Sometimes, There Are No Words

I’m supposed to be a writer, yet I have no words for what’s happened in Las Vegas. No words to describe the horror of it, the senselessness, the depravity of hurting or killing so many innocent people.

lasVegas

I can’t imagine the horror for the people that went out to enjoy a concert and didn’t come home. The pain of the families that lost mothers, fathers, sons and daughters to such senseless violence. The long road of healing ahead, both physically and mentally, for the people who were injured.

I don’t have words for any of it, and maybe there are no words.

This isn’t a political blog, so I’m not going to rehash any of the finger-pointing going on right now. It doesn’t bring back the people who died in the worst mass shooting in American history. And it doesn’t bring us together as a nation.

Interesting to note that while many of us were extremely sad and upset, no one I know was surprised. For me, Sandyhook was the final numbing agent. Each person has had their own, but at no point did I hear surprise from others or feel it myself.

After I learned the news, I took a few minutes to grieve. I tried really hard not to cry at work when I over heard others discussing what had happened and popped open Google news to see what it was.

Yeah, I’m a corporate cog, but even cogs can cry while we try really hard not to put ourselves in the people’s places who lost a friend or loved one. Or the children who lost a parent. Or the place of someone who lived while the person next to them died.

cogs
These actually feel bigger, shinier, and more important than most of us in corporate America do.

 

And that’s it. I turned off the news. It wasn’t trying to inform me anymore. It was trying to elicit an emotional response and a page click. To keep me invested even though there really is nothing more to tell the general public.

I wish I’d done the same thing with news about the hurricanes. I did do it with the news coming out of Puerto Rico.

No, I’m not heartless, but I have no control over any of these things. I did what I could and donated to the American Red Cross through a charitable drive at work. That’s really all I can do. I have neither the skills to help nor the power to do more.

So, yes, I turned it off. I only have so much to give before I’m emotionally empty. I need to save my reserves for things I can impact. My children. My spouse. My family. My community. My writing.

Maybe this is selfish, maybe this is just self-protection. I’m not sure anymore. But I have noticed I need to do it more and more often. And when I do, I’ve discovered I’m happier, less stressed, and more creative. Not sure if it’s right or wrong, but for me, it’s what I need to do to keep my sanity.

 

How about you? How do you handle the constant bombardment of the news cycle? Do you just turn it off? If not, how do you cope with the stress and helplessness?

My Recent Obsession with Weather

I’m not sure where my recent obsession with weather originated. Yet, I was glued to the screen watching what happened first with Hurricane Harvey and then Hurricane Irma. Was this going to be the “big one”? What were people doing? How were they coping? Were they going to be okay?

I was pulling for them and their pets.

I watched all that happened during the storm, and then I watched the efforts afterward. Read about people coming together to help their fellow human. It brought tears to my eyes.

cajunparade
Yes, this line of boats made me choke up a little.

Maybe it’s been all the negativity I’ve felt for well over a year. I tuned into social media not long before the election here in the US. It was a constant bombardment of negativity.

Then came the election.

Then came the new administration, and I’ve felt like there’s a new kerfuffle every week.

This isn’t a blog on politics, so I’m not going to get into that, but what I will say is that my stress level has skyrocketed during this time. I’ve actively tried to tune out the media and news, but that’s easier said than done even if you’re a casual Twitter or Facebook user.

As I think through this, perhaps it comes down to a part of me looking for a “villain” we can all hate: the weather. This is an impersonal thing, not someone doing horrible things to others for reasons they feel are justified.

And, more importantly, it’s something we can all rally against. There’s no politics involved in this.

noah

We’ve done drives at work to gather up non-perishables and send them to Texas. There were donation drives for the Red Cross and a general feeling of getting together to help people. Not because of who they voted for, but because they were people in need.

We live up here in the frozen tundra, and while it has many drawbacks, we’ve never had to deal with hurricanes or earthquakes. When a tornado comes by, it might touch down, it might not, but it doesn’t destroy entire cities.

Winters are another story.

unnamed-2
Actual winter footage.

 

We’ve suffered through polar vortexes (days on end of -45F weather) where we’ve had to worry about cars starting because of the cold, but nothing on the wholesale devastation of Harvey.

