Now I’m apologist for world events
June 2, 2002
My daily ritual during the work week includes regular on-line sessions with the “real world.” From the peace and security of my home office I connect with world events and check the pulse of international business, news and weather.
The world I look upon through my computer screen is rife with gloom and doom – war, terrorism, nuclear threats, murder, mayhem, pedophilia, fraud, corruption, global warming – you name it. Disconnecting from this stream of perversity may become a survival necessity.
I am not alone in my growing aversion to the calamities of contemporary life. Other friends with whom I swap e-mails of outrage or condolences are curtailing their exposure to the depressing news of the day as a means of guarding their sanity.
Over time, the cumulative effect of current events is utterly demoralizing. After weeks, months, years of exposure, the weight of the world becomes a crushing burden that erodes personal faith in humanity and replaces it with cynical fatalism.
Last week I was driving my son home from school and we were listening to the news on NPR. The reporters, analysts and commentators provided a contrapuntal barrage of sad statistics, enervating events and perilous prognostications.
Switching off the radio, I said to my nine-year-old son: “Tait, I’m sorry you have to hear all of this and that the world you are going to inherit is so torn up by violence. I hope you can forgive your mother and me for bringing you into such a world.”
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Tait said there was no need for apologies because he doesn’t hold it against his parents that the world is a messed up place. “That’s just the way it is, dad,” he shrugged.
Coping with the world depends upon what you’re accustomed to. Tait’s childhood drawings of the Twin Towers in splinters and flames reveals a grasp of reality that is particular to his generation. Mass violence? It’s part of life.
Later that week, three of my old buddies convened at our house for a reunion. We drank beer, laughed, caught up on our personal lives and shared dinner with my family. After Tait was in bed, the four of us sat around the living room remarking on the state of the world.
Again, the issues loomed large and ponderous: India and Pakistan, Israel and Palestine, the “Axis of Evil,” the priesthood of the Roman Catholic church, the military/industrial complex, conspicuous consumption and on and on.
There were no solutions offered, only head-shaking wonder. Overall, we shared a sympathetic embarrassment and shocked acceptance of the fatally flawed species to which we belong.
Two days later in a restroom in an Aspen restaurant, I noticed in the urinal the face of Osama Bin Laden staring up at me. “Hit the bull’s-eye on Osama bin Laden” read the words on the deodorizer.
Standing there over the bull’s-eye, I realized that bin Laden and his dubious “cause” was a complete and utter failure. His so-called leadership had resulted in violent death and hatred and his face was now enshrined in a porcelain bowl, a rueful legacy.
Bin Laden’s leadership is not the only one to fail. All leaders and all governments share the shame of failure when violence, war and human suffering occur on their watch and make parents like me apologists for the world.
Paul Andersen is sorry to have to write this column. Fair Game appears every Monday.
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