The 24 News Cycle Will Kill You


My name is Roxanne and I am a political news junkie. There. I’ve said it. And it’s the truth.

The 24 hour news cycle is like heroin – it’s a daily hit. At first you’re just chipping. You walk by the TV set and catch the end of some political atrocity that the talking heads are dicing into increasingly small, indigestible bits, and you sniff at the silliness. Maybe you suck your teeth at some inanity uttered by an obviously biased and paid hack.

But the next time you pass that same TV, you realize you’re beginning to recognize the lead characters in this drama, those with the weird names like Wolf Blitzer or Anderson Cooper. Before you know it, you’re wondering when Mika and Joe Scarborough will set a date for their wedding, and you’re even starting to know the bit players.

As you sink deeper into the drama that political news has become, your ‘event TV‘ viewing starts to largely consist of the big names, like Rachel Maddow or Lawrence O’Donnell, and Sunday is definitely broken into a Face The Nation morning and a Last Week with John Oliver night.newsjunkie get your fix

Comic relief soon consists only of the monologues from the late night hosts riding the Orange Wave; Stephen Colbert, Trevor Noah, Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon. And Samantha Bee is your new girlcrush.

Nothing else can hold your attention. Your regularly scheduled relaxation television viewing has been supplanted by the need to be constantly on guard and aware of what the politicians are trying to slide past the people. Your love/hate relationship with current events has you so tied up in knots that you’d throw your television out the window, but then you wouldn’t be able to punch the screen!

Your background music now consists of CNNLive, and listening to the broadcasted testimony of Jeff Sessions, and the hours of posturing that follow as the anchors play good cop/back cop trying to uncover what just happened … and you realize …

you’re in deep. No longer content with news clips from as long as a week ago, nope, last week can’t give the hit of a clip from the night before .. or the hour before.

twittereffect1You’re as addicted as any junkie jonesing for a fix. You’re hooked on news, man, shucking and jiving and slapping your arm to pop up a vein.

The intensity of the last few months has left many breathless – the constant tweeting, the ridiculous and unenforceable edicts, the Executive Orders carving great swaths of America into more caviar for the 1% while taking the very bread out of the mouths of children – our noses are being constantly rubbed into the most shameless and flagrant abuse of power seen on our shores, in our lifetime.

We have front row tickets to the unraveling of democracy. You can look away, but it’s like that car crash on the highway … you know you’re gonna slow down and take a peek at the carnage, just like every other looky loo.

CNN, FOX, MSNBC, Headline News and all the little brother and sister cable and internet networks know that they have a willing and captive audience slavering for that next news hit. And they have 24 hours of airwaves to fill. When the cravings kick in, it’s a match made in hell.

the rich build networks and the poor watch themYou want to hear more, more, more – but there’s a danger in this addiction. Networks have their own politics, and trying to keep viewers tuning in is their quest. Regardless of how ‘fair and balanced’ these behemoths purport to be, their real bias is to finding what angle will bring in the most viewers, and pump in those yummy advertising dollars. Rachel Maddow may love her cheap blazers, but the execs are wearing much more expensive apparel, and that’s just the way they like it.

While it is indeed wonderful to have this banquet of 24/7 information at our fingertips, there’s a real risk in letting the drip drip drip of what can be mere speculation and innuendo turn us into armchair quarterbacks, pseudo-intellectuals, prisoners of little bubble fortresses where all within think alike and talk alike, who can neither hear nor understand those in all the other bubble fortresses who don’t think and talk exactly like us.

The divisiveness that has become our new and violent normal has it’s seeds in the lengths networks will go to, to shape their viewers points of view.

maddow-fox-newsThe 24 hour news cycle presumes that every issue has only two sides to it, and only one side is right. Of course, that’s neither true nor tenable. You are allowed, and even encouraged, as part of your civic duty, to understand the issues that preoccupy your nation and government. A news network, supposedly neutral, does not have the right to impose it’s own morality and biases upon it’s viewers. Your choice of network should not also be the source of your ethics and morality.