But people here still stood up to help those in need in parts of the country they may never see. They stood by each other.

Makes me sad that it takes an act of extreme weather to get this to happen, but I’m so happy and relieved that it still happens.

 

How about you? Did you watch the Harvey and Irma coverage? Do you find weather related events watchable?

Practicing Empathy

I recently wrote about empathy, about giving people the benefit of the doubt, and how we really need more of it.

I thought of this as I read an article recently that talked about Trump’s travel ban, and it’s impact on three people. Sadly, this article was taken down shortly after I read it, but I’m assuming it was done to protect the man in Alabama I will discuss shortly.

mobile-1611874_640
Mobile, Alabama

You don’t have to look very far to hear the stories of people affected by it in a negative light, up to and including a US-born NASA scientist. As with many of the news stories about the ban, this article began with the heart-breaking tale of a woman who had aided the US in the Iraqi war, was targeted by terrorists because of it, and trying to get to the US for her own safety. It talked of an American man who’d married an Iranian woman and couldn’t get her and his daughter into the US even though they had green cards.

Remember, if it bleeds, it leads.

Empathizing with these people is easy. The news makes it easy. But none of those events are unique to this story.

What was different, however, was the article spoke of an Alabama man who was happy about the ban. After hearing all the stories of terrorism, he was relieved that something was being done to protect him.

This man hadn’t felt safe at baseball games or even the store. He feared any area where large groups of people congregated because that’s where terrorists struck. He didn’t give up going to his favorite sports events because he thought that would be caving into the terrorists, but he felt truly afraid.

Let’s remember that in fiction, no one usually sees themselves as the “bad guy”. The books on craft drill that into our heads.

alabama2

I doubt this gentleman from Alabama saw himself as a “bad guy” either. He truly felt afraid. He wanted to be safe, and he cited the events in France and Belgium as reasons for his fear.

What he didn’t know, what the news hadn’t informed him of, was that the total number of American citizens that died due to terrorism from 1995 to 2014 – that’s twenty years – was 3,503.  That includes the 2,910 people that died on September 11th.

In 2014, 42,773 people died by committing suicide. The really scary stuff?  According to the CDC, in 2013 approximately 610,000 Americans died of heart disease. Yeah. One in four American deaths was due to heart disease.

Had the news given as much weight to things that posed the most threat to this man, terrorism wouldn’t be his top concern. He’d be demanding roasted kale and orange slices (two foods known to help in the battle against heart disease) as he watched his sports games while jogging on a treadmill.

Was this man genuinely afraid?  I think he was. It’s possible this man has never met a man or woman from any of the nations impacted by the travel ban. He may not have ever met a Muslim. Only 0.2% of Alabama’s population is Muslim. It may be difficult for him to separate out “bleeding” new bites from reality.

While each person is accountable for their emotions and how they respond to them, I think the news media also needs to accept some accountability. How many images of terrorist attacks have filled our screens? How many times did we watch the planes hit the towers? See the aftermath of bombings?

And it happens every time there’s an attack. We’re bombarded by images. This becomes our reality, what we fear, rather than heart disease.

I’ve seen some accuse the media of being accomplices to the attackers by helping them spread the fear that their attacks were intended to generate.

I doubt this is intentional.

You see, fear sells. If it bleeds, it leads. And what is more terrifying to us than terrorism? Thinking you’re going to punch the clock like any other day, but instead, a plane is flown into your workplace.

Fear sells.

Not only does it sell, but we’ve become addicted to fear, and for-profit news companies know it. They know how to get us to tune in and keep us coming back.

If you think about Maslow’s Hiererchy of needs, safety ranks as more important than sex. So if sex sells, you better believe fear does. Our ancestors knew this. Go back and look at those original fairy tales if you don’t believe me or the research.

News capitalizes on this, and it’s one of the reasons why I’m avoiding the news.

Was this Alabama man practicing empathy for the people this ban affected that weren’t terrorists? Doubtful. But, I’m betting he was afraid, and if he votes, I’m betting that fear influences his vote.

I know fear can influence me and make me do things I regret or keeping me from doing things that I regret not doing.

73k79

 

 

What about you? Do you let fear influence your decisions? Do you watch the news? If so, do you find it be full of fear-mongering?