content warning: this post talks about real crimes, untimely death, violence and the recent insurrection
Sometimes you read a headline and it guts you.
The past year and continued nonsense this year has given plenty of fodder for this reality, but unfortunately, the ability to disconnect when it is part of your job to be connected is hard.
I’ve read about Facebook moderators who have now undergone PTSD diagnoses because of the wretched and horrible things they’ve seen. Growing up in the internet age, you are accustomed to the bowels and dark depths of the web, but we shouldn’t let that dictate our lives. And it shouldn’t be the norm.
I’m not going to link to the articles but honestly, you can find some horrible, local police blotter, clickbait headlines, and stories on just about any news outlet out there. Sometime in the summer of 2020, I found myself reading about infanticide that occurred in Wisconsin. I can’t exactly explain why I started reading it, but my morbid curiosity got the best of me and the more I scrolled the hard it became to breathe.
I probably had a panic attack. I don’t recall much else besides calling my wife and calming down that way. It wouldn’t be the first and it won’t be the last. The thing that has stuck with me since then is why I decided to click. I knew the details, I knew what would be inside the article’s hastily copied and pasted from a police report to get in front of readers, grabbing their attention, piercing an already battered soul.
This past week, a breaking news alert from the Wisconsin State Journal hit my inbox. I’m again not linking, but the content was the same. Infanticide, the prolonged cause, and new details regarding the teenage father’s actions.
There are moments like this where I don’t want the world to continue. Don’t take that the wrong way, I am safe and happy and healthy, but I ponder the decisions that lead us to the exact moment in time. What failed along the way that such a horror could occur? What was the system that didn’t click? What resource was lacking?
I partly believe that no system is going to change anything. We’ve seen how slow to respond to our electoral systems are when faced with a literal global health crisis.
The mere jargon I spouted above about systems and resources reads like a pamphlet you are handed after a counseling session. Connecting to providers who can streamline the benefits process to ensure that the community has the resources it needs.
It sounds like a bot scrapped all non-profit website’s blog posts and made a word cloud, printed them out, someone cut out the individual words, put them in a bucket, and dumped it on the floor.
The inability to describe how specific news affects you personally, even it isn’t directly happening to you, is messy. There is no clear way to describe being disconnected from an event and somehow connected to the emotional toll it causes on you.
Headlines however are clear. They are direct. They grab you, and (hopefully) tell a precise story: Man Who Posed For Photos Sitting At A Desk In Pelosi's Office Has Been Arrested, NYC to terminate Trump contracts after Capitol insurrection, ‘Reject sedition’: House impeaches Trump in historic second rebuke.
The last week has been a barrage of understanding, clicking, reading, digging, and learning for many people. The words that have circulated have been sorted. Some folks say insurrectionists, some say terrorists, some say protestors, some say rioters, some say mob.
It’s hard to understand how we will look back at moments like this if we never get the chance to truly process what unfolded.
Analyzing speech and understanding word choice is a keen skill, one that I have some knowledge of but am no expert on. I went to school for poetry (yes, seriously) and wound up a journalist. Both trade in definitions, wordplay, understanding, and a broad view of the world.
The essence is that words matter. They mean things. We have lost a sense of understanding because of the constant assault of words ( the irony of having a newsletter and complaining about content overload is not lost on me ) and the media in front of us.
We’ve also lost a sense of understanding because of deliberate disinformation, fear-mongering, and falsehoods spread across the digital highway, bloated deer carcasses at every mile maker attracting pests. This action has caused radicalization and isolated some people to the point of pure lunacy and deranged behavior for the sake of divisive and profitable echo chambers.
Political columnist Seth Abramson broke down some of the chilling and deliberate word choices that President Trump made in his speech ahead of the Capital siege last week. The full thread is here and below, I’ll pull some sections out:
"You don't concede when there's theft involved." He's telling the crowd that they *can't* do anything but march on the Capitol (as he will shortly tell them to do), and that they *must* not do anything on January 6 that would "concede" to the vote taking place at the Capitol.
In fact, "Stop the Steal" was not a grassroots slogan, but was created by Ali Alexander in conjunction with Trump's allies, one of whom (Mo Brooks) had just spoken before Trump, exhorting the crowd to start "kicking ass." But we also must consider the word "stop." It matters.
The action Trump is demanding isn't a "protest"-type action. It's not a let-your-voice-be-heard action. It is *explicitly* an *intervention*—the "steal" will be "stopped" by the assembled army marching on the Capitol as Trump will shortly direct them. There's no fuzz on this.
"We're not going to let it happen. Not going to let it happen." Pronouns matter here. Trump repeatedly says "we"—over and over in his speech, he puts himself in the midst of his army. It matters because he shortly will *falsely* say "we" are going to march on the Capitol now.
Media reports confirm Trump was told *days* before the Save America March that he couldn't accompany the rally-goers to the Capitol. So his "we" is consistently rhetorical: he is strengthening his army's backbone to do the unthinkable by deceitfully saying he'll go with them.
Around 1 pm on Wednesday, January 6th I was in my office, working on a story and pitching some other stories. I had noticed the planned protests for the day but wasn’t as tuned in as others.
When news broke about the siege, I was listening to Converge’s All We Love We Leave Behind on full blast. It’s the only Converge record I own on vinyl and it is tied for my favorite (Jane Doe obviously).
Some headlines spark your interest and some stop you in your tracks. The stream of reports and live-tweeting broke and it felt as if the whole work-from-home-world stopped and followed the events unfolding.
I turned off the 2012 release from the east coast metalcore pioneers and turned on my radio on my receiver, tuned to 88.1 - WPR. I don’t often listen to the radio and work, mostly just in the car and kitchen and everywhere else. Now aware of the situation, I continued clicking between headlines, tweets, listening to NPR reports, and plugging away. “Are we supposed to keep working through a coup” people pondered on Twitter. I still don’t know the proper way to react but it feels par for the course to keep working, keep your head down and not blink an eye.
I’ve been struggling with how to understand how we will talk about this time to future generations. To our own children. To my own son. Think pieces and news reports have already jumped at the chance to catalog how history teachers taught a class the day after a violent insurrection, but then the headlines move on. Something else rolls down the hill and covers us in its mire.
How do we come back from this? What even is the “normal” that we fawn after? Normalcy has left the earth and I don’t think it is returning any time soon.
Some old adage speaks about loving things and letting them go. Jacob Bannon screams about leaving things we love behind, out of choice, or just out of necessity for survival. I think we can choose to leave a world that allowed us to get to this point behind but remember it fondly.
It is privileged and dangerous to think that what has led us to this moment was a good thing, but the fact that all of our eyes are open, or at least should be, to the terrible way things were - be it health care, disinformation, corruption, white supremacy, economic instability, and myriad other realities taking up the forefront of our minds, is a needed step in the future.
When something isn’t worth saving you let it die, dig a grave, leave a headstone, and leave it behind.
I Found This. is a poor attempt at cataloging epiphanies regarding music, media and Midwest living.
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