And yet – the networks often do exactly that. The networks act as the ‘dealers’ selling hits of outrage to the news junkies.

In the hands of the partisan network, the viewer learns little hard information, nor is there much depth to any argument. The ‘panels,’ made up of ‘experts’ chosen to imply that all sides of an issue are covered, are often little more than a group of people paid to whip up alarm, outrage, and frenzied fear.

And yes – that’s true of both the right and the left leaning media.

Yes, we need to be aware of the issues of the day, in our own country and in those countries where decisions made by their leadership can have an impact on the safety and governance of our own.

But I think it’s time to sort out the wheat from the chaff; the journalism from the junk food. Time to reward the solid writers and broadcasters who attempt, within their network, to work to actual fair and balanced standards. Time to turn the channel from those who depend on an atmosphere of fear and uncertainly, to those measured voices who seek to inform and explain what many of us may know instinctively, but have been counseled to ignore by those who profit from this destabilized and increasingly fractured populace.

I quitBut this is all too much. It’s deadly. We’ve go to get off this treadmill of constant political madness. We have to ignore the tweets and calls to action that are destabilizing not only America, but most of the world.

In the past, addiction was a personal thing.. being hooked on this political madness hurts too many people around us. I gotta stop letting this run my mind and my life.

I have to get a grip on this news addiction. I’ve gotta get off this apple sauce. It won’t be easy, but I’m going to have to go cold turkey, and stay off the politics needle until there’s something I can actually do to impact the injustices I condemn.

Ignorance is only bliss for the ignorant. A little, biased, knowledge can be a dangerous thing. And turning the people against each other only profits those who market civil unrest and war.

Resist. But resist wisely, and from a place of common ground and a desire to work together, not tear each other apart.

 

It Is To Laugh!


samantha bee trevor noah.jpgIn a Salon.com article last week, Steve Almond accused Comedy Central of having “squandered Jon Stewart’s legacy” by appointing South African comedian Trevor Noah as host, over the then-incumbent Samantha Bee.

The author points to the success of Bee’s new show “Full Frontal” as proof that Noah’s lower key, outsider’s perspective, has damaged the credibility and political power of The Daily Show.

There’s so much wrong with that attitude that I barely know where to begin. Full disclosure: my conversion to political junkie is relatively recent, and as with most converts, I just can’t get enough of meaningful discussion on my new passion. I’m also an entertainer who studied comedy and acting for long enough to have a dispassionate overview of what I see on the screen – I’m not buying the physical over the intellectual. I watch for knowledge and to hear something clever that I hadn’t thought of myself.

That being said – there’s lots of leg room in the television/Internet world for a wide spectrum of opinions, and lawdy, lawdy, there’s a fan for every fanatical opinion. I dislike certain types of discourse; insightful commentary has no need to use scatology or childish insults unless justified in context. Those that shriek their thoughts are right off my list of viewing. So, that certainly leaves out the FOX News Network, and all Republican debates, no matter how ‘entertaining.’

But let’s just cut to the chase on why Samantha Bee declined the chance to succeed Jon Stewart.titans of late night 2016

I like how Vanity Fair leaned into the 50’s sexism of late night by making the photo Mad Men-themed’.

The ‘titans of late night’ sausagefest included Stephen Colbert, Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, John Oliver, Seth Meyers, Jimmy Fallon, and token light skinned Trevor Noah and Larry Wilmore. Not exactly a cultural mosaic going on there.

vanity-fair-cover2

“What’s conspicuously missing from late-night, still, is women,’ wrote David Kamp.’How gobsmackingly insane is it that no TV network has had the common sense — and that’s all we’re talking about in 2015, not courage, bravery, or even decency — to hand over the reins of an existing late-night comedy program to a female person?

