Friday, October 01, 2021

I Read the News Today--Oh Boy



One of my routine activities is reading the news each morning. For many years, that activity involved a newspaper. In the past few decades I’ve been reading news sites online which is not quite the same as sitting down with a paper but it is convenient and gives me access to a wide variety of news sources. The weekday ritual was often sporadic during my work years but Sunday mornings with a big Washington Post or even the Sunday local paper kept the ritual alive. Now that I am retired, I engage daily. I am finding, however, that keeping informed is a less pleasant task these days. I skim headlines to get a sense of what’s happening but often skip going to storie for details. So many of those headlines tell me of events with which I am already familiar and, while the actual article might add something to my understanding, that information is relatively marginal and not worth the time it takes to read. Rather than the typical litany of daily events I much prefer analytical articles that provide context and background for those events.


Part of the problem is that many of the headlines and articles tell me about things I find appalling, distressing and lead me to fear for the future. As an adult I have strongly believed in justice and equality, that all people should have the opportunity to live free and secure lives. At the same time I have always been realistic about the extent to which we flawed human beings can achieve those lofty objectives but I found hope in the progress that had been made. Yet when I read the news these days, it seems not only the progress has been anything but equal and just but also that society is retrograding. Martin Luther King, Jr. once said that “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. I want to believe that to be true but it feels more like the arc is breaking rather than bending.

As a planet, we seem entirely unable to change how we live to avert the devastating effects of climate change. The world has had plenty of warning about the consequences of burning fossil fuels but the developed nations whose prosperous economies poured carbon into the atmosphere are unwilling to rein in their emissions. The world economy depends on continued extraction and at all costs and one of the costs that we seem willing to pay is a radical change in the environment that has supported life as we know it. My country, the United States of America, has become increasingly divided—economically, racially and politically—to the point that the news routinely reports dispossession, poverty and violence. The racial divide that has always plagued American society seems as gaping as ever despite the achievements of the Civil Rights movement. The federal government is increasingly dysfunctional with Congress unable to enact meaningful legislation, a packed Supreme Court and an Executive Branch that has seemingly unlimited power to wage war but can do little to promote economic and social justice here at home.

Maybe what I’m seeing when I read the new is the end of my expectations. Coming of age in the 1960s I had grown up with the legacy of the New Deal which had demonstrated the positive impact of government on the lives of every day Americans (think Social Security, the GI Bill and major infrastructure). I I had seen America moving toward racial justice and broader acceptance of non-traditional ideas. I had hopes of continued progress toward economic and social justice (or at least a reasonable approximation thereof) in my lifetime. 


Call it youthful idealism that was bound to be tempered by experience. But I didn’t expect to be worrying about growing authoritarianism in my country and the world. I didn’t look into the future and see a world with melting polar ice caps and triple digit temperatures in Siberia and British Columbia. I didn’t think that I may be part of the last generation to experience the natural environment that gave rise to and nurtured the world that I knew.

All that comes to mind when I read the news these days. I’m too much of a news junkie to quit but it’s getting to be a difficult pastime.

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