When I was younger, I looked at world events from an “Oh wow, isn’t that cool” perspective.
I thought the first Gulf War, the opening scenes of which played out live on CNN, was just plain exciting. I thought of the L.A. riots in 1992 as something riveting. Reagan’s vengeful bomb-drop on Libya was exhilarating, the savings-and-loan scandal titillating, Black Monday compelling and the Ethiopian famine amazing in its scope.
There’s something about youth that sees everything as a game. I was insulated from personal impact.
As an adult, I know better. The news hits me more personally now. I feel a fuller range of emotions when I hear of tragedy.
North Korea (especially of late), the Islamic State, Putin, domestic spying, commodity prices, drought, wildfires – all these things take on more meaning for adults because we’re invested more deeply. We have houses, retirement accounts, families. We care about how things turn out. We care about others. As a kid, I had no skin in the game, so I looked at world events differently. Call it the ignorant bliss of youth.
While the inexperience of youth inherently copes with tragedy better, adults can employ reasoning abilities to help. So, if you find yourself overwhelmed by world events, here are a few useful strategies:
• Count your blessings. I was talking to someone the other day who was listing his wife’s health problems, concluding that her life was a hopeless mess. I replied, “Well, at least she has a loving and devoted husband. Many people don’t have that.”
We all want more out of life, but maybe we should be happy with what we have. Same with the news. There are many ominous news stories, but there are many good things happening, too. A cooperative China turning back coal-laden ships from a rebellious North Korea; Mexico and Canada leaders warming to President Trump after he ended his bid to cancel NAFTA; corporate taxes being slashed; having a president who actually wants to confront problems, rather than avoid them as Obama did. On the news front, there’s a lot of good things happening, and it’s good to keep this in mind, rather than dwelling on the doom and gloom.
• Realize our place in history. The news could be worse, in other words, as it has been in the past. I think the infighting between liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans is all because America, right now, doesn’t have a substantial enemy. Pipsqueak Russia is no threat. We’re too tied to China economically for them to be a real enemy. Muslim fanatics are probably our biggest threat, and even that is mostly offshore and small-scale (at this point). So we’ve circled the wagons and started firing inward. Climate change seems to be Americans’ biggest worry, and if that’s our biggest worry times must be pretty good.
• Don’t believe the hype. The mainstream media – even the weather forecasters – lure us in, and keep us tuned in, by making mountains out of molehills. Every event, every storm, is the end of the world.
Remember that anti-war hippie anthem, “Eve of Destruction” from the mid-1960s? That was 50 years ago, people. We’re still kicking. Even the opening music to the network evening news shows is fraught with tension. Newspaper headlines inflame emotion and accentuate the negative. It’s easy to get caught up in the hysteria the major news media create (to sell products, in the end), but knowing the tactics is key to reducing hype’s impact.
Also, have you noticed that the media loves to worry about what’s coming? Especially since Trump has taken office, I’ve noticed many news stories explore what he may do and all the implications. I thought news explains what has already happened. I guess the new crop of journalists wants more of a challenge than the Walter Cronkites and Tom Brokaws of the past. They aspire to be fortunetellers. The problem with that approach is that they often will be wrong, since no one can tell the future, especially with a president who changes his mind as often as Trump does.
If these coping mechanisms still don’t help, try this one: Tune it all out (except, of course, what you read in The Forecaster publications) and go micro. Pay attention to the news in your own life, your own family, on your street, in your town. Forget the macro-scale of world news and get micro-local. Work on your hobbies, play with your children, care for the widows and widowers. Do something for your community, your church.
There’s a lot of important “news” you can make, rather than following the news of the day.
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.