(You could also add “people of colour” there, but I’ll get to that in a minute.)

While I can appreciate the work of Conan O’Brien, James Corden, Jimmy Kimmel, Seth Meyers, and Jimmy Fallon, I’ve never really taken to them. I’m just ‘over’ the late night formula, with its emphasis on rising or fading stars, and middle of the road, slightly risqué, rarely challenging patter. That was always the domain of older, white males, and still largely is. That’s more ” falling asleep in front of the TV” stuff, to me.

colbert thumbs upStephen Colbert’s defection to The Tonight Show, despite his best efforts, still landed him in that traditional format. While the move made great career sense overall and I do love his joyful, melodica playing, bandleader, Jon Batiste, Colbert’s brilliance is still best viewed in his political snipes, and thankfully, the cream of his wit usually wind up getting spun off into Internet clips and memes.

Trevor Noah only has to step on stage for the conservative dog whistles to start – he’s a young, black, South African, and an immigrant who’s taken an American’s job! A gentle, soft spoken and thoughtful soul, he is able to laugh at his own foibles and to marvel at American customs and culture. I find his often wide-eyed wonder refreshing – I too sometimes feel the same gulf between how Canadians and Americans think. Sometimes it’s just too wide a mental leap to span.

The contrast between the often brash, broad humoured and ultra-white Stewart and Noah’s more restrained presence can be jarring, if all you are looking for is what you’ve already seen. But Stewart himself knew that it was time to go – he’d accomplished what he’d set out to do. He saw that it was time to move on and let the next wave of young comedians have their shot. He subsequently signed a four year production contract with HBO, while continuing as executive producer of …larry wilmore

The Nightly Show with Larry Wilmore – an Afrocentric look at America’s politics. Maybe it’s the humour of the damned and the resigned, but it’s also intelligent, truthful, often wise, and empathic.

A typical, if bowdlerized, user’s comment on the show: “they have almost no white people on their show at any point, and often just disrespect that person. It’s always a black panel, it’s always the same guys opinion, who is him? I’ve never seen or heard of him. He presents rather, off humor, if any of this is humor, which it’s not, it’s just a group of people acting out raged constantly”

people care about pets over poor blacksThe main take-away being, at least on the commentator’s part, not to see a chance to explore and try to understand a different perspective on the very real problem of racism in America, and how it’s dealt with, legally and individually, but instead a demand for more white faces to rehash white opinions on a series focused on black lives. And there you have your #allLifeMatters in a nutshell.

Stewart was also instrumental in launching Last Week Tonight with John Oliver, a satirical look at news, politics and current events. Funny-sausage-principle-by-John-OliverOliver had the distinction of guest-hosting The Daily Show in the summer of 2013, when Stewart took a working sabbatical to direct his film, Rosewater. Oliver’s sardonic and exaggerated comedic ‘voice,’ was immediately acceptable to American viewers familiar with the work of British comedians in the Monty Python vein. Although his series airs only once a week, each episode is a little gem, with the bulk of the airtime focusing with laser beam intensity on a well-researched and timely item deserving of closer examination.

 

hollywood_reporter_bill_maher_coverStill a force to be reckoned with, is Bill Maher, of Real Time, and the late, lamented Politically Incorrect. The granddaddy of political satire and discussion, Maher is definitely polarizing. He’s a “love him or hate him” kinda guy. Perhaps that’s the attraction. At any rate, I’ve followed his career since the nineties, and even once seized the opportunity to be in the Politically Incorrect audience, just a week or two after 9/11. Though I can’t remember if that was the episode that got his multi –award winning show cancelled.

ABC decided against renewing Maher’s contract for Politically Incorrect in 2002, after he made a controversial on-air remark six days after the September 11 attacks. He agreed with his guest, conservative pundit Dinesh D’Souza, that the 9/11 terrorists did not act in a cowardly manner (in rebuttal to President Bush’s statement calling them cowards). Maher said, “We have been the cowards. Lobbing cruise missiles from 2,000 miles away. That’s cowardly. Staying in the airplane when it hits the building. Say what you want about it. Not cowardly. You’re right.””

