August, thank goodness, is a slow news month. We’re tired of murder and mayhem, we’re tired of congressional hearings. We want to lie in the sun and feel good about our world.
A few years ago I wrote about studies of television and newspaper habits. People who watch a lot or read a lot of news live in a meaner world than people who do not consume as much “news.” News junkies have a tendency to become cynics or pessimists even if their attitude bears little relationship to the real dangers of the world they live in.
The multiplication of news sources and the expansion to bad news from everywhere, rather than just the regional bad news we used to get, never gives us a break. Try tuning it out for a few sunny days. You will be amazed at how your world begins to improve and your free-floating anxiety lessens. Don’t secede, just rest.
Dear Ms. James: I’m sitting here reading your essay on the “evolution” of Homo sapiens. You say we need to redefine intelligence to include caring for others, caring for our planet and otherwise loving one another as God commanded. I need to ask, “Where do we start?”
Do we start with television and the violence, profanity and meanness in various forms that spew out into our homes daily? Do we send a message to Hollywood saying, “Look, we’re fed up with sex and violence?” Do we condemn the drivel that goes on in Congress, where decent laws are voted down in the name of politics?
Do we send out mixed messages to our young and then sit back and shake our heads? Please write a column and give us some suggestions and addresses so that we can begin to turn this around.
Dear Marie: It is the American way to fight for what you believe in, so do all of the things you have suggested. Turn off the television when it violates your values and write to the sponsors telling them you will boycott their products. That is what civil rights activists did in the 1950s and it broke the back of racism.
Many families are opting for weekends without television. Everyone calms down, spends more time together and plans more interesting activities. Try to make the rest of the summer’s “sabbaths” gentler times.
Send a message to your local television news shows and to Hollywood and other entertainment sources. Let your leaders know that you want more than protective ratings - you want substance and values not gratuitous violence and degrading dramas.
Join groups such as Mothers Against Violence In America (206-343-0676 or 800-987-7697). It would be wonderful if their membership some day equaled that of the National Rifle Association. Tell your school that you want a curriculum for the future with more emphasis on thinking skills and cooperative relationships.
Insist your schools have zero tolerance for racism, sexism and any form of physical or psychological harassment, not covert acceptance. Social coercion is a powerful tool for changing mores. Some schools have organized “shark” patrols of students to keep their peers civil much as traffic patrols once kept them in the crosswalk.
Parents must back up teachers and administrators on virtually everything, including dress codes. We are giving our children a double message by allowing violence and disrespect in our media, our community, our politics and by our support of student rights when they are contrary to the common good. We give our children a double message when we encourage disrespect, violence or harassment for a cause we are against while deploring it for a cause we do support.
One of the reasons some citizens stopped demanding civil behavior in the 1960s and became more concerned with civil liberties was because such civility in the form of language and manners had long been associated with the upper classes who used it to humiliate and control. We created a void that must now be filled with a more equalitarian civility. We must free each of us to live with respect and grace.
Choose an area of interest that fits your lifestyle and remake your commitment to the community and our shared future. We could easily make a difference if we cared.
The following fields overflowed: CREDIT = Jennifer James The Spokesman-Review
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