The best gift I’ve given myself is a news blackout. Yes, this is in opposition to my politics of love…those desires for inclusion, problem-solving, healthcare, respect… you know the ones. They are usually entwined with activism of all sorts. But a news blackout means I sleep better.
I heard Jimmy Carter on the radio, talking about national news coverage. During his presidency, news was a national evening event, covering national and international politics. With the advent of 24-hour news on multiple stations, “news” changed dramatically. Carter pointed out that with the pressures of so much programming, all of the stories covered are elevated to headline status to hook a wide array of viewers day and night. Weather events, ongoing legal battles, celebrity dramas…. Katrina, Zimmerman, Michael Jackson. Notice that they have their own logos specific to the story, perhaps their own intro music, often a designated reporter. Parenting issues are also part of news coverage: family tragedies, drug-resistant illnesses old and new, predators, bad parenting, dangerous trends, the latest drug craze, celebrity teens acting out, this year’s must-have gifts… it seems endless. Engulfing.
All-headlines news coverage seems to be asking us for two things: first judgement, where we side with Miley Cyrus or against her. With Jon-Benet’s parents or against them. Second, fear, where we self-screen our kids for autism, keep them out of the dirt, or fight so they can have the last Cabbage Patch doll in town.
For a high strung gal like me, it’s a recipe for militance. Continue playing in the dirt with a scraped knee? Playdates with school friends I barely know? Walk to the wooded park with the older neighbor kid? The news is on in my head all. the. damned. time. Wait. It WAS. Getting in touch with my inner helicopter pilot means extricating my voice from Dan Rather’s, Diane Sawyer’s, and especially Dr. Phil’s.
I listen to headlines on PBS or BBC, and that is all I need for now. Spend three days without news and tell me what you think. Do you find it easier to focus? Are you more likely to break out in song? Do you suddenly want to go outside with the kids and… play?