Maher barely skipped a beat, moving from ABC to HBO in 2003, where his hour-long political comedy talk show, Real Time with Bill Maher, has flourished ever since.

Bill and I have been aging disgracefully – a world apart, but akin in spirit – for decades. We’re both still lippy, lefty, liberals – though I disagree with his pro-gun stance – with a sarcastic attitude, and a hate-on for bad politics, bought off politicians and mass media, inane bureaucracy, and rabid religionists of any stripe. What’s not to love? I’m positively dejected when I miss my Friday night fix of Real Time .

samantha bee on ScaliaBut circling back to Full Frontal with Samantha Bee… this new series airs only once a week. Like John Oliver, Bee touches briefly on current events, before diving deep into the murky waters of American politics. She’s funny, strong, relevant, courageous … even the show’s theme song, PeachesThe Boys Wanna Be Her,” asserts that “the boys want to be her, the girls want to be her.”

And I think that rings true to a young, engaged, non gender discriminating audience. Bee is cocky, unafraid to confront the staid establishment. Her interview with Texas Republican representative Dan Flynn, about writing the anti-abortion restrictions despite knowing little about the procedure, is typical of her style. “I speak with the authority of one who has a uterus,” Bee tells him, “and I guess that’s why I think that you’re the wrongiest, wrongheadedest wrong person.”

She’s exciting, she’s brave – and she’s Canadian! All of which allows her to comment and opine on wrongheadedness from the perspective of a country more known for acceptance than intellectual resistance. But we’re only four episodes in so far. It may seem longer, since that has encompassed four weeks, but we’re talking baby steps here.

By contrast, Trevor Noah’s been at The Daily Show since September 28, 2015, appearing four nights a week most weeks. Viewers have had time to decide on whether they like his shtick or not. Or have they? trevor noah w de Blasio

I recently watched an episode of Noah speaking with New York Mayor Bill de Blasio. But this time, the episode that I watched was not the regular, clipped for time, segment normally shown in the time spot, but rather, included the ‘extended’ interview that is available only to those who seek out the episode on Comedy Central. There was an entirely different tone between the televised and the ‘only available on the Internet’ conversation.

In the first, commercially aired segment, there was a lot of polite banter and civility. But just as the conversation got started, it was cut short.

De Blasio: And look, a lot of people don’t feel the government’s treating them fairly. For years and years, a lot of – and this is especially why, as you know, I’m very involved in the issue of addressing income inequality. And, you know, it’s amazing, you see the national discussion – like, why are people angry? Why are they frustrated? Because they’ve been screwed. Because for decades they’ve seen their incomes go down. They’ve seen their economic reality decline, and they wonder if their kids are going to have anywhere near as good a life as they had. Would you be content? The anger and frustration are the natural way people should feel when they go through that, and then they take that frustration out on a government that they feel has let them down. 

Noah: That has let them down, especially when it comes to income inequality. It’s funny you bring that up, because you are big on income inequality, which seems like a Bernie Sanders supporter, and, yet, you’ve endorsed Hillary, which we’ll talk more about. TV time is up – we’ll be talking more on the web and on the app.

(the extended interview) http://www.thecomedynetwork.ca/Shows/TheDailyShow?vid=821779

Now, I can’t say that I’ve watched many of the extended interviews. However – a different Noah, a more confident, knowledgeable and willing to confront, Noah, appeared during the extended segment. And, in my opinion, that’s the Noah that viewers would prefer to the polished, safe, non-threatening, Noah they’ve been sold since his debut.

sense of humourBut really, in the end, our appreciation of comedy is personal, and only our opinion, as is our sense of humour. Everyone’s taste is different, and that’s a good thing – it speaks to our individuality. There’s room for all at the inn – pitting comedian against comedian is sophomoric and limiting. Let’s keep any nonsense austerity principles as far away from the distribution of art as we can.

