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Don’t look away

['At the Y with Jan Matthews']
['At the Y with Jan Matthews']

At the Y with Jan Matthews

I’ve developed a quick response with the off button.

And I don’t think I’m the only one. Passing comments and recent conversations have all pointed to a growing weariness with the news cycle, whether leading stories, ongoing developments, finger-pointing, commentary or analysis. While channels and platforms abound to keep everyone more informed and updated than ever before, it can also be increasingly difficult to face the barrage of all that is wrong in the world.

Because the news, by its nature and how it’s delivered, is predominantly bad news. From natural disasters to manmade strife and worse, we continue to be reminded that somewhere in the world is going to pieces. And that takes a toll on us, the intended target. Studies continue to remind us of the effects of news overload and the inevitable burnout from a media diet of violence, misery and fear. How many of us are tempted to tune out, turn away and stop scrolling, comforting ourselves with the belief that at least it’s not happening here?

You don’t have to look through many history books to see the potential effect of such an attitude. When the global stage becomes too difficult to watch, it can be tempting to see ourselves as ineffective or even powerless. Whether there’s a bully behind the schoolyard or in front of a microphone, our collective inclination may be to avoid rather than confront; to hope that someone else speaks out or stands up for the underdog. We’ll take our turn next time.

An editorial cartoon by Nova Scotia artist Bruce MacKinnon recently caught attention across the internet and around the world. While one might say that it is his job is to reflect on current events, there’s a message for each of us in his explanation of how there is so much more to his depiction of the silencing of Lady Justice:

“I think it’s important the people face up to it... if we don’t talk about it, if we turn away from it and pretend it isn’t there, we’re not going to solve the problem.” (The Chronicle Herald, 1 Oct 2018, p. A2)

We may not be able to take control of a runaway train, plane or automobile. We’re not allowed to walk into political theatres and remind lawmakers to remember the people who voted them into power. We can’t ask or even expect the world to remember golden rules or Grandma’s good advice on how to deal with people. But we can try to make a difference where we live and with what we have.

Margaret Mead once commented that thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Maybe it’s time to stop watching and start doing, right here at home. Maybe when you give thanks this weekend for all that is right in your world, you can also think of what you can do to make it better for someone else.

Jan Matthews writes a column for the YMCA of Cumberland for the Amherst News.

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