Don’t You Want to Share the Guilt?

May 30, 2011

I just read a bunch of articles by Chris Hedges, a former Middle East correspondent for the New York Times. It’s required reading because he’ll be giving a presentation at my school tomorrow, and I was invited to come listen. But I don’t know how much listening I’ll be able to do without shouting “PREACH!” and “Amen, brother!” because this guy has literally tapped into everything I feel about the media and objective journalism, and has also added thick padding to my decision to not pursue journalism, save for feature writing. And even that’s a maybe.

The stack of articles assigned to me to read included topics that ranged from coverage of Taliban activity in the Middle East, to Robert Fagles’ translations to, finally the most, for me, hard-hitting piece, entitled “The Creed of Objectivity Killed the News.” I was sitting in Small World, shaking, as I read through, highlighting poignant phrases and scribbling “YES” next to entire paragraphs. I knew from the get-go that I would enjoy reading the article.

Reporters who witness the worst of human suffering and return to newsrooms angry see their compassion washed out or severely muted by the layers of editors who stand between the reporter and the reader.

As soon as I finished that sentence, I had to put the paper down and think. This, this exact sentence, is the reason why I refuse to write hard news. No adjectives allowed. And if I work off of anything, it’s my unbridled passion for everything. Every article I’ve ever written on my own has had a streak of intimate feelings running through it – granted, I tend to write articles about things I take part in or have a very keen interest in, but that’s why I write them. Because I care so much.

But isn’t that what makes life interesting? Working with things that you want to be working with and that you care about and that you show an interest in? I don’t understand people who are okay with spending their summers sitting behind a desk for hours out of their day, punching in numbers or signing people in. My summers are spent on a giant field, running around with a bunch of seven-year-olds and getting a terrible farmers tan in the process. And I do it because I love kids, and I love people, and I want to work with them. So instead of boring myself to tears with an unpaid internship of no interest to me, I get paid ten dollars an hour to act like a kid. Yes, it’s tiring, and yes, it can be stressful, and yes, we’re all underpaid, but we love it and that’s why we do it.

Maybe it’s just me, and the fact that my passion for things is what drives me to get all of my work done, but I honestly don’t understand people who go through life letting their compassion be squashed by people who insist on being politically correct, and who censor themselves, and who subscribe to labels and feel the need to fit a certain mold. I’m super liberal, and I think that consumerism is bad and what not, but I have a spending problem. And I’m not afraid to admit that I buy Apple products exclusively and shop at American Apparel, even though the CEOs of both companies are pigs. I acknowledge that they are assholes, but that doesn’t stop me from buying their products, and I’m not ashamed to do so either, because they’re selling some of the most beautiful products available right now. Let me do me, please and thank you.

But I digress. What I wanted to get at was all of the feelings that the following quote made me feel:

Reporting, while it is presented to the public as neutral, objective and unbiased, is always highly interpretive.

Exactly. This is what I’m talking about. This is what makes me want to scream. Why is everyone in this day and age so afraid of the truth? Why is it better to be lulled into a false sense of security and hope than to have the reality exposed to us? Why do we force ourselves into these bubbles of fake happiness and contentment with the world – to preserve our sanity? The world is a fucking disgusting place right now. I’m thankful that I’m a white girl from a middle class family – fuck, I’m thankful that I HAVE a middle class to belong to, because odds are, all of the souls being brought into this world as I type are going to have an extremely bumpy road ahead of them. Sometimes I walk through the center of town, gazing in at all the shop windows, and thinking, “fuck, I think I have a hard time deciding what color Toms I want to buy, and there are people out there who are struggling to find a blanket to cover themselves with for the short and uncomfortable sleep they’re going to have on the side of the highway in Delhi tonight.” I’m really lucky! I’m so lucky! Why did I get blessed with this cushy life? I don’t even appreciate it – half the time I’m stressing out over the most inconsequential things. I should be floating through my life, given my situation right now. I should be stopping to smell the roses instead of rushing to and from whatever errand I’ve set out to do, and get over with as quickly as possible. I’m too busy focusing on unimportant details that I don’t even have time to be thankful that my life is a slice of heaven.

There’s so much going on in the world right now – things are changing, things are happening, and everyone is still reading the same god damned gossip magazines about the same wishy washy movie stars and pop stars. 98% of these people aren’t even that important, because they’re just doing the same old thing. Katy Perry? Like, really? Who gives a fuck? I can name ten pop songs off the top of my head that cover the same ground that Teenage Dream covers. And they’re probably better too. And Ur So Gay? Please don’t try telling me that song isn’t offensive. I honestly feel like she cannot ever be looked at as anyone of any sort of influence whatsoever. We should be putting Gadaffi on the cover of Us Weekly, not Justin Bieber.

