This week I just haven't been able to turn the tv off. It's been a constant bombardment of insanity - little children blown apart, people losing their legs, a massive manhunt, a small town in Texas blown apart by an explosion, a crazed Elvis impersonator who sent risin-laced letters to the president, North Korea wants to nuke us.
It's just all so sad and tragic and violent. I don't like it.
The other day, President Obama gave a particularly eloquent and moving speech at the memorial service for the victims of the Boston bombing, and the CNN newscaster made a comment that he felt that it was sad that Obama was getting so good at these speeches, because he's been forced to give so many lately. He went on to say that he feared that we Americans have become desensitized to tragedy because our world has become more and more violent.
Is this true? Is the world going to hell in a handbasket, as my mother would have said? Is our world a worse place than it used to be?
I don't think it is. Maybe I'm a Pollyanna, but I just don't feel that we have become more angry or violent as a culture. Surely, the availability of assault weapons and the fact that any whackadoo can find out how to make a bomb with a few clicks on the internet has made mass destruction easier. I mean, a disgruntled sociopath with a knife could take out a handful of people, while the same idiot with an assault rifle or a homemade bomb can kill or maim hundreds.
But if we look at violence from a historic point of view, our culture today is much more pacifistic. War used to be considered a necessary evil. Now it's viewed by our society at large in a much more negative way. John and Yoko's "Give peace a chance." and "War is over if you want it." slogans seemed simplistic and naive in the '60's, but I think they actually worked at making peace and pacifism cool. And murder rates in America are half what they were in 1970. It's better now.
When I was a child, hitting your kid was normal. Everybody got spanked. Not beaten, but spanked. Nowadays? We have learned how damaging it can be, and it has become absolutely verboten. Back then, every school had a bully, it was just the way it was. Now, almost every school has a zero tolerance rule for fighting and bullying. And though I believe that the word "bullying" is thrown around too much, fostering kindness and acceptance can do nothing but benefit society. It's better now.
I complain about too much political correctness, I think people are far too easily offended for increasingly ridiculous reasons. But the whole political correctness movement has drastically changed the way our society, especially our children, view the way people should be treated, and view prejudice and racism. It's better now.
Today, when a child dies, like little Martin Richard, we are, as a nation, so shocked and heartbroken. We're not used to children dying, it's just so wrong. But back when my grandparents lived, the death of a child was a common occurrence. Most families had lost a child. It was normal. Now, infant mortality has dropped 90% since 1940.
Things are better.
So why do we have the perception that everything is so much worse? I have one word - media.
I'm not usually much of a news junkie. Unlike Jimmy, who has it on all the time, watching the same stories over and over and letting himself get all worked up. I get those CNN alert messages on my phone, and if something sounds important enough, I'll turn on the tv to check it out, but for the most part I just get my news from the internet.
Jimmy will get mad at me sometimes, when some kind of tragedy is going on and I'll turn the news off. "This is important!" he'll say, "you should be watching this!" But they won't be actually broadcasting any NEWS, it will be the same hype over and over, the same hyperbole, the same meaningless interviews, desperately trying to fill their 24-hour "news" cycle. Mean-spirited talking heads and "experts" psychoanalyzing and guessing and inventing, interviews with some suspect's ex-husband's brother's cousin or some such thing. And it scares people to death.
Okay, I'll get off my high-horse. I am now going to go turn the news off. I invite you to do the same.