Friday, February 23, 2007

Distracted, Diverted, and Dumbed Down

My friend Brooke wrote the following piece after watching last night's evening news, where the top two "news" items were about Anna Nicole Smith and Britney Spears. His piece made me laugh, and it made me think about our values as a society, and what I personally prioritize and value. I've added some links within Brooke's piece for those who'd like a deeper education into the real news.

The "News" Media
by J. Brooke Fenwick
(February 22, 2007)

Two friends discuss "The News" over coffee.

Jessie: I heard that two more Americans soldiers were
killed in Iraq yesterday.

Alex: Yeah, that’s too bad. So who do you think is Anna Nicole’s baby’s daddy? I think it’s gotta be the blond guy from California. I don’t trust that other guy.

Jessie: I don’t know, but can you believe we are getting close to 3,200 soldiers dead in Iraq so far?

Alex: That’s terrible! What’s going on with Britney Spears? Is she outta her mind or what? She keeps getting tattoos, and then she shaved her head, and then she is in rehab and then out of rehab, and then back in. What’s up with that? I think she …

Jessie: It’s just a mess …

Alex: Yeah, she’s pretty messed up.

Jessie: No it’s a mess over there in Iraq and now Bush wants to send more troops.

Alex: Yeah, well duh! That’s what they get for 9-11.

Jessie: 9-11? What does Iraq have to do with 9-11?

Alex: Weren’t a bunch of those guys who flew the planes from Iraq? There’s just a bunch of terrorists over there.

Jessie: No, none of them were from Iraq. Most of them were from Saudi Arabia. Hey, did you hear
Barack Obama was in L.A. the other day? I heard some of his speech. I think he really has a chance to win. What do you think?

Alex: No way.

Jessie: Why? Because he’s black?

Alex: Well, maybe. But isn’t he a Muslim? I got this email that said he’s a Muslim. You know with the war on terror, I don’t think a Muslim outta be president. I don’t think Americans will elect a Muslim.

Jessie: He’s not a Muslim. He’s a Christian.

Alex: Are you sure? The email said his dad was a Muslim. And besides, how could a Christian have a name like Barack Obama? Isn’t his middle name like Saddam, or Osama, or something like that?

Jessie: It’s Hussein.

Alex: Yeah, see? I knew it was one of those Islamic terrorist people.

Jessie: What does his middle name have to do with anything?

Alex: Speaking of Muslims, didn’t Mike Tyson become a Muslim? I heard he was in rehab, too. He’s in the same rehab as Lindsay Lohan. But it's one of those swanky, soft rehabs. They let Tyson out to go to the gym, and I heard they let Lindsay out to go shopping. What kind of rehab is that?

Jessie: You know what's really scary to me?

Alex: What?

Jessie: That we seem to be slowly losing our constitutional rights here in America.

Alex: Yeah, I hate it when people think they have a right to tell me what to do!

Jessie: Did you know that
Congress passed a law and Bush signed it that kind of does away with habeas corpus?

Alex: Who be what us?

Jessie: Never mind. What do you think about the Bush administration using the war on terror as an excuse to say that it is okay to use torture to get information that might protect our national security?

Alex: Hey, if it will keep another 9-11 from happening, I say go for it! Do you watch 24? I never miss it. Jack Bauer tortures people all the time when he has to save the country. I know he’s, like, not really supposed to do that, but it works.

Jessie: That’s just a
TV program. In real life, torture doesn’t work.

Alex: It has to work. Nobody wants to get tortured.

Jessie: Exactly. You don’t want to get tortured, do you? Maybe that's why we should be just a little concerned about our constitutional rights.

Alex: This conversation is getting kind of morbid. Let’s talk about something else. Did you hear Eva Longoria and Tony Parker are getting married this summer in France?

Jessie: Um, okay ... The
upcoming election is going to be really important. Who do you like so far?

Alex: No one. I hate politics. Politicians are a bunch of liars.

Jessie: How would you know?

Alex: What do you mean?

Jessie: Never mind. What do you think about the police?

Alex: Yeah, I saw them on the Grammy’s! They are going on tour. They hate each other, but they are just getting back together to make some money. Sting probably doesn’t need any money, but maybe he feels sorry for the other guys. They might as well cash in!

Jessie: I meant the Los Angeles Police Department.

Alex: Oh, the cops? What about them?

Jessie: There is a problem with the police in
Ramona Gardens. That is a housing project on the Eastside. A lot of the residents there think the cops are too heavy-handed and that they stereotype all of them as gang members and drug dealers. There seems to be a long history of that kind of thing here in L.A.

Alex: What news are you watching?

Jessie: I DON’T watch "the news." But I can tell that you do.

Alex: Whatever.
Let’s go shopping!


To ponder:
1) Among your friends and co-workers, what news topics do people usually discuss?

2) Why do you think some people are more interested in celebrity gossip than political, economic, and social issues?

3) Why do you think people shy away from talking about serious issues like war, government actions, and social injustice?

Holly's two cents: There are lots of reasons we don't discuss big issues. Some issues require us to know a lot of background information, and we can feel it takes too much time and effort to educate ourselves. Or maybe we think we're not smart enough--we don't understand an issue well enough to feel comfortable discussing it. Sometimes, it just seems pointless: If we can't change the situation, why talk about it? And some of us are afraid of conflict, thinking perhaps we'll jeopardize our friendships if we take an opposing stance.

Jesus' words and actions give us a tremendous example about addressing such issues. He did not shy away from making statements about the wrongs he saw in his society, from legalism (his statements on making a public show of tithing, prayer and fasting; healing a man on the Sabbath) to sacrilege (he removes merchants from the temple).

If you don't understand an issue, that's the perfect time to discuss it so someone can explain it better. Even if you do understand it, conversation opens you up to ideas you might not have considered. And differences of opinion don't break a relationship if you come to the table with mutual respect. Though Brooke and I have different political affiliations, and plenty of differing opinions, we've peacefully discussed many issues. I have great respect for Brooke's opinions, and our conversations remind me that my opinions aren't the only good and right ones.

Today I was reminded how powerful one voice can be. I received an email about an article I wrote two years ago. It was a profile on an Oklahoma woman, Laurette Willis, who was speaking out about the practice of yoga. I was looking for alternatives to yoga at the time, and it seemed Laurette was the only Christian discussing this idea. Today, ideas about how Christians approach the practice of yoga have been discussed on radio, TV, and the Internet, as well as in newspapers and magazines. Laurette's even been quoted by major media including Time magazine! Because Laurette spoke up, there are now Christian alternatives to yoga.

We all have a voice. I believe God moves us to share our thoughts with one another for a reason: As individuals, our portion of the big picture is tiny if we don't work together to expand the view.

Thanks, Brooke, for causing some good thinking today!

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