I learned about the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut on Facebook, and once I figured out what was going on, I went on a media strike. Why? Well, since becoming a mom, I’ve become a complete coward when it comes to reading and hearing about violence against anyone, especially violence against children. I know that if I watched the news, I’d get sucked into a vortex of sorrow and fear and anger and disgust, and I wouldn’t be able to function.
Let’s face it: what happened in Connecticut on Friday is simply the tragedy at the forefront of our attention right now. But there are thousands of just as real and personal tragedies taking place across the world each and every day. Murder, illness, starvation, abuse—it’s all happening, right here, right now, even in our own backyards. In some ways I guess it’s easier to focus on one horrific tragedy at a time. So that’s what many of us do.
But, since becoming a mom, I can’t even do that. I know there are horrible, horrible things happening in the world. I know this is true, but I willfully choose to ignore it, because I don’t want to become incapacitated by grief and disgust. I want to be a good mom, a good wife, a good person. I want to contribute to my family’s well being, and I want to contribute positively to my community. So I choose to stay aware enough to know that these things are happening, but without digging into the details or getting lost in despair. I choose to take time to figure out what, if anything, I can do about the bad things that are happening in the world, and then to act in a way that makes sense for me, at this time in my life, and to trust that others who are able to do more will do what they can.
I am lucky that I haven’t been personally touched by a tragedy like the one in Newtown. I don’t know how I would cope if something unimaginable happened to my daughter or one of her friends. But I have to put those fears from my mind in order to live life the way I want to live, the way I think it should be lived: being present in the moment, not fearful of an uncertain future, or mourning the what-could-have-beens.
The other reason I’ve decided to go on a media strike is because I think the media’s twisted fascination with these types of horrible events (and, most of all, the media’s unnecessary, but pointed, focus on the perpetrators of these events) play a huge part in the increasing frequency of these crimes. I cannot and will not participate. I don’t want to know the names of the people who did this. I don’t want to know what they look like. I wish we would focus our national attention elsewhere, so I’m doing my small part by choosing to watch, listen, and read about other things.
Here’s what’s on my mind today—after not watching, not listening to, and not reading the news, as much as was possible— I’ve been reminded that the way our society mishandles mental illness is abominable, and one day I want to do something to help find a solution to that problem. I’m frustrated that my friends on both sides of the gun-control issue quickly turned this tragedy into finger-pointing contest instead of looking for common ground. I’ve reaffirmed my decision not to watch live television news voluntarily ever again, except for historically momentous occasions. And, most of all, I’m thankful that I enjoyed a wonderful weekend with my family.
Eileen Youens teaches and advises local governments and government contractors about public contracting, public construction, and conflicts of interest. She also puts her litigation training to good use in negotiating with her two-year-old daughter. Eileen tweets at @eyouens and blogs at youensconsulting.com.