I have a very nice life. By most objective standards, I have nothing to complain about. Then why do I walk around with a knot in my stomach and a sense of dread in my heart? The answer is – I read the news. Every day. Obsessively.
Why do I subject myself to ongoing angst when I could be living a minimally stressful retirement? The daily workings of the government usually have no effect on my existence. Even a major international crisis rarely intrudes on my day-to-day life. The policies of HUD don’t interfere with my peaceful existence in exurban Connecticut.
So why can’t I stay away from the major source of anxiety in my life? And why do I feel anxiety about things that will probably have little or no effect on me or my family? Other than masochistic tendencies, I’m not sure of the answer.
I come from generations of passionately involved women who actively protested the injustices of their day. My grandmother protested against the czar in Russia. My mother marched for labor unions in America. They brought me up to feel connected to the world around me. They made sure I empathized with those less fortunate than me. They made sure I chafed at injustice and inequality. They made it impossible for me to turn away from deprivation and suffering.
My mother and grandmother were activists. They put their money where their mouths were. I’m not like that. I’m an introvert and slightly claustrophobic in crowds. I don’t do rallies, marches or protests. I cheer them on … from home. And I worry. Perhaps staying informed is my penitence for not being out on the barricades.
In the late ‘60’s and early ‘70’s, my grandmother chided me for not being a part of the protests that were taking place at Columbia University, where I was at college. The whole anti-Vietnam war movement started with Mark Rudd and the Columbia SDS chapter. Their protests were news. Photos of police on horseback clubbing students at my school were everywhere. The movement created there shaped the world for the next few years until the war finally ended. It also shaped my whole generation.
My grandmother said if the younger generation didn’t make a revolution to change things for the better, who would? I could have easily been a part of my generation’s ‘revolution’. But I wasn’t. It was a good one and I missed it.
So today, I read. I can’t stop, even when what I read depresses and scares me. On some level, I believe being informed is a way of being involved. I also talk to family and friends and try to get them involved with the issues that interest me. On Facebook, I take comfort in knowing there are so many others out there who also care about what I care about. So, I post and share articles that I think my online ‘friends’ should know about. Some of these people are genuine activists.
At least I can encourage and support them. It wouldn’t satisfy my grandmother, but it’s the best I can do.