There was a run of several years, when NPR was constantly in the background of my life. I would get up in the morning and flip on the radio. It would be on when I was in the car, while I was working, and I would listen to it as I prepared dinner at night. I would listen to the same news headlines over and over again.
It was nice to always know what was happening in the world. I enjoyed that rhythm of my days, as it was tempered by different radio shows and personalities. I particularly savored The Writers Almanac with Garrison Keillor each morning.
I moved to a new state and we didn’t get good NPR reception in the house. My constant radio listening became more infrequent. I listened a lot in the car, but less at home. I noticed that putting on music was a bit more uplifting, and Birch, who was 2 at the time, seemed to enjoy it more as well.
One day, I had NPR on in the car. A story came on about gun violence. I don’t remember the details. I wasn’t really paying attention. I’m sure it was an important story, but not one that my then 3-year-old son should be hearing. I didn’t even notice the violent nature of the news report until the questions starting pouring in from the back seat. “Mama, why to police shoot people?” “Do police shoot kids?”
I turned off the radio and left it off. I still flip on NPR from time to time, but not in the presence of Birch.
Yesterday, I was streaming an episode of On Point (Birch was outside playing in the snow). His guest, Alain de Botton said the news has become the replacement of religion, that news says “this is reality,” but it isn’t.
I know that violence happens in the world, but I don’t believe we are inherently violent creatures or that the world is a violent place. Violence is an aberration, a mistake, something that should never have happened. It is important for adults and older children to remain appraised of current events, to have a view of the world that reaches beyond their personal experience, but we have to be vigilant consumers of news. As member of a democratic society, we need to keep one eye on the problems and one on the solutions. We are not passive consumers; we are citizens with the responsibility of solving problems of systemic injustice.
I firmly believe that one of the ways we can combat violence in society is to teach our children that the world is a good and beautiful place, and to keep that message in our own hearts as well.