by Annette van de Kamp-Wright
Jewish Press Editor
For this week’s editorial, I read about 20 different articles about House Speaker Boehner’s invite to Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu. I really was planning to write about the political fallout it caused, honestly. Then I realized: almost everybody is mad at Bibi. From Fox News commentators to J Street, and everybody in between, and what do I have to add? Frankly, I became a little bored with the faux outrage. Sometimes the entire media occupies the same echo chamber; enough already.
What does kind of irritate me is that Boehner’s actions (well, that and inflate-gate) overshadowed the news so much that we barely took a moment to discuss the State of the Union address. It’s like it never happened. Also, what is going on in the Ukraine? And even though just a few weeks ago, we all were ‘Charlie,’ and ‘Juif,’ we can’t wait to move on and leave Paris behind us. Seriously, we have the collective attention span of a three-year-old.
This became extra obvious last year when CNN lingered on the missing Malaysia plane. They talked about not knowing anything, their coverage focused on not having any news, day after day, and the anchors were criticized endlessly. The message: unless you have any actual wreckage, or maybe even bodies, we don’t want to hear it anymore.
So on the one hand, I want everyone to move on from complaining about Bibi. On the other hand, I think we often move on too fast. Knowing when to linger and when to put a story to bed is difficult. And stories don’t end just because the media and the public stop paying attention; life is much too messy for that.
Case in point: I keep thinking about that supermarket in Paris, and I wonder what’s happening. What do you do, when tragedy lands on your doorstep, uninvited; when your customers die violently and police, politicians and every camera in the world is looking your way? When, after a few weeks, the bodies are buried, the crime scene is cleaned up, and those same cameras are pointed somewhere else? How do you pick up the pieces and go back to selling brisket and knishes?
We read many books, but often put them back on the shelf after reading only the first chapter. What happens next is anyone’s guess; we leave the story open-ended because we simply stop looking. And when it happens again we act surprised, and wonder how it is possible.
I am not suggesting we drown ourselves in sorrow day after day. We have to live our lives, and can only do that if we make room for the mundane. Then how do we compromise? How do we pay more attention and open ourselves for what happens next? It’s not an easy question, and it doesn’t have an easy answer.
The next chapter is out there, but it is up to us to look for it. We cannot be passive consumers, only looking at the headlines, forgetting everything else as if it were background noise. We, most of all, need to keep listening, and we need to keep talking.
We may disagree about many things, but it is the discourse that will keep us from becoming jaded. The victims of the attack in Egypt on Jan. 29 can’t make us forget the victims in Paris, just as they can’t allow us to forget Har Nof; Har Nof in turn can’t make us forget the children in Norway, and so forth and so on. Yes, it piles up, and yes, it’s a lot to remember.
But tragedy that happens around the world is not a best-seller list. We can, and we should, always look beyond the headlines.