Sunday, September 30, 2007

Hey, What Happened to the Good News?

I just spent the last hour out on the deck in Jake’s company on one of the nicest days in a long time. The humidity is non-existent. The mosquitoes have vanished. The sun is warm, but not hot. And there is a slight breeze. If only the news were as good as the weather.

Maybe it was just the way the newspaper sections were stacked, but I found one depressing story after the next. The Post debuted its 4-part series “Left of Boom”, talking today about the proliferation of improvised explosive devices (IEDs) in Iraq and Afghanistan. They are largely responsible for the damage done to our troops and to those who are attempting to live peaceably in these countries. They are made from junk for a pittance and often lurk in the trunks of cars and on the roadside just waiting to unleash their devastation.

Then I moved on to the Post Magazine’s story on Tom Murphy, the king of chess on Dupont Circle. I was particularly interested because someone who sometimes lives here is passionate about chess and has a rating similar to Murphy’s. This story revealed a man of incredible potential, who has watched his life spiral downward away from relationships and a career because of his obsession with gambling. He’s tauted as a gifted teacher, especially of young people. He’s constantly making money, hustling anybody who will play him with “Chess PLAY-ers wanted!” But as fast as he makes it, he gambles it away, being virtually homeless at this point.

The Outlook section usually has interesting pieces. I immediately gravitated to one written by a Kimberly Dozier, a CBS News correspondent based in the Middle East. It chronicled the mayhem caused by a bomb on a remote Baghdad street, which killed several of the people she was traveling with and gravely injured her. It told how she had almost had her right leg amputated, how she suffered from a common but deadly infection in these war zones, and how she dealt with out-of-control bone growth at the site of one of her many fractures. I looked at the picture of her as a healthy young woman standing with two of the guys who had been killed and asked WHY?

These three stories dampened my enthusiasm to read any further in the Post and the NY Times. I’m sure there are good uplifting stories somewhere in these two newspapers today. But these three didn’t leave me with the curiosity to seek them out.

Fifteen years ago, many people wouldn’t have had the slightest idea where Iraq was. But in that span of time, our news and our politics and our lives have become integrally connected to this relatively small Middle Eastern country. I would just love to revert to the days when war did not dominate the news every single day. I’m sure that getting a new President, a change of party, a breath of fresh air will do little to change the hard, cruel fact that stories of war are going to be with us for a long time into the future. No one (who knows anything) even talks about winning any longer. It’s really more a question of survival. Long ago it was determined that there would be no winners.

So on that bleak note, I get ready to go to the first meeting of our group which is being formed to enact “Random Acts of Kindness”. Maybe in some small way we can remind a few people that good things can still happen. We won’t make the news, but hopefully our impact will be felt.


Blogger Kristin said...

I have trouble reading/watching the news and reconciling the negativity with all the good that I know exists in the world. I guess we've all got to keep on trying, even if our efforts aren't "newsworthy."

9:29 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Kristin -- I keep wondering if the negativity represents the way the world is or what people want to hear. I hope it's the latter. Why do people keep Googling "sad pet story" and finding my Blog? Oops, I guess that would be because I reported one of those...

10:21 PM  
Blogger Richard said...

I read this yesterday and didn't know what to say. Today, I still don't know what to say. Humans seem geared to be drawn towards conflict and tragedy. Think of all the rubber neckers who make your drive home miserable (well, they make my life miserable). I can understand if you have to slow down to get around it, but if it is on the other side of the divide, why slow down at all? Maybe it is an evolutionary trait that we are attentive to any potential danger. I am sure we can all come up with simplistic answers are to why we are drawn to the bad.

4:35 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hey, Did your cars4kids donation go ok? I've just sent them my car info and then started wondering and surfing and fell upon your earlier post.
Thank you.

1:46 PM  
Blogger Barbara said...

Anon -- It was actually a struggle to get the car picked up. Not so easy to give something away.

2:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks, our donation went very smoothly, fortunately.

9:14 AM  

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