Why I've (Mostly) Stopped Reading the News
There’s an old parable about a conversation between a Native American boy and his father. The boy had been practicing his shooting skills with bow and arrow and had just killed his first rabbit. In celebration of this rite of passage, the elders skinned and cooked the rabbit and the boy and his friends had a little feast.
Afterwards, the boy approached his father with a confession.
“I know I should have been proud to share,” he said. “And I should have felt honored that all my friends joined in to celebrate. But I didn’t. I didn’t want them to have any of the meat. I wanted it all for myself. Why would I feel so selfish? I don’t understand.”
His father said, “Inside every heart there are two wolves. One is generous, trusting, loving, kind. The other is greedy, fearful, spiteful, mean. For as long as you live, these two will be fighting.”
The boy thought for a moment, picturing the two wolves going at each other and the feelings of turmoil their conflict produced in his heart. Finally, he asked his father, “Which one wins?”
His father answered, “The one you feed.”
Over the past few years, our mainstream media has become polarized to the point where even mainstream outlets can’t seem to report a story without casting blame against the other side of the political aisle. Headlines provoke outrage to get you to click, and then the articles deliver on their inflammatory promise with anecdotes and carefully extracted quotes that are sure to horrify and enrage.
Read Fox News, and you’ll find the left is destroying the country. Read The Washington Post or the New York Times, and you’ll find the right is destroying the country. We’re under mortal threat from the other side, and if we’re not ever-vigilant, alert to every provocation, ready to repel the enemy at every encounter, we’re doomed.
Read this stuff every day and the world becomes a very dark place. You’re anxious and on edge. A vague but persistent current of fear underlies all your thoughts.
Now pause for a second and go back to the what the man said to his son in the parable.
Which wolf are you feeding?
Our national news media behave like the members of a divorcing couple who can focus on nothing but their partner’s wrongs. Spend a few minutes in the kitchen with them, and they’ll drag down into their mire.
Meanwhile, there’s a whole world of beauty just outside the door. The sun is still shining and the sky is still blue, and the blooms of spring are right around the corner.
Pete Ross’s article, Your Addiction to Outrage is Killing You , includes some good insights and is well written.
The Polarization Spiral by Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff examines “How the right’s monomania and the left’s Great Awokening feed each other.” This is a follow-up to their excellent book, The Coddling of the American Mind, which shows how the good intentions of the political left have backfired in many ways, alienating many and fueling the rise of the right.
Finally, if you’re up for a longer read, Francis Fukuyama’s Against Identity Politics is one of the most lucid analyses of how the left has unwittingly sown division in the US, and how the right has taken advantage of it.
After similar analyses of the problem of polarization in American society, both Fukuyama and Haidt/Lukianoff come to a similar conclusion about the need for an inclusive perspective in place of our fragmenting and polarizing identity politics.
Pauli Murray , as quoted in The Coddling of the American Mind, expresses the idea most eloquently. Black and queer, she didn’t quite fit in at Yale Law school in the 1960’s. Her response?
“When my brothers try to draw a circle to exclude me, I shall draw a larger circle to include them.”