Isn't it wonderful to think of how many books were written up to the present moment? It used to be a cause of great anxiety to me. The books I would never read and the vault of secrets sealed against me. How could I re-read a book when there are untold millions of writers I've never even heard of working to speaking from their heart, their head or somewhere even weirder and less definitive. I've sinced calmed down a bit, and am now comforted by it. I will never run out of books to be excited about. Never cease to be challenged by ideas and stories I know nothing about. It is puts me at ease. Not to drown but to float on an ocean of collective experience and effort. To ease out on the bay of unread books is the same comfort in the behind the scenes. It feels similar to me as the peace at the idea of the end of mankind coming from the hands of mother nature herself. To me it seems both a fitting end and one that would tip toward the side of justice. But more on that next week. Today I'm talking about my first love, reading.
This week I subscribed to the New York Times digital edition. Though it has become commonplace to attack the messenger and ascribe everyone to their single-source news "bubbles," I think it is delusional to beleive that journalism with whatever inherent biases are attached to it can be compared to the opinion dominated, no source necessary websites, social media content makers, and talking head tv shows. I subscribed not because I devour the news (or at least I didn't before this nightmarish campaign year/oncoming trainwreck of a presidential term). But because I support writing. I support real journalistic practices, where people are beholden to digging and getting to the bottom of things. But mostly because I support reading.
I think there is no simple way to explain what is going on in the country (the Western World) at this point. But for me, without a doubt, the waining of respect for print journalism, which has long been regarded as the most important form of news one and is associated with unconvering immense scandals, exposing despots, and being critical of our government processes since our government processes began, has created a resistance to truth. Or is it a denial of truth as a concept? The us vs. them mentality seems to have caught fire in one first world country after another, as all the institutional corruption, the constant immoral influence of wealth, and heartless corporations have jaded not just against the shock of their not-so-secretely moving the chess pieces on the board, but have blurred the lines between holding individuals accountable, and instead feeding into people's frustration without educating them about why these things are happening, and which institutions, (journalists cheif among them) who can help to diseminate all the purposeful obfuscation that stands in the way of concrete measurable effort to represent the people. In other words, attacking journalism hurts everyone.
This, has to do with reading. And while there are certainly some wonderful articles and opinion pieces and truly top class writing on websites like The Daily Beast, The Atlantic, Slate and countless others. These pieces read like magazine articles. Which is to say, that they have a thesis that they work towards. They can be report-like and fact and figure based, but they can also be literary and paint with broad strokes. While a newspaper, is a constant source of information about the everyday truth of what is going on in our country and our government. It is an evenhanded collecting of what is known, with as little opinion as can be dictated. And it has never been less popular or more flat out despised. Why?
Because knowledge is power. And an uninformed, divided electorate is a desirable outcome for anyone in power who seeks power alone. This isn't to say that things like Breitbart News were formed by the Republicans, but the fact that they cleft a stake from conservative America is no coincidence. Because stoking fear and hatred is easier amongst people who see large groups of the world as outsiders. They see it that way because those groups are unknown. In my city of New York, we are as racist, as discriminatory, as sexist, and as money driven as anywhere else. But despite that, we tend not to vote to openly disenfranchise large portions of what makes New York, and America the inspiring country that it is today, immigrants. I would go so far as to say that immigrants are the best thing that has ever happened to America. It's certainly one of the things that makes me most proud to be an American, despite all the horrors and atrocities woven into our flag.
One of the other things that make me proud to be an American is the quantity of information available in this country. I am writing this in the Windsor Terrace branch of the Brooklyn Public Library. A network of free books, magazines, papers and information databases available to anyone who lives here. As an American you may think that libraries like this exist all over the world. But they do not. This level of information and art is unparalleled and one of the most incredible allowances given to us. In my library there is a Bengali, Polish, Chinese, Russian and Spanish language section. And I'd say that makes me proud, but really to me, this is just a given. It's a great big world, inside of our country, and calling America White, or middle class, or conservative, misses the point of this great big mess of a country which is that everyone should be given a chance to participate in the American experience, and the only qualifier for judgement should be individuals and entities who deny resources and opportunity to anyone.
At the end of the day, I can't help but think that this is what everyone was worried about with the "death of print journalism." People now beleive that Hillary Clinton is involved in child sex trafficking, that Donald Trump would have won the poular vote if not for millions of illegal voters, and they did not read these things in their local paper.
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