Thursday, October 1, 2009

Jon and Kate plus an Earthquake?

Yesterday, I read that 109 people had died resulting from the earthquake in Indonesia. This morning when I woke up, the number had climbed to around 918. This evening, as I went to see where the numbers were at, I couldn't find even a headline on the Chicago Tribune website. Instead, the website is covered with a countdown for the Olympic decision in Copenhagen.

What is wrong with the media these days? Yes, conservatives have been screaming about this issue for the past few months (years?), but where has our moral imperative gone in reporting what is really newsworthy? The top headlines of the Chicago Tribune included everything from Jon and Kate to what really killed the dinosaur that is in the Field Museum. By the way, as of right now, at least 1,100 people are dead in Indonesia.

It seems to me, a person of faith, that we as a society have lost sight of what really is important. We love to read about tragedy, but not real tragedy. Yes, the fact that Jon and Kate are having a messy public divorce is sexy and exciting (in a terribly disgusting way), but when it comes to real tragedy, we shield our eyes like fainting Victorian women who witness their daughter hiccup in public.

We are no strangers to tragedy. There is a tragic scenario that unfolds every second of every day and none of us can escape that tragic ending that is death. So why do we ignore it? We choose instead to watch the entertaining unraveling of reality television stars. We sit from a safe distance and clutch our popcorn as we see the Britneys, the Michaels, the Anna Nicoles, the David Hasselhoffs, waste away. And we don't have to do a thing.

And that's where the problem lies. Watching reality television and reading gossip magazines releases us from a moral responsibility. When something truly tragic happens, our internal morality (which thank God is still intact), nags at us to do something. And as annoying as this may be, this is hope for the human race.

We still know how to identify true tragedy. Society came together after 9/11, for New Orleans, for the tsunami - but it wasn't always quick or successful. We need to cultivate that inner voice that reminds us that "hey, you, it's time to do something. No, it's not pleasant to think about, but it's your responsibility as a human!"

The Indonesian earthquake isn't nearly as entertaining as watching the dissolution of Jon and Kate's marriage, but it is our human responsibility to pay attention to the uncomfortable tragedies, not just the ones that make us feel good about ourselves.


SpiritSong said...

It's true that we have become "de-sensitized" somewhat by the "reality" that comes right into our living rooms. I also wonder, though, if some of this is because we are almost over-saturated by those daily tragedies you mention, and so we buffer our emotions by putting up shields (and, unfortunately, blinders). It's why I choose to watch "Desperate Housewives" instead of a news program! It's my way of taking a break from the reality of the world. Just thinkin'...

Pastor G said...

So true. Had a similiar reaction as i listened to the discussion in the media of the latest "crisis", i.e. David Letterman's revealing that he had sex with female staff members. Most interesting was that all the focus was on how he revealed it, not whether he had done anything wrong nor the damage that it might have done to the women and their careers. I thought the media had an obligation to challenge and inform, not just gruesomely entertain.

E said...

Wonderful entry, Rachel! I just was talking with my mom about this last night.

You are a terrific writer.

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