By Nancy Salvato
web posted April 12, 2010
Sometimes, reading the news can be so frustrating and frightening that it can affect my mood. In his book Eight Weeks to Optimal Health, Dr. Andrew Weil suggests taking a news fast one day a week.
"I don't want you to become uninformed about the state of the world, but I note that paying attention to news commonly results in anxiety, rage, and other emotional states that probably impede the healing system."
I don't have any problem with Dr. Weil's suggestion. Vacations are important for health and happiness. News about VATs, a nuclear Iran, or Hamid Karzai aligning with the Taliban, does raise my blood pressure. And I often have headaches and stomachaches that are directly related to stress. I can understand the correlation. However, I do have a problem with people who automatically dismiss a news source or item because it is associated with one or the other side of the aisle.
Unfortunately, news is no longer reported factually, news is editorialized and reflects the world view of the news commentator doing the analyzing. Thus is the problem. News becomes associated with the source and the actual news item loses its significance. In essence, the reader or listener becomes a cheerleader for the liberal or conservative team and to a certain extent loses site of what is at issue.
Last night, while reading some posts on Facebook in response to Eric Zorn's column in the Chicago Tribune calling those who claim 16,000 IRS agents that would be required to enforce the healthcare insurance mandate "liars," I was amazed at how his liberal readers viciously attacked conservatives as right-wing nuts, dismissing any news reported from the right side of the aisle as lies. When those making the assertions about the IRS agents did not bother to qualify such statements as being a strong possibility, they do great damage to their credibility and apparently, to the credibility of anyone who might share their ideology. The same goes for the left side of the aisle.
There are many on the left and the right, who hold similar values, but disagree with means for accomplishing their vision of the world. Those with a constrained vision are more concerned with process and those with an unconstrained vision focus on the ends more than the means. This colors the lens through which they see the world. When news is provided through a similar lens, it divides people into camps and instead of having a discussion, they just root for their team.
It is incredibly important for those with unconstrained and constrained visions to understand how these visions color their perspective so better to understand where others are coming from, to compromise, to meet in the middle. More importantly, the news should be reported as facts and if there is any editorializing to be done, it should be explained as such.
In Federalist #51, James Madison writes,
"If a majority be united by a common interest, the rights of the minority will be insecure. There are but two methods of providing against this evil: the one by creating a will in the community independent of the majority -- that is, of the society itself; the other, by comprehending in the society so many separate descriptions of citizens as will render an unjust combination of a majority of the whole very improbable, if not impracticable. The first method prevails in all governments possessing an hereditary or self-appointed authority. This, at best, is but a precarious security; because a power independent of the society may as well espouse the unjust views of the major, as the rightful interests of the minor party, and may possibly be turned against both parties. The second method will be exemplified in the federal republic of the United States. Whilst all authority in it will be derived from and dependent on the society, the society itself will be broken into so many parts, interests, and classes of citizens, that the rights of individuals, or of the minority, will be in little danger from interested combinations of the majority."
We've lost sight of what Madison is saying here. Every word in the above paragraph is important to the health of our country. Yet, whoever presently holds power in government has become the majority and whoever is not in power has become the minority. The ability to respect another position and compromise seems to be lost. Are the individual rights of some groups of people seen as less important than the individual rights of other groups of people? Should an individual be classified within a group? Aren't we missing the point? It can be agreed that the definition of an individual right is certainly in question by a large number of individuals who feel their rights are being trampled in pursuit of the present administration's agenda.
News should not be about cheerleading or persuading people to adhere to or oppose an agenda. People cannot make an informed decision when news is presented in this way. People cannot think for themselves when they simply root for their team.
People can and should band together for a cause because there is strength in numbers. However, as in any situation where there are a large number of people to accommodate, the end result is not usually extreme. It's usually something which everyone can stomach.
I need to take a news fast, but not from the news, it is from the shouting match taking place between those who fall on the left and right sides of the aisle, and more importantly, from a government which is acting with a will of its own, which sometimes has the effect of making me want to put on my headphones and just head to the beach.
Nancy Salvato is the President and Director of Education and the Constitutional Literacy Program for Basics Project, a non-profit, non-partisan 501(c)(3) research and educational project whose mission is to re-introduce the American public to the basic elements of our constitutional heritage while providing non-partisan, fact-based information on relevant socio-political issues important to our country, specifically the threats of aggressive Islamofascism and the American Fifth Column. She serves as a Senior Editor for The New Media Journal. She is also a staff writer, for the New Media Alliance, Inc., a non-profit 501(c)(3) coalition of writers and grass-roots media outlets. She received her BA in history from Loyola University and her M.Ed. in Early Childhood Education from National-Louis University. She is certified to teach in grades K-9 and 6-12 and as a teacher has worked with students in preschool, 1st, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 11th and 12th grades. She has also worked as an adjunct instructor at the graduate school level. She continues to augment her education and areas of expertise in the style of Abraham Lincoln.
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