There was a time when we received our news in a more sedate manner. It was delivered by somber men on the evening news, and we read it in the newspapers. That gave the media time to investigate and report, and gave citizens the opportunity to digest and decide the importance of the story.
But at some point news moved from the background to something constantly in our face. First CNN and the other 24-hour channels sprung up, and then the internet arrived. Now, social media throws stories at us so quickly and in such volume that we have no way of rationally considering them, much less gaining any perspective. We can’t even be sure of the accuracy of some of these reports, but in a bid to out do each other, the news agencies hawk them incessantly. Police shootings, senseless violence and terrorism fill us with dread and anxiety. We are torn apart by what to do and who to blame. We have become, in the words of the Genesis song, a “Land of Confusion.”
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It is easy to become so numb to tragedy that we forget the grief that those afflicted must deal with long after the TV cameras are gone. In that vein, I wish to express my condolences to those who lost loved ones in Townville.
There is nothing to be gained by trying to make sense of the senseless. We can only hope that they will find comfort in their faith, and perhaps in time accept the unacceptable. That same wish applies to all who must deal with this same sad challenge.
These tragedies make us long for something to bring some sense to it all. But our politicians offer us more us-vs.-them. Athletes, famous musicians, celebrities — nothing. So where can we turn?
Well, during the tragedy that was the Townville shooting, a volunteer firefighter named Jamie Brock subdued the shooter, which was quite a heroic act. But what followed was even more impressive: He refused to be interviewed, did not want the title “hero” and in a written statement kept the focus where it should have been. It wasn’t about him; it was about the victims and their families. He praised the teachers and their quick actions that no doubt saved many children.
This humility is such a refreshing relief from a me-first attitude that surrounds us. When we look for someone for our children to look up to and emulate, we think of the well-known. But we really only need look at people such as Mr. Brock, and those teachers. They acted heroically, saved many lives and then walked away from any attempt at capitalizing on their efforts. They are like the members of the Greatest Generation, who fought the evil in the world, then came home to live their lives without seeking fame or fortune.
In fact, every generation of our fighting men and women has done the same thing — done the job the country asked of it, then returned home to quietly resume life. Every day, first responders, doctors, mechanics and those who do the myriad of jobs that enable our world to work accomplish the same thing. In small ways, and in big ways, we help our fellow citizens, and that makes the world better.
As Nietzsche pointed out, “Out of chaos comes order.” Yes, there is evil in the world, and it must be dealt with. Yes, there are differences in opinion that we must acknowledge. But no, we are not faced with a hopeless task.
Mr. Brock reminds us that we can serve as examples to each other. We only need to look at our neighbors and perhaps in the mirror to realize that despite what the media tell us, we are united by our basic goodness. We need only to remember that we don’t have to necessarily do great things. We only have to the right things.
Dr. Gordin, a former editorial writer, is a radiologist in Spartanburg County; contact him at email@example.com.