I’ve always enjoyed thinking of myself as well-informed. I have for many years enjoyed settling in on a Sunday morning with my coffee (always with my coffee) and not 1, not 2, but 3 newspapers. The nice Roger goes out and gets them while I make the coffee, offload the dishwasher, and make sure that there is bacon thawed to accompany our omelets later. When he brings the papers home, I go through them first, removing all the advertising inserts (these are saved for a coupon-clipping family member), recycling the sections we don’t read (neither of us cares for the sports pages), and distributing our preferred starters to our respective perches in the living room. He gets the News-Times and Parade magazine, I get the comics from the News-Times, the NY Daily News, the NY Times, and we settle in for a quite a while.
I read the comics first. This is a tradition that goes back to my childhood. My parents were divorced, and Sunday was the day my sister, Sheryl, and I spent with our father, and eventually, our stepmother and younger sisters and brothers. Dad would pick us up, along with two Sunday papers (the local and the NY Daily News), and take us home. The comics were shared amongst us all eventually as we traded pages back and forth. To this day, although we don’t get a daily paper, I still read (online) over 50 comic strips on an almost daily basis. They provide me with warmth, humor, art, and some of the best socio-political commentary available, in 3 or 4 pithy panels. Roger doesn’t much care for the comics, but he’s always gracious when I share what I am laughing (out loud) about.
Next, I read the Daily News. This was my dad’s preferred New York paper. I believe it was also his father’s preferred New York paper. I loved the big headlines and pictures on the front. I loved the gossip columns inside about celebrities and society figures, out and about in New York City. I loved the frequently macabre ‘Justice Stories’ features about terrible crimes committed in days gone by. And of course, I loved the comics. In their heyday, the paper published 4 full pages of them daily, in color on Sundays. The NY Daily News was a window into an exciting, but quite possibly very dangerous world. To me, it still is. And they still run the best comics.
Finally, I begin to tackle the NY Times. My mother’s father, my grandfather Will, went out and got the Sunday Times every week, and would spend most of the week perusing each section. I didn’t read it as a child; it was an overwhelming prospect – just the enormity of the paper itself, the sheer physical weight of it was too much for me. I was well and truly intimidated. But, sometime in my twenties, I began to buy it on Sundays. When I worked on the 12-8 shift, I would frequently share a Sunday Times with my friend, Bill Barlow. We would divy it up according to our preferences for particular sections – for example, he would have dibs on the Arts & Leisure section because he loved classical music and opera, I always got the Magazine because I worked the crossword puzzle. Neither of us read the Sports section. If I were to theorize, I might have attributed my newfound desire for large quantities of information, at least partially, to my need for refuge from a difficult relationship. But immersing myself in that enormous newspaper also connected me to a grandfather I adored, and admired for his intelligence and knowledge of the world. I felt, and still feel, that his was a worthy example to follow. I believe that it is important to know what is going on, and why, in the world outside my door.
I’ve never had much affinity for cable news. During a crisis or calamity, I do, like everyone else, turn on CNN for basic information. I find, though, that listening to modern news programs, with their arguing and opinionating, is enormously stressful. I don’t enjoy listening to the endlessly adversarial panels. I still want information, but I have never liked being shouted at, so I ingest cable news in very small doses. I watch Rachel Maddow and Chris Hayes on MSNBC regularly. I find their formats, which involve people speaking one at a time, more coherent, and Maddow’s efforts to weave some sort of coherent fabric out of the various threads of the Russian hacking investigations help me make sense of what is going on there.
So, nowadays, and particularly in the bizarre new world of the Trump presidency, I find it easier to read the news. I make us a pot of coffee, and Roger takes his cup to the living room, allowing the voices of various cable news talking heads to wash over him, and I adjourn to my study. I put on some music, usually KPIG.com (try it, you’ll like it- classic rock, evolved) or WWOZ.org (New Orleans-based public radio- jazz, blues, & modern NO-influenced), and start with the Washington Post. I read the front page, some of the commentary and analysis, and of course, the comics. I actually started reading the Post because they ran several comics that weren’t available through other papers, particularly my long-time favorite, Doonesbury.
After the Post, I turn to my email inbox, where I read various articles from Medium.com and the New Yorker. I sign petitions for various causes dear to my heart (more and more every day), and once I’ve gone through all of that, I read the rest of my comics. Next is Facebook, where I see what my compatriots are posting from the likes of the NY Times and The Guardian. Finally, I turn to Twitter, for additional information from new (to me) sources such as Vox, Slate, Reuters, McClatchy, Pro Publica, The Hill, the LA Times, and small outlets like the Lawfare blog and the Palmer Report. Yes, that’s a ridiculous amount of input. But I am enormously reassured by the depth and breadth of the coverage. The mainstream media, much maligned by the administration, is investigating what promises to be a scandal of epic, world-shaking proportion. They are certainly not behaving as if they were, collectively, the enemy of the American people. They are, thankfully, doing their jobs.
In past years, I seldom spent more than an hour in the morning, skimming through the headlines, reading the comics, and then, going about my day. I trusted that the people in charge were basically competent, capable individuals. Even if I did not agree with individual opinions or policies, I seldom did more than sign an online petition. I thought I was doing enough. I had spent most of my adult life as a public servant, and felt that after having done that for 27 years, I was entitled to just take care of my life, and the people in it. I watched the campaign last year with horror, but I continued to believe that my fellow citizens would make the right choice. I thought that I understood others’ misgivings about Hillary Clinton, but that they would ultimately vote for competency and a steady hand at the helm, over bluster and buffoonery and little in the way of discernable policy.
I read the articles about Russian interference – the hacking, the bots, the fake news sites on Facebook, coupled with Trump’s disparagement of the intelligence community’s reports, with increasing fear. This, in and of itself, would be cause for concern. Now, couple this with the possibility that the Trump campaign may have colluded with our attackers. I have followed international society and business dealings for many years, including some involving Donald Trump, with no small amount of fascination, but I now realized that something more sinister was underlying the glitter and glamour. Underneath was a web of connections which is seeming more ominous and threatening as each day passes and more is revealed. And finally, add in the policies of cruelty that the administration is attempting to implement (Muslim ban, science denial, Trumpcare, civil rights rollbacks, etc, etc, oh god I need some Pepto), and the truly stunning incompetency on display ( the budget cuts to essential departments and services, the fact that these people can’t stop LYING), and I have come to the inevitable conclusion that I was wrong and I was not doing enough.
Since the election, I have come to believe that being a citizen of the USA is a job, and I had been slacking. So, I read, I march (March for Science), I donate (not a lot, I’m retired), I sign petitions, I phone my Congressional representatives, and I signed on to Democrat Al Almeida’s campaign for mayor of Danbury. I do all this in the hopes that it will help make my corner of the world a little bit better. I take great comfort in the fact that I am not alone. Over 13,000 women across the country have either expressed interest in or are actually running for office. Thousands more people donated to the organizations we must now depend on to fight back (ACLU, Planned Parenthood, & EarthJustice are some of my favorites). Hundreds of thousands of people have marched, so far.
I remain hopeful. I’m pretty sure I’m not the only one working here.