I am at times overwhelmed with despair and sorrow by the murders in Connecticut. They have affected me profoundly, reached deep into my being and gripped my heart with icy fingers that send shivers through my soul.
I have manifestly refused to watch or read any related news coverage or commentary. I never watch or read the news anyway. It’s enough for me to know that these things happen, enough for me to know — as a parent — that they will happen again in other places and other times. Parents will send their precious children to school or the movies or the mall -- never to return. Life for these parents will forever change in the monstrous flash of a gun barrel. Their hearts will be torn from them and never returned.
Every time my teenage daughter leaves my sight, a small part of me departs with her. It takes residence in a cold and empty place just beyond my reach and waits dutifully until her return to make me whole again.
Not long ago -- in a far less mediated and far more civilized time -- it was enough of a statement to put a gun to your own head and be done with it. Not any more. Suicide no longer travels alone. Suicide, it seems, is the afterthought, the postlude to murder and mayhem promoted billions of times each day by a commercial media industry that sells fear and envy.
The media invent the problems, then tell us to stay tuned for the solutions which -- not coincidentally -- always sell more media, more fear and more envy.
Everything about our overly mediated and thoroughly addicted culture is over-sized and excessive. On average, every one of us consumes 12 hours of commercial media each day. We call it normal, but it’s not. It’s insane. We call it normal because addiction is now the rule, not the exception, and because our addiction to the media -- like all addictions regardless of the narcotic -- has taken over as moderator of all our internal and external debates.
Our addiction to media leads, and everything else follows. And we call it normal but it’s not. It’s insane. It’s the addiction talking, pure and simple.
Newtown is what happens when desperate individuals with ready access to tools of mass carnage feel the need to bust through the clutter in a soma-induced culture of inured and quietly desperate addicts. The only way to bust through the clutter in a thoroughly mediated culture of addiction is with a very big budget or a very big bang.
We were a much more civilized and far better informed society before the myth of digital accountability, before Bill O’Reilly and Chris Matthews, Sean Hannity and Keith Olbermann, Greta Van Susteren and Rachel Maddow and all the other talking-head buffoons who now divide us and fill our hearts and minds 24/7 with fear and envy, fear and envy and more fear and more envy.
The news media are especially toxic, and they pollute our culture and souls at immense profit to themselves. Collectively, the mainstream media make the greedy scoundrels on Wall Street and K Street look like rank beginners.
In a society of default addiction and excess, the quality of life becomes a function of deliberate subtraction. The only way to restore any sense of propriety to our culture, the only way to wrench normality from insanity, is to tune the electronic news media out now — all of them. The choice is no longer between left and right, liberal or conservative. The choice is between sanity and insanity, sobriety and addiction.
Go back to your dinner tables and discuss family and community matters. Seek the counsel and advice of those you know and trust. Hold them all tight and tell them you love them. Be patient and kind and tolerant. And the next time someone tells you they feel the need to bust through the clutter, tell them to just send a Hallmark.