Having a wide range of voices available for regular viewing is the essence of our freedom to choose, a real gift to viewers, and a paean to the right of free speech.

 

(first published Match 6/2015: bobsegarini.wordpress.com/2016/03/06/roxanne-tellier-it-is-to-laugh/)

Goodbye, 2015. Hello 2016!


It must be the new year, because I’ve officially lost all track of time. The flurry of December activities, the shopping, the gatherings – they’ve all left me a little dizzy. Time to close the books on 2015, the year that Marty McFly visited in Back To The Future 2.

ed sheeran lion tattooAlso the hottest year on record, no doubt due to our fascination with movies like Fifty Shades of Grey, Justin Bieber’s naked sunbathing pictures, and Ed Sheeran’s new lion tattoo, which is not a tribute to Cecil, the lion gunned down by the disgraced American dentist, but rather a nod to England’s national emblem, and Sheeran’s own triumph of three sold out nights at Wembley stadium.

Yes, it was a wild year for musicians and their fans. The war between man and machine was launched in May, when Enrique Iglesias had his hand sliced open by a drone shooting live video at a crowded concert in Tijuana. left-sharkTeeny boppers around the world mourned when Zayn Malik quit One Direction; I myself was more intriqued with the antics of #leftshark during Katy Perry’s gig at the SuperBowl.

Australia got it’s knickers in a twist in May when Johnny Depp and wife Amber Heard smuggled their two little dogs, Pistol and Boo, into the country on his private plane, without proper permits. Things got pretty tense, as Australians take the illegal importation of animals rather seriously. Amber is to appear in Australian court and face a possible 10-johnny depp australia memeyear jail term and/or a hefty fine for illegally importing the dogs into Australia and of producing a false document. Depp wasn’t bothered – movie stars don’t need no steenkin’ laws – as he told late night show host Jimmy Kimmel in September:

“As Kimmel laughed, Depp continued: ”This sort of weird, sweaty-pated gut man who decided that two five-, six-inch Teacup Yorkshire Terriers would harm the country in some way. He’s got a point. Especially when you consider that Australia has the most poisonous creatures on earth. Everything will kill you in minutes.’

Lightening it up in the land down under, one young Australian boy’s rendition of the Australian anthem went viral as he persevered through an attack of the hiccups. The show must go on!

Kanye West ended the year on a high note, with the birth of son, Saint, to he and wife Kim Kardashian. But things weren’t going quite as swimmingly during his June appearance at Glastonbury. After calling himself “the greatest living rock star on the planet,” Kanye broke into song, or something vaguely reminiscent, wrestling Queen’s “Bohemian Rhapsody” to the ground. The Rhapsody won. If he was going to pick a Queen tune to murder for his wife, I’m thinking “Fat Bottomed Girls” would have been more appropriate.

Of course, the Bruce-to-Caitlyn Jenner story has been pretty much THE story of the year, despite Kylie Jenner’s attempt to capture top place with her “lip challenge.” kylie-jenner-challenge-fail.jpgmost of the participants are using shot glasses. After placing their lips into the shot glass, they suck the air out of the glass, creating a vacuum. However, because the glass isn’t flexible like the CandyLipz device, the shot glass can break under all the pressure, causing serious injuries that require stitches to repair. “ (PopSugar.com)

Jeez, we used to lick red Smarties tm for fake lipstick when I was a kid. Thank heavens for the Internet!

