Where I grew up, newspapers arrived like urgent messages from the outside world. A local newspaper, the Kingsport Times-News, arrived daily and was taken apart and read in sections by the entire family. As a teen, because my parents aided and abetted my thirst for knowing, I discovered newspapers from New York and even London in the Kingsport Public Library. I devoured them and felt deprived when I could not get to them.
For a decade, I made a living writing and taking photographs for newspapers. Never mind I started when I was 14, my profession felt vital and real. I left that life behind long ago, helped along by a publisher who employed me but did not share my craving for the truth at any cost, but I’ve never lost the habit of reading several newspapers a day.
My strange little family and I are “between houses” right now and living in an apartment with 350 units, about 500 people. Four newspapers get delivered here, two of them are ours. (A third one comes in the mail from Shelbyville for the mother-in-law.) The plastic-wrapped papers lie against the front doors of the apartment, huddling together as if for warmth. The staff brings them inside. Half of the newspapers that get delivered here don’t get picked up. The staff keeps them for a few days and then they throw them away.
There are televisions everywhere. Always on, usually muted. I would like to think that people are reading their newspapers online but I doubt that is the case. Maybe they read a story or two that shows up in their social media feed. I wonder, do they know about the two humanitarian aid workers who were murdered and buried in a shallow grave in the Democratic Republic of the Congo last week? Do they know about the judge who resigned in this city yesterday? Do they know how much money the President’s daughter and son-in-law are raking off the table while supposedly serving our country? Do they know there are American soldiers in the Middle East who have stayed behind, unwilling or unable to stop fighting an abandoned war? Are they aware of the epidemic of opioid abuse that is killing whole communities in rural America? Do they realize that a foreign power, our oldest and most reliable enemy, has its hooks deep in several of the President’s men? Do they understand how important those stories are and how they are connected? Do they realize most of the stories in their news feeds were created just for them and delivered there for a fee? No, they don’t know.
The greatest threat to our nation is not common criminals we call terrorists, it is chemically assisted, entertainment enabled ignorance.
It’s a strange new world, so far from where I began. I understand it, I live in it, but it does not live inside of me.