My mother-in-law tells us that she rarely reads or listens to the news, because it's "just too depressing." I understand the sentiment, but I don't agree with the action. I think that even if you don't like what's going on, it's important to know about it.
What's going on these days is enough to rock anyone's world, and not in a good way.
Halfway across the globe, our country's military has been involved in a conflict for five years - one that they were sent into under false pretenses, and where their continuing presence seems to make less and less sense, although to some extent it may be self-justifying by the potential risks of removal. This action has costs, not limited to the financial ones of keeping the operations going, and money spent in the Middle East can't be available for our ongoing issues here at home, where affording daily life becomes a bigger challenge all the time.
The price of gas has already passed $4 per gallon here in California, and the prices of many of our other daily needs are climbing right along with it. We're anxious about keeping the work and income to pay for those needs, and about the debt if we don't have the income - since we still need these things anyway.
When day-to-life becomes more and more of a challenge, it can get out of control, and for some people it doesn't even seem to matter much anymore. So far this year, it's seemed like every other day has brought another story of a murder in Los Angeles, many of them gang-related and not confined to particular geographic areas, which can make even those who wouldn't normally consider themselves at risk afraid to leave the house. Meanwhile, they may be afraid of losing the house in the first place.
Trusting anyone's word is scary. Pessimism is easy. It's not hard to understand why people might find it all too depressing and tune it out.
In our suburb, I walk my dog through the comfortable subdivision a few blocks from our apartment, and I wonder. I wonder about the people in those large houses, with their SUVs parked outside of their two- and three-car garages. I wonder if they've tuned out too, and if they are as sheltered, complacent, and self-satisfied as their homes make them appear. I wonder if behind those facades, people are sure of themselves - happy families all alike - or if they are part of unhappy families, each unhappy in its own way. I wonder if they've made unspoken, perhaps unconscious bargains to keep things together, or if they've chosen not to think too much about it, because it could be too depressing.
I notice that there don't seem to be as many "for sale" signs in the neighborhood as there were a few months ago, but the ones that I do see stay up for a long time. I wonder if people have opted out of the real-estate games, or have given up on trying to sell houses because they can't get enough of a price to pay off their mortgages. I wonder if some of the people in those houses can afford them now, or if they ever could in the first place. I wonder how much some of them really worry about that, or if they have faith that things will work out somehow, or if they don't even think about whether there's a problem - because thinking about the news is just too depressing.
I've said before that in my opinion, pessimism is easier than optimism, and that optimism requires some amount of denial - but I've been thinking about that more and more since I originally wrote it, and I have to wonder whether optimism is a choice not of denial, but of picking up and going on in spite of the circumstances. It may be a recognition that the news is just the news. Getting depressed over it is one possible reaction, but it's not a necessary one, and it's rarely a helpful one either.
What's going on these days is enough to rock anyone's world. Uncertainty is a pretty certain thing in modern life, and things seem to be unraveling all around. And yet, for some reason, I haven't totally given over to my pessimistic streak yet. I'm still keeping up with the news. It's important to know what's going on, even if you don't necessarily like it.