Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Am I Obsessed?

As FlapJilly eats flapjacks, sitting between her Daddy and her Gramma at the table, I have time to contemplate Little Cuter's morning rant.

My little girl turned on the car radio and was appalled to find MSNBC emanating from her speakers. Her NO! accompanied a quick flick of the wrist and a turning of the dial to the music of her teenage years.  Yes, she reminded me, Usher was at the Christmas concert with Pink and Boyz 2 Men, the one where my last minute ticket was closer to the stage than the seats she and her girlfriend had purchased months before.  Yes, that was a rude outcome to my offer to drive the kids to the San Jose Arena but that's not the point.  Wouldn't I rather listen to music than be upset by Morning Joe?

Her father and I are obsessed with the news, it seems.  The talking heads repeat the same nonsense, over and over and over again, leading to angst and fury, and we listen to it constantly.  Why would we want to live in that space?  She is aware of what's going on but she's not consumed by it.... at least to the extent that her parents seem to be.

I think it's generational.  She's used to getting her information in snippets.  I grew up with long form news.

I think it's the difference in our life spaces.  She's got FlapJilly and work and other imperatives on her mental loop.  I have nothing that demands my immediate attention.

I think it's how our days unfold.  She's surrounded by people who talk to her.  I spend most of my time alone.  Her weeks are defined and restricted by her work schedule; I just had to ask SIR if today is Wednesday.

I find the constant barrage of information to be fodder for my civic engagement.  How can I write an original postcard and an original email and make a different phone call every day if I don't have the news to prompt me?  My girl is as involved as her busy life allows; I use The Resistance to fill the empty spaces in my day.  She barely has time to breathe; I live a life of leisure.

It might also have something to do with how we spent the formative years of our lives.  Her first exposure to politics was asking her Daddy to explain knee pad jokes about the President and an intern.  She moved on to watching the towers come down.  Neither of those situations were amenable to any changes she could effect.  I grew up with JFK exhorting me to do something for my country, moving on to protesting a war that was taking my friends to a muddy, messy death.

I felt emboldened, required to take action.  She watched events transpire without feeling that same sense of power.  We closed colleges and deposed a President.  She watched the Supreme Court decide an election against the votes of the people.  There's no action to take when the Supreme's have spoken.

She does what she can when she can.  She works with the League of Women Voters and supports Mayor Pete.  She's invested in the outcome. She's aware and she's involved but she's not obsessed.

I am.


  1. I am older than either of you and I don't let the news obsess me. Rage isn't part of what I feel even as I do feel bemused sometimes, as well as have to laugh at what on earth is happening in the ironic sense. I wouldn't even think of listening to MSNBC because it's a constant rage and fear station. I see clips from it and recognize it is getting high ratings due to its agenda, but what is it fomenting? Not a chance I want what it sells. I wonder if in your interest in news, you once in awhile watch Fox news, somebody more moderate like Brett Baer and see how that side sees what's going on?

    For me, I might watch a bit of news, hear a little talk radio, but have found my interest in programs on HGTV where someone is tearing apart a home to rebuild it, getting a tiny home (interesting artist in Maui with one recently), finding an island off of Panama, and yes, it's kind of reality TV but oriented toward what kind of home they want, how much can they pay, and what do they consider beautiful.

    Last night we began the Unabomber docudrama on Discovery but not sure we'll stick with it. It though had an interesting aspect as to what our culture is doing to our souls. That was the message Kazinsky was trying to get across with his brutal methods (Paul Bettany is always good but he really captured this guy in the few scenes pitting him against the FBI agent profiler.) I believe what the unabomber was saying has truth. I suspect he had Asperger along with some schizophrenia and psychopathic tendencies to not enable him to relate at all to other humans and to use methods that appall and in the end didn't help get across his message. We can lose sight of greater purposes with short term goals-- and I don't believe rage helps anyone. It is worse, of course, for someone with mental disorders as clearly Kazinsky had. I know those with Asperger's and it does not lead to violence unless more goes with it.

    1. Rage is, perhaps, a bit overstated. How about extreme outrage? I do try to keep some balance in the coverage; CNN and NPR and BBC WorldService and even Fox (though I tend to stick with Headlines since their commentators often give me the willies) are in my usual rotation. I subscribed to the NYTimes until their politics began to bleed into the front page. Now I share an on-line subscription to it and the Washington Post with Big Cuter... though I find myself reading the Vows and Recipes and the Sunday Magazine more than the editorials or the front page.

      HGTV is a staple, too. The Property Brothers make me smile - I love demo day! - and their relationship is so special. Seeing what others think is beautiful is often an eye opening experience.

      The Unabomber holds no interest for me. I came too close to the intersection of mental illness and violence to be comfortable with that story. All that brilliance wasted by disease. I do love Paul Bettany (Wimbledon is a particular favorite) though.

      The confluence of mental illness and violence in the public's eye is disturbing to me. I've worked with the writers at the Clubhouse here in Tucson, and they live with that stigma every day. It's an unfortunate consequence of our general fear of "the other".

    2. And yet when people share their illness, as my Asperger's friends have, it normalizes what it looks like. Some however, like being a psychopath should never be normalized. Sometimes to be politically correct, we lose touch, as a culture, with reality. I think a lot of us are looking at Trump and wondering if he's a sociopath, but we can't really diagnose it just by observing whatever goes out in public (despite what some psychologists have tried to say).

      The main emphasis in the docudrama was the techie skills required to do profiling against the way the bureaucracy blocked trying to find the truth in the effort to look good. I think we are seeing a lot of that today on all levels, which is sad.

    3. I don't know if I can watch another "the system is failing" doc right now. I'm suffering from my reentry into the world!

  2. We were raised in different times. My daughter is older than yours, and she too would rail against all the news we took in while she was still at home. We watched the news on tv, read two newspapers, and subscribed to two news magazines. Enough with the news she would scream.

    Now, a couple of decades later, she too follows the news. She gets more incensed with what is happening than I do. She is more aware of the national arena whereas I'm trying to stay very local. I'm focusing now on just one part of Fresno.

    I have reached the point where I know my limitations. I cannot save the world. I cannot even save a city. I can only do my small part in my small section of town with the few small children with whom I work. It will have to be enough.

    1. I, too, try to save my own little corner of the world, and am, like you, heartened by the small changes. Eating a new veggie may not be a mega-change, but for the little one who now loves carrots or jicama it makes all the difference in the world.

  3. I think Democracy is at risk. It's a fragile system and can be undermined. When I was in high school, I skipped school a lot to go downtown to DC to protest the Vietnam War. It needed to be protested. Since then, I have been aghast at how complacent people have become, especially young women. Everything 20 and 30 year women have today is due to the women that came before, and the complacency is aggravating. Yes, they're busy, but this is the future for their daughters. Look at Poland and Hungary, things don't always stay the same, they get worse.

    1. I know lots of involved young women - Little Cuter among them - who are fighting those same battles that we fought. I never imagined that reproductive rights would be an issue for my daughter and granddaughter. I love that my kids joined the Women's March in January (wearing my pussy hats!). For those who are "too busy" to work on change, they will have to answer What Did You Do to their offspring. FlapJilly knows that "Mommy marches for me" and that warms the cockles of my heart.


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