Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Nothing I can do

I know absolutely nothing about the Casey Anthony case. Haven't followed it the whole time and basically only knew the name. It was interesting watching the frenzy unfold in my Twitter and Facebook feeds today; a lot of folks who generally don't comment much on what's in the news were pretty charged up by the verdict.

Like I said, I haven't followed, but I tweeted that I'm proud to know nothing about the case. It sounds like a horrible situation, but there literally is nothing I could do to change the outcome. Child endangerment is terrible, but Anthony's guilt or innocence has no bearing on the parent I will be. It's not like her going to jail was going to make me want to fly straight or something.

I consider these big sensational trials to be a sideshow distraction. Several of the people I saw get worked up also have expressed, at one time or another, cynicism and disengagement with politics - non-voters and not paying attention.

It's a shame. The Anthony story appears to be tragic news, sure, but so is the fact that Medicaid for poor kids is endangered because of our debt-ceiling negotiations. Why care about this kid but not the health of thousands upon thousands more? There are folks who care about both, of course, but I sure saw a lot of politically disinterested folks suddenly caring about Anthony as if it were the nadir of civilization itself. It doesn't make what happened to Anthony's child less tragic, but to me these things always come down to priorities. People sometimes get outraged by news that has no effect on us while turning a blind eye to suffering for a whole generation that gets behind due to cuts in food and health aid to poor children.

That's one example. I can think of a lot more, but the specifics aren't that important. Like the O.J. trial before it, the media covers this because it's cheap and grabs ratings. People tune in so they can tune out on the hard truths of life that actually affect them. It's a newsy version of Orwell's conception of pornosec in 1984, a media tool aimed at keeping average folks distracted and content to ignore real-world problems.

Think of the news you either didn't get or outright ignored in the Anthony feeding frenzy. The state of Minnesota is shut down because two parties can't move off dogmatic beliefs. We might default on our debt for the first time in U.S. history and what follows could well be Great Recession II. Our soldiers are still dying every day in the Middle East, fighting two wars we've largely forgotten about. These things affect all of us now, and they are much more worthy of not only our outrage but also our engagement in a political process that shapes policy.

Then there's the kid stuff. More than a million U.S. children go to bed hungry on a regular basis according to a 2010 report. It's worse outside the borders of our blessed nation. About 32% of children in developing countries are malnourished. More than 78% of malnourished children live in countries that have a food surplus.

In other words, most child hunger problems are not a matter of supply. Not of food, and certainly nor of our ability to be outraged. It's just our outrage is being directed at a single reality TV courtroom drama where we have no influence instead of the arenas where we the people do have influence. We can demand better of our leaders and keep pressing. It's a matter of priorities and dedication to keep at it rather than give up and get cynical. We get the world we want, either by active choice or passive apathy.

One brave Twitter follower challenged my pride in not caring about the Anthony verdict, saying that my impending fatherhood might make me enraged once I knew the details.

Respectfully, I couldn't disagree more. I lay awake at nights wondering what the hell kind of world we're bringing the kid into. The world can be an awful, terrible brutal place at times, but intermingled in all the pain and sorrow that we see and feel as adults is simple beauty. I believe in love. Whether Anthony is guilty or innocent doesn't change any of that, doesn't change the fact that I want to be the best dad I can be and doesn't make any of my parenting choices more or less weighty.

I've learned to pay attention to things that I can control, or to things that have an effect on me or the world as I'd like it to be. There are some highly engaged news users who followed the Anthony trial. Now I challenge them to do something with their stated passion for keeping kids safe and support policies and initiatives that do such things rather than lashing out at the Anthony verdict and moving on to some other media-spectacle outrage.

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Post #20 in my 90-in-90 blog challenge. Blog with us and join the fun. I'll be blogging both here and on my professional blog for the challenge. For more about the 90/90 challenge, read about my call for participants. The blogs participating are on the list at the right, or follow us on the #LUBlogTribe hashtag on Twitter

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