There might have been 20 million acts of goodness that occurred across our country on Independence Day, but the only act I heard about was the murderous rampage in Highland Park. I can’t get the victims out of my head.
This is how reality works. Horrible news rises to the top, not because good news doesn’t matter but because bad news is more urgent. There’s nothing to “fix” with good news. There’s everything to fix with bad news.
We’re also drawn to bad news because we’re silently grateful that it wasn’t us. We recoil at the pain and suffering of others, but deep down we’re reminded that we ourselves are fortunate to have dodged those bullets.
The other thing with bad news, especially mass shootings, is that they come with an endless dribble of follow-up stories. Who was the killer and why did he do it? What did his family know? How did he get the weapons? Who were the victims? What are the politicians saying? How can we stop the madness? I can’t stop reading all these stories. It’s as if the more I read, the more I’ll be able to make sense of the pain and madness.
Good news is infused with joy rather than pain. But joy is not an emergency that requires action. Pain requires immediate attention. There must have been millions of people creating moments of joy on July 4, but it’s the Highland Park killer who made the evening news.
I can’t help thinking that, in the midst of so much bad news, there’s still one industry that values good news: advertising. Those idyllic commercials of friends enjoying themselves thanks to a certain brand of beer or snack food may be exaggerated and driven by the profit motive, but at least they remind us that “good” is what we should strive for.
It’s ironic that the news business makes money by focusing on the bad, while advertising makes money by exaggerating the good. We need to see both, of course—the good and the bad—but perhaps we can do it on our terms, not the terms of the revenue-driven exaggerators.
We can keep opposing ideas in our minds at the same time: We shouldn’t ignore the violence and the killing around us, just as we shouldn’t ignore the goodness that resides within us.
We can recognize that evil exists and must be fought with all means at our disposal, just as we can recognize that the great majority of human beings are decent people who just want to fire up the barbeque and enjoy themselves.
We can grieve for the victims and work towards a less violent future, just as we can remember that we’re put on this earth not just to fight the bad but to create the good.
And maybe we can figure out how to create our own personal news channel that knows how to balance both.
David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp and the “Jewish Journal.” He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
This article was originally published by Jewish Journal.