Recently, I went to my second rally in less than two months. I’m becoming a latter-day rebel. For most of my life I have kept my rebellion limited to my choices of reading and the occasional friendly disagreement. Now I have the time and opportunity to take time out mid-week to show my support for other, more courageous, people. I don’t have to ask for time off work, I don’t have to find child care, I don’t need someone to drive me where I need to go, and I don’t need anyone’s approval. I can just go.
This personality change from a quiet reader to a chanting political demonstrator has been brought about because I read the news–a lot. I have always read the news quite often, but now I read it online multiple times daily. I read various sources and I try to gain a variety of viewpoints. I pay for four news sources and get as much as I can free from other news agencies and blogs.
I try to get international news, too, and I enjoy late-night humourists of various kinds. I try to get my information from a balance of perspectives, and I won’t read beyond a headline from a source that appears to be simply rabble-rousing and/or propaganda.
There is a danger, of course, that I am taking in too much news. I might be over-reacting and I might be vulnerable to bias. I acknowledge all of that. At the same time, I am in no doubt that we live in politically alarming times. We are all being drawn to polarized positions, our elections are vulnerable to foreign interference, our governments are lobbied by industries, and journalists are vying for audiences in a very competitive market. All this adds up to heightened emotions and strident rhetoric on all sides.
So, what are we to do? Well, I can tell you what my roommate is doing. Nothing. To be fair, she has a lot going on in her life right now, but even so she doesn’t read the news and is amazed that it seems to interest me so much.
The other day she said “You are more interested in American politics than most Americans!” I replied to the effect that I was alarmed by the behaviour and statements of the president, but she brushed it off. “Oh, they used to say all that about Bush, too” she said as she went into her room to watch sit-coms.
Be that as it may, I know I’m not alone in my concerns. When I went to the last rally, I met many people who are similarly concerned. Until the next one, I’m just going to try to stay informed without losing perspective. I’m also going to crochet pink pussycat hats. In fact, I’ve already begun. The first one was much too big, but I will persevere. For the next one, I will get the tension right.
Come to think of it, getting the tension right could be a guiding principle for all of us who read the news.