By James W. Dolan
Special to the Reporter
I’m tired of “breaking news.” In an effort to gin up interest, the networks exaggerate the importance of almost every news broadcast, no matter how routine. What used to be “news bulletins” or just “reports,” are now promoted as seismic events as they compete for audience share. It’s the equivalent of pushing reporters out into hurricanes or snow storms to dramatize their impact.
Television news in particular has become entertainment. The cable networks and their collection of experts clog up the airwaves day after day with the same thing. How many times and how many different ways can you analyze the same thing? Has politics in the age of Trump become entertainment or have the networks discovered entertainment is more popular and thus more profitable than news?
I write this as a political junkie who for too long has been addicted to cable news. But I’m ready to kick the habit. I’m tired of listening to politicians describe even the most dreadful actions as “unacceptable” or “inappropriate.” Wearing a tank top to a wedding is unacceptable. Smoking in a restaurant is inappropriate. The murder of a respected journalist is outrageous. The insulting of a woman by the president is despicable.
I’m tired of listening to reporters ask a guest to “unpack” a subject so the panel can “drill down” on what it means – the so-called “takeaways.” I’m tired of listening to Chris Matthews ask a guest for his opinion and then spend the next three minutes giving his own before saying “your thoughts.” I’m tired of Joe Scarborough’s ranting and raving. But I suppose you can’t expect them to be on day after day, year after year without losing it.
We are captured in a whirlpool of blather pulling us under to where reason, reflection, and peace can no longer penetrate. Lost in today, we ignore the spiritual. It’s time to turn inward, to search for meaning elsewhere. It will not be found in the daily din that draws us ever closer to the absurd. There must be something more important, more substantial, more uplifting out there to which we can turn for inspiration, comfort, and direction.
Mankind as manifest daily in the news is a huge disappointment. I pray there is a reality beyond the news, a place of refuge where we can truly explore who we are and why we exist. Thankfully, there are thinkers who probe these issues who, too often, are overlooked in the welter of what today passes for analysis. Among the philosophers, theologians, artists, poets, authors, historians, and (some) columnists of today and times past, one can find searchers for a deeper truth. They’re out there, but they’re just a little harder to find.
In order to understand, we must venture beyond the everyday, break loose from the oppressive bonds of today’s distractions. I cling to faith. For me, it is an affirmation of hope, a belief in design and purpose and, ultimately, in God for several reasons.
First, because I need to. Otherwise, I could be overwhelmed by mankind’s inhumanity. Second, because of the goodness that exists and is manifested in so many ways. Third, because of the beauty, immensity, and order of the universe. Fourth, because I accept love, truth, and justice as objective reality, ultimate virtues reflecting a higher power rather than by-products of evolution.
I don’t have the answers, but I believe I’m dealing with the right questions. In a world where so much time is wasted, that should pass for progress.
James W. Dolan is a retired Dorchester District Court judge who now practices law.