And no one could figure out what was going on with that dress.white gold blue black dress

“Neuroscientists Bevil Conway and Jay Neitz believe that the differences in opinions are a result of how the human brain perceives colour, and chromatic adaptation. Similar theories have been expounded by the University of Liverpool’s Paul Knox. Conway believes that it has a connection to how the brain processes the various hues of a daylight sky, noting that “your visual system is looking at this thing, and you’re trying to discount the chromatic bias of the daylight axis”, and that “people either discount the blue side, in which case they end up seeing white and gold, or discount the gold side, in which case they end up with blue and black.” Neitz remarked that

Our visual system is supposed to throw away information about the illuminant and extract information about the actual reflectance… but I’ve studied individual differences in colour vision for 30 years, and this is one of the biggest individual differences I’ve ever seen.” (Wikipedia)

This viral video was a terrific distraction from reality. “Epic Strut” was an ad for England’s MoneySuperMarket.

2015 also saw the rise of the ‘dad bod.” What’s that, you say?

“On March 30, 2015, a sophomore at Clemson University named Mackenzie Pearson published a post on college-centric site The Odyssey titled “Why Girls Love the Dad Bod.” This post gave us perhaps the most complete definition of the phrase that we have: Wrote Pearson, “The dad bod is a nice balance between a beer gut and working out. The dad bod says, ‘I go to the gym occasionally, but I also drink heavily on the weekends and enjoy eating eight slices of pizza at a time.’ It’s not an overweight guy, but it isn’t one with washboard abs, either.””

Sadly, women don’t get the same props for sporting a mom bod, in fact, they’re usually shamed for it, on the front pages of tabloids,

Celebs with dad bods include John Mayer, Jon Hamm, Jason Segal, Kanye West, Will Ferrell, Jay-Z … and a Canadian who gave us the first dad bod video – Drake.

Although the new Star Wars film is getting all the attention now, it was Mad Max: Fury Road, The Martian, and Trainwreck that were the ‘must sees’ earlier this year. Well, when we weren’t Netflix binging, or crying over the season end of Game of Thrones.

hello kitty websiteIn August, the extramarital affair website, Ashley Madison, was hacked, and cheaters everywhere quaked in their BVDs. More worrisome, the Hello Kitty website was hacked in December. So far, so good.

In sports… Sorry. I don’t watch and I don’t care. I missed it all, and when anyone tried to tell me about it, I stuck my fingers in my ears and went “lalalalala” until they stopped. Except for #leftshark. I liked #leftshark.

I’m always surprised at how much happens during a year, and how little I remember by the end of it. We focus on what’s in front of us, as a rule, and even the most important events tend to blur as months go by. As hard as it is to believe, all of the energy and angst involved in the longest election in Canadian history is now in the past, where it should stay. We can’t keep dragging our wounds and wounded behind us like Jacob Marley’s chests and chains.

TrudeauVogue_SpreadCanadians chose Justin Trudeau’s youth and charisma over Stephen Harper’s doom and gloom, and a new era began for Canada. In the first few months of Trudeau’s mandate, he’s brought a breath of fresh air and hope to the country, sweeping away the rigidity and largely male-heavy parliament often associated with traditional government by bringing a more balanced group in to help him lead the country. When asked why he went with gender equality in his cabinet, Justin Trudeau said: “Because it’s 2015.” And not just gender was considered; Trudeau’s cabinet is the first in Canadian history with the first ever Muslim minister, the first aboriginal justice minister, and the first northern fisheries minister, an Inuit who wore a sealskin tie to take his oath.

In the United States, however, another battle over who would make the best President is underway, and it’s a hideous clown car of buffoons who’ve grabbed most of the attention. Americans seem to like trump pointingTrump, who is loud and has a lot of money. Sadly, many Americans equate wealth with intelligence, loud voices with knowledge, and the ability to do one thing well with an ability to do all things well. Trump has attacked minorities, women, the disabled, and anyone who dares to criticize him. Give him props, though; he epitomizes the old cliché of “dressing for the job you want.” Unfortunately, that job is fascist dictator.

He says things that aren’t true, and are regularly proven false, but his loudest followers are generally distrustful of the media, so they take his bleating as gospel. He can basically