26 Jan The Upside of Losing My Best Friend
He’s stolen my NPR, my Rachel Maddow, my blessed Sunday mornings with the New York Times. I can’t do any of it anymore. What am I to do with all this time?
This morning, the New York Times arrived on my doorstop as it has for fifty years. Now, it lays on my kitchen table, taunting me, teasing me. You love me. Read me. You know you want to.
The Times is as much a part of me as the wedding ring on my finger. Between every page are warming memories. Dad’s big hand on the stick shift as we drive to the drugstore to buy the paper. The heft of the two-inch think slab of ink and pulp on my lap. Mom in her corner, finally sitting still as she reads her Book Review. Me, cross-legged at their feet, watching them not fight. The air in the house those Sunday mornings was rich with quiet contentment. The stories they read may have been full of Vietnam body counts but, to me, they brought peace.
Not anymore. Now the news brings anxiety, resentment, unrestrained fury. But I can’t help myself. I pick up the front section because that’s what Sundays are for. I read two paragraphs about Trump’s choice for the E.P.A. His pick for chief environmental regulator doesn’t believe in environmental regulations. I growl loudly enough for Lilly the Cat to pick her head up from her snooze and glare at me. I move to another section.
The Sunday Review. I read a Michael Eric Dyson piece about how African Americans take solace in the fact that President Obama was never assassinated. This is what passes for good news these days. This I can stomach but on page two is a story about Ivanka Trump spinning herself as a feminist. I read fourteen words before bile rises in my throat. I flip through more pages, picking up the pace.
With the crackle of newsprint bouncing off the walls of my kitchen, I read headlines about Boko Haram, prison riots, excessive force by police. With each story my eyebrows knit tighter. When I get to “All Talk, No Action, Says Trump, in a Twitter Attack on Civil Rights Icon,” John Lewis, I snap the paper closed and throw it to the floor, exhausted by the poison. My precious paper is full of rottenness. I have to break up with my best friend.
* * *
Think of it like football. My neighbor Lou lives for the Green Bay Packers. ESPN blares all day; his email inbox is full of fantasy lineups and NFL injury reports. Replace football with politics and that’s me. When I work at home (and Judit is away) Andrea Mitchell, Chuck Todd, Chris Hayes and Chris Matthews drone in the background. Updates from CNN, the Washington Post and, of course, the Times flash on my phone all day. As I cook, I watch Rachel Maddow.
I’m a news addict, sucking up the play-by-play like crack, soothed by the sound bites that repeat from morning until night. I keep score, taking secret pleasure in my prowess. I’m an insider, an expert, an informed, engaged citizen.
But, am I?
* * *
As Mr. Trump parades through The White House, signing one heinous executive order after another, I now know, that something new is called for. Being informed does not a citizen make. My pre-inauguration news consumption did nothing but fuel my indignation and keep me numb.
So, with the Sunday Times now abandoned on the floor and MSNBC on mute, I take to pacing. I check the clock. There are suddenly hours and hours to fill. With what?
I don’t know.
But, what I DO know, is that It’s time to start creating news, not just consume it. It’s time to get out of the house…get messy…find a piece of ground to stand on, send roots deep into that piece of earth and hold fast to what we know is true.
Where is my sacred ground? On which field do I march to do my part? I don’t know—but when I do, I’ll lace up my boots, sling on my backpack and storm the field. Because, these days, nothing less is required.