Kofi Annan was on the Jon Stewart show last week. Asked to evaluate the state of the world at the moment, the former secretary general of the United Nations said we are in pretty much of a “mess.” I had that feeling myself when Libyans, Egyptians, Yemenis and Iraqis started burning the American flag, lighting up our embassies and killing our diplomats. And then Pakistanis by the thousands took to the streets — all to protest an anti-Muslim film made by some hate-monger in California.
Despite the particularly bad week, I felt challenged to write a “good news” column as we turn from summer to autumn, as we leave behind surf and sand and take up winter’s work and worries. We need to double down on vigor and hope as we face the future.
But it ain’t easy, my friends.
It’s easy to focus on breaking news that a Syrian air strike killed dozens of people, with no end in sight to the bloodshed. In our faces, every day, are front-page stories about healthy American men and women with no work and little income and no prospects of making an independent life for themselves because the economy still stinks in much of the country.
We can’t avoid the stories about the dark side of the Internet, where any mouth-breathing fanatic can post a story or a film or a cartoon that is guaranteed to ignite violent protest.
We can’t turn aside alarming reports of climate change, such as the New York Times story on Thursday that noted the “drastic melting of Arctic sea ice,” which has set off new warnings about the “rapid pace of change in the region.”
My mission here is to find a thread of gold among the dross.
But it’s a challenge. I just watched two mindless, mean-spirited political ads on TV (one from each side) that avoided the substantive issues and took direct aim at the opponent’s personality and character. Cable news is giving me a breakdown. It’s like being caught in a blender that goes round and round, with the same stories and the same distortions, until it’s all mush.
But I’m trying not to go negative. And there’s good news aplenty. Really.