40 years, someone’s going to spill some juice, and I will explode.” How deft. Acknowledgment, rueful joke, sidestep, and not a patronizing note in the whole thing.
...all I want are facts. I’ll handle my own analysis. Yep, just the facts would be great. And I completely understand Nancy's thought on feeling human again because of Jon Stewart's quote. And not to nitpick Nancy Nall, but here's the actual quote:
Today is a horrible, horrible day. I have absolutely nothing to add that is insightful or anything. I will just do what I always do when faced with something that is that powerfully damaging to the emotional core: I will begin to repress it and I will swallow it and I imagine that thirty years from now someone will spill juice and I will freak the fuck out. - Jon Stewart, 04/16/07
How deft is right. It's the best thing I read all week.
I'm so tired of meaningless sound bites and everyone's psychobabble. I need to find out which one or two excellent newspapers will provide me with the facts I need so I can handle my own analysis. Or someone's going to force me to go in for analysis when that juice is spilled 30 years from now.