If we are what we watch, then I think that’s what we have become–news freak junkies jonesin’ for the next titillating fix. That, and a nation of obsessively fearful security freaks buying into the notion that we are in control–sadly, Christians buy into that nonsense as readily as the secular.
Though I was very curious as it unfolded, I tried to limit my exposure to the carnage in Boston last week. I called several friends for updates as I knew they were glued to the tube or their radio. I have found that it’s not good for my soul to get too involved with big, unfolding news stories as I tend toward becoming obsessive. Last summer, during the hype of the national election, I decided to stop listening to talk-radio and stop watching the TV news, and within a few days realized I’d made the right decision–my spirits brightened immediately.
The Boston Marathon massacre has become hyperbole stacked upon hyperbole. We now have the fatuous slogan, “Boston Strong.” Gimme a break, if this tragedy had unfolded during the Disney Marathon would we have the slogan “Mickey Strong” or maybe “Don’t mess with the Mouse!” I worry that the whole world is laughing at us for allowing a 19-year old punk with a handgun, and maybe a pipe-bomb, for bringing a major city to a standstill. On an average weekend more kids in Chicago are shot dead than were killed by the terrorists and we go, “ho-hum, business as usual” and nobody outside of the I-294 beltway gives a flip. In July 2005, a series of bombs in downtown London’s public transportation system caused 52 deaths and it didn’t bring that great city to a halt for more than a few hours. But most people there remember the IRA bombings of the 1970s, and some Londoners are old enough to recall the Blitz. They seem to have a certain stoicism that we lack. But I can’t help but place much of the blame on the media for fanning the flames of fear–it brings in viewers and puts bucks in somebody’s pockets.
What we know is that there are four dead victims–three bystanders and a cop, and several dozen more seriously maimed. Several hundred more will suffer with PTSD for the rest of their lives. We know that the folks of greater Boston were inconvenienced for a couple days by being told to stay indoors and off the streets during the manhunt. Unbelievably, I’ve seen some whining in the media about how much economic damage was created by shutting down the city during the drama–economic damage mostly self-inflicted. Anyway, the two perpetrators are done–one dead and one captured, and when the drama ended with the capture of the second there was a flag waving, USA, USA-chanting celebration that rivaled VJ-day in 1945. All the celebration struck me as kind of pathetic–like people with no real deep values grasping for things to feel good about. Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the two Chechen Muslim radicals are finished, but somehow I don’t feel like celebrating. I feel terribly sad for the families that lost loved-ones and folks that lost limbs. But it’s just another brief chapter in a war that, sadly, will go on for decades. The war on terror is truly a war without an end.
More hyperbole: Last week I made the mistake–a relapse, really– of tuning in Glenn Beck for about three minutes–just in time to hear him say in the gravest of tones, “Based on what I’ve learned this week, we are finished as a nation.” Gee, I’ve never heard him say that before–not–well, only about 30 or 40 times. He went on to say if we tuned in Monday he’d give us the full story–conspiracy at the highest level of government. It involved what “insiders” told him about the deportation of a Saudi national the day after the bombings. Because there was so much misinformation and sloppy reporting as events unfolded the inconsistencies in the various scenarios would tend to lend credence to conspiracy theorists.
Our preoccupation with “security” is some of the Bush fear-mongering legacy, but Obama has happily continued and expanded the program with more directives on surveillance and snooping on private citizens and our communication. More and more control of the citizenry has always been part of the “progressive” agenda. The media is happily complicit in this because the more we “know” the more it can generate news copy and video footage for the 24/7 “news” channels–which really offer nothing more than quasi-unscripted reality shows. And every politician with an agenda and every crank with an axe to grind tries to use this tragedy–more gun control, less gun control, more surveillance, immigration reform, tighter borders, etc. Sad, sad, sad!
Maybe I’m being too hard on our country. As my friend Dave said last Monday, “It’s all new territory for us.” He’s right. We’ve been blessed. We’ve only really had two national traumas on our soil: Pearl Harbor and 9/11, in a seventy year span. There are countries where terror bombings are almost a daily occurrence and the casualties number in double and triple digits. I’ve read that many in Israel view terror attacks much like we do auto accidents–just a tragic part of normal every-day life.
So what happens when the TV screens go blank? I fear that when our time of testing comes–perhaps the Great Tribulation of Revelation–we will have become so anxious, so fat, dumb and well-armed that we will know no way to respond except to start shooting each other in misguided attempts at self-preservation. After all, we’ve been conditioned by Hollywood’s post-apocalypse horror shows to expect the worst.
So how shall we now live?