Sunday, April 24, 2011

Your World In a Minute

Wow..... Looking through some of my latest posts I realize I've sounded like I'm having some serious issues with life and people around me. I really haven't been feeling as pessimitic as I've been coming across in some of my posts. Quite the opposite actually- life is pretty good! But I was reading something in the paper today that I feel strongly enough to blog about, even if it adds to the negative vibes I'm afraid I'm sending off.

I opened up the newspaper this morning and read a fairly extensive story about a topic that held a superficial level of human interest, but in the end held little substance to it. The length and attention given to the subject irked me a little but I kept skimming the other articles. As I was browsing I came across another article, back towards the end of the newspaper, substantially shorter and less conspicuous than the first article I read, but that took my breath away.

The story was about a doctor in Libya who was recently taking his family on a weekend trip out of town in an attempt to find some respite from the chaos of war. Somewhere along their journey, their car unexpectedely got caught between some crossfire between rebel and Gadhafi's forces. All four of his young children were shot to death, their little bodies riddled with bullet holes, almost to the point of being unrecognizeable. He and his wife miraculously survived but had to flee the scene as quickly as they could to seek cover. He spoke of how heart wrenching it was to leave the children in the car, even knowing that they were dead, feeling he was abandoning them. A week after the incident, the heart-broken father went back to work at the hospitals as an anesthesiologist. When asked why he returned to work so quickly, he said he felt he needed to be in the hospitals, taking care of people that he knew were suffering and had lost loved ones just as he had. He felt this was his way of fighting the rebel cause.

It reminded me of a segment on a news station that we used to watch when we lived in Utah. The first dozen or so stories aired were usually local- sometimes important and at times quite trivial. I remember once the top story of the nightly news being about a business owner who was frustrated that the road his business was on had changed names and he had recently ordered business cards and stationary. The announcer's voice tried as hard as he could to dramatize the man's frustration in having to reorder the supplies with the newly changed name of the street on his stationary.

After the local stories were aired, a man's voice came over the air, said, "And now.... for your world in a minute." He then proceeded, talking as fast as an auctioneer selling swine at the county fair, to give the top news stories from around the world got it... one minute. I listened in disgust as he rambled off at 100mph, "100 people were killed in bus accident in Pakistan; a mudslide in Indonesia claimed the lives of 400 people; a suicide bomber went off in a market in Baghdad killing 23 people, many of whom were women and children." He finished the segment with a dramatic pause followed by, "And that's your world in a minute." Then it was time for the sports.

I'm not sure at what point or how it happened that things like Prince William and Kate Middleton's wedding are the only international events that can hold the attention of the American public for more than 30 seconds. When I watch the Today Show in the morning, at least 3 or 4 segments are devoted every day to the event, with the countdown until the royal wedding having started about 2 months ago. Skimmed over are the earthquakes, nuclear threats, mine collapses, and casualities of the many wars all around the world, as they delve into speculation on who will be designing Kate's dress and what the guests will be eating at the reception.

Perhaps this fleeting interest in international events is taught in schools or perhaps in the homes. I'm not sure. Perhaps this indifference is ingrained unintentionally with the intense obsession on celebrities and reality TV. I remember as a 10th grade student in Colombia our final exam in debate class being a month-long study and debate about the effects of the Aswan High Dam in Africa. As teenagers we would often sit around and casually discuss politics and world events, even outside the classroom. I don't mean to imply that we were more elite in our way of thinking, but I wonder what has led to the gap of disconnect between then and now.

It scares me to think that my children might develop that same level of casualness about world events. It's as though there is some invisible barrier that makes everything outside our borders unimportant, only worth the 5 second spotlight given on the local news and at times even sadistically mocked on the Jay Leno show.

I realize some may say, "Well this is local news and it's serving it's purpose. If you want world news, watch CNN." But I can't help but think what kind of difference it would make if the common, non-cable subscribing population were more clued into the fact that guerillas are not large banana-eating primates in the jungle. That people in Mexico don't speak Mexican, they speak Spanish- and people in Brazil don't speak Brazilian, they speak Portuguese. And that there really is some valid reason to know, care, discuss and even act on what goes on outside our borders.


Liz Johnson said...

AMEN. This is a huge pet peeve of mine.

Percy said...

Sounds like you'll just have to take the kids on the international trips and give them some experiences that make far away places feel close-by.