I woke up to three jaw dropping, truly frightening stories in Sunday’s New York Times that got me thinking about how much scary news there is these days – and it got me thinking about why I feel so scared.
For me what feels scary is what I don’t expect, what I can’t anticipate and what I have no control over. Screaming out with no one in earshot and no way to be rescued — that’s scary! No matter what the effort – there is no way out.
What if you never imagined the worst that could happen, and then it does. Something really horrible and inconceivable happens, but it was never on your radar – and now it’s in the newspaper, and on TV, which means it’s in your home and getting closer.
You know what I’m talking about? I’m talking about the stuff on the front page of the New York Times.
By 11:30 am on a beautiful Sunday morning, I was distraught from reading the Times. Jim Foley’s detailed story leading up to his beheading, the country in a panic about Ebola and our high school kids terrorized by one of their own. Frankly I don’t know where to put all this fear.
First, the detailed story about the beheading of James Foley, the Global Post journalist and his nearly two years in captivity. The heart wrenching description of his torture by ISIS –the terrorist group who is gruesome and cruel beyond imagination – is laid out in 3 pages of excruciating detail that makes Homeland look like Disney.
And then of course the other front page article, about the tentacles of the deadly Ebola outbreak which convinces you that it may be coming to your neighborhood.
And if you missed that, perhaps you caught the story of the football player who had 2,000 Facebook friends, was super friendly… but became a shooter at a high school near Seattle, Washington. He took out his best buddies and his two cousins. Does it makes you think about your local highschoolers?
These stories were really scary to read– unexpected, unimaginable, definitely unanticipated and beyond my scope of control.
And it got me thinking about the barrage of so much awful news. How come the world seems so frightening? Maybe I’m just naïve? Why are these stories of death and destruction and disease a surprise? Is it possible that we are living in a new world that is less safe and thus scarier than ever before? Is the media exaggerating, or is there just too much of it?
Overwhelmed, I put down the paper and try to bring some normalcy into my Sunday.
My husband and I, back from our Sunday bike ride, sat down to our delicious cozy brunch of poached eggs and coffee from a country we’ve never been to “Sumatra?” and settled onto the couch.
But I couldn’t help but feel haunted by these stories. How do our minds adjust to so much gruesome news in our living rooms, and knowing so much, how do we continue to go about our days? How do we not feel anxious about what appears to be a shift to our family’s security and our daily lives?
Well the answer is “we just do.” Denial, rationalization, and practical thinking take hold. When we read the global events that are at our doorstep, we do what we do best – we compartmentalize, philosophize, rationalize and ignore.
We know that war correspondents who head into enemy territory are at risk. We grew up with stories of POW’s from the Vietnam war. But this is different! In the half century I’ve been on the planet – watching a beheading of a journalist on my big screen TV is surreal. And as a mother, all I can think of is Jim Foley’s family. As a publisher, I feel for his employers who he was filing stories for. And as someone who reads news like a hound – I am awed by the sacrifice he made to bring the world into my living room, and I feel sickened and saddened by his sacrifice.
And as far as Ebola goes — my mind works overtime on this topic. First I rationalize and compartmentalize. Our parents dealt with Polio – my dad was in a hospital for a year with polio and my Nana told me stories of how we had to stay off the beaches for a summer for fear of being infected. I read each day about our health care systems’ Ebola response capabilities and conclude that they will figure it out – and so I don’t cancel my weekend flight from JFK with my husband.
And then I think about the High School kid who takes out his friends and family for no apparent reason. And, I think about our gun control laws and how passionately I feel about this issue and I should do more about it –and then I just feel sad for all the kids who go to school afraid, and I think about the boy’s family and hope there’s some huge secret they will reveal about this boy which explains why he did what he did.
And then my dog Jazz jumps into my lap and I snuggle her. I hold her tight. I look at my sweet husband who has moved on to the Modern Love section of the New York Times and, there is a bit of order in my living room. I close my eyes, take a deep breath, and am grateful that for a moment, I am not scared.