What really pisses me off is that there is a lot of truth being exposed, but not a lot of people looking at it. Take Glee, for instance. It’s probably one of the most important and inspiring shows to come out of the 21st century, but no one is paying that detail any mind. Everyone – even Glee – is too busy buying into their gimmicks, and the producers are, ultimately, playing to a target audience at this point, which is exactly what it shouldn’t be doing. There are five gay characters, three of them open, parading around on this show, and it’s getting applause for selling a bunch of singles that they didn’t even write? The only shows that I had ever seen two guys make out on before Glee were ones that aired on HBO and Showtime. Glee aired footage of two boys passionately kissing on national television just a couple of months ago – I almost passed out when I saw that. Why is no one still talking about this? Do they not realize what kind of milestone this is? People all over the country responded positively to the scene – and by positively, I mean with tears, screams of joy, laughter, giddy hand clapping, and gifs upon gifs upon gifs. Thinking about it makes me want to hug the world. It’s okay. It’s getting better. I really think it’s getting better. This scene gives me hope that it’s getting better.

But it’s not. They haven’t aired any other shots of Blaine and Kurt sharing a kiss or holding hands or anything – I want that. I want them to keep reminding us that Blaine and Kurt are in a physically sexual relationship and that they’re probably the most stable couple on the show as well. Keep shoving it in our faces Ryan Murphy, you’ve proved that you have the power to do that already, so why have you stopped? And none of this fairy-tale-somewhere-only-we-know sap, I mean subtle but sweet. Forehead kisses are nice.

God, sometimes I just feel like nothing is making any progress anywhere and that’s because we’re not allowed to see the truth. People fill up their heads with crappy music and gossip and sports statistics instead of learning a thing or two about the world, about humanity, about the raw and ragged lives that people have to deal with daily and literally suffer through. There are people out their preaching the word of the Lord but not acting on it themselves. Build a house. Feed a family. Donate some of the heard-earned money you get from your cushy desk job to people who are thankful that they have some sort of roof over their heads for the night, even if that roof is made out of a tarp they found on the side of the road. Bruno Mars was labeled one of Time’s 100 most influential people. Why? What is he doing? Besides giving me headaches with his shitty, over saturated love songs? He’s the fucking Paul McCartney of our generation, when are we going to get a John Lennon?

Maybe that’s the problem. These days, everyone’s a Paul McCartney. Lovey-dovey happy-go-lucky music that has no real message. Everyone just cushions themselves so that if they do end up falling, they wont fall too hard. And everyone’s wearing blinders. I don’t know of many people who read the newspapers, even if the newspapers are full of crap. The least we can try and do is keep up with what’s happening outside our doorsteps, but no one’s even doing that. When the protests in Libya were starting to really flare up, I posted a link to a petition on my Facebook page. Wanna know what the response from my peers was? Nothing. Zip, zero, zilch. Everyone was too busy congratulating our boys ice hockey team for winning something – I don’t even remember, nor do I care.

This is why I watch Doctor Who. Every week, the Doctor’s strong moral code and deeply embedded humanity reflect what I would like to see from people. I want people to listen when I come to school, outraged at an article I had read at the breakfast table. I want people to know what I’m talking about when I say “Human Rights Campaign” or “the situation in Libya” or “Mohammed Atta.” I want to see people caring more about their friend’s achievements than the fact that they got the new white iPhone. Last Wednesday, I arrived at school with two bits of information – that I had got that white iPhone, and that I had been invited to hear Chris Hedges speak. Guess what my friends cared more for.

Mr. Hedges, you have awoken something inside of me, and re-ignited my desire to get up off my ass and do something with my life. He concludes the introduction to his novel, The World As It Is: Dispatches on the Myth of Human Progress, with the statement:

I believe that the truth is the only force that will set us free. I have hope, not in the tangible or in what I can personally accomplish, but in the faith that battling evil, cruelty, and injustice allows us to retain our identity, a sense of meaning and ultimately our freedom. Perhaps in our lifetimes we will not succeed. Perhaps things will only get worse. But this does not invalidate our efforts…And faith, for me, is a belief that rebellion is always worth it, even if all outward signs point to our lives and struggles as penultimate failures. We are saved not by what we can do or accomplish but by our fealty to revolt, our steadfastness to the weak, the poor, the marginalized, and those who endure oppression. We must stand with them against the powerful. If we remain true to these moral imperatives, we win.

I feel like I can’t even add anything. I swear to God, I had to fight tears as I read this. “The truth will set us free.” If I know anything, I know that this statement is true.

Truth. This generation needs a heavy dose of it.