Turning down the news and looking elsewhere by Marjorie Arons Barron

The entry below is being cross posted from Marjorie Arons Barron’s own blog.

If you think today’s headlines are bad, you’re right.  We’re dogged by the apparent philosophy of those in my lifelong profession: bad news is good news, and good news is no news at all.

Just consider a few of the all-too-real headlines in my morning email on April Fool’s Day: World Central Kitchen suspends aid after seven workers killed in Gaza; Iran threatens Israel for Embassy bombing in Syria; Florida court upholds one of nation’s strictest abortion laws; Canton’s police chief cited after she struck pedestrian with SUV; Police note spike in anti-Israel and anti-Semitic hate crimes (nine in the last three weeks in my home town); Trump’s 5-step fascist plan; Russian defector’s killing raises specter of hit squads. It’s all too much.  And it’s not any better if you get news from other media, which reinforce the assault with graphic pictures to show the horrors of the day. Network anchors use the same pictures over and over to tease disturbing stories before airing them in their entirety. The products, especially in social media, are designed to appeal more to our emotions than our rational thought.

As a person whose whole career has been in the news business, first in straight reporting and then in decades of editorializing, I have come to loathe The News. And yet I consume it religiously. If Trump is reelected, I fear the constant anxiety. I shudder remembering how, during his Presidency, I’d feel compelled to check every morning to learn what he had done overnight. My wrenching responses were intellectual, emotional and physical.

We need to wean ourselves off the steady diet of news, turn off our iphones, computers, TVs and radios more. Hit the delete button on toxic emails. There’s no prize for being the first to hear something.  The news media still haven’t figured out how to cover the former President. Donald Trump’s strategy is to overwhelm us.  To drown us in his outrageous output. Letting him dominate our lives is sickeningly stressful.  But cutting back on news consumption – and, for me, writing it – doesn’t mean total abstinence. We still need the knowledge to fulfill our responsibilities as citizens and members of society.  I need a balance, call it seeking the Aristotelian mean or what Camus called “measure” (if I recall my long-ago studies correctly). And modifying our habits is hard.

It’s going to be a long, ugly campaign, and, in coming blogs, I will deal with the Biden campaign and the the existential nightmare a second Trump term would present. For now though, I just want to dilute the daily assault of the headlines.

I hear from many of you that you feel the same way. We need to cling to the small things, the passive pleasures. For me, it’s as simple as turning to my slowly-greening garden, seeing the hyacinths bursting into blossoms, along with a cherry tree and early azalea out front.  The marsh hay has come off the roses, and they are starting to leaf out.

As for active diversions, let’s enjoy our families. Stay in touch with old friends. Make new ones. Do something nice for someone unexpectedly. Take care of ourselves. Sappy? Maybe. If you have better coping alternatives, please post them in the comments section.

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