This morning my husband asked me, “Why do you even watch the news?” We had been discussing how the world seems to be breaking down into insanity and inhumanity all around us. We were both feeling a little beat up, what with the shootings, the school lockdowns, the immigrant emergencies, the rising sea levels and wars and famines.
“Why?” , he asked me. “Why put yourself through the stress of watching?”
For a moment or two, I wasn’t sure how to respond. Why do I watch the headlines at the top of every hour? Why do I read the Washington Post and the New York Times and the Boston Globe? Why check the AP Newswire more than once a day?
I wondered for a minute. I thought about it.
And then I realized why I watch the news. Why I read it, and listen to it, and try to make sense of it all.
THIS is why I watch the news. I watch because I am a voter. I am responsible. I am one of the millions of people who vote for Senators and Congressmen and Presidents who decide whether or not to go to war in far off lands. I am one of the people who is represented by the people who choose when to drop the bombs, when to send in the troops, when to impose sanctions that cause starvation and disease. I am one of the people in this land of freedom who has a voice. I can use that voice to demand change, to ask for peace, to decry the actions of the leaders to have chosen cheap oil over human life.
This little tiny baby, this desperate Syrian family, reflects on all of us. I watch because I can’t turn away from the images of dead children.
I watch the news because public schools around this country are trying to figure out how to keep children safe in the face of uncontrolled gun violence. I watch and I listen and I think because I am a voter. I am responsible. I can check on the voting records of those who want my support for their various candidacies. Before I cast any vote, I can make absolutely sure that every man or woman who gets my support has at the very best a D- rating from the money mad lobby of the NRA.
Why do I watch the news, when I would so much prefer to water my flowers and cuddle my doggies and read some mindless fiction?
I do it because I can.
I have a safe place to live, enough to eat, warm clothes for the winter. I live in a country that lets me express my opinions in many ways. I am free to vote for whomever I chose.
Those freedoms mean that I feel obligated to watch the news. What happens in Somalia, in Syria, in Hungary, in Calais, in New Orleans, happens in my world. Every starved, sickened, drowned, murdered child lies heavy on my conscience.
I believe that living in the United States means that I have a moral obligation to watch the news. I believe that I have the same obligation to think and observe and study before I cast my vote. I believe, most of all, that as one of the incredibly lucky chosen few who was born into the American Middle Class, I have a profound obligation to speak my mind, to protest when it is necessary, to take action when I can.
Little Aylan, and his 5 year old brother and his desperate mom, are all victims of world events over which they had no control. They all lie heavy on my conscience.
I watch the news because it would be far to easy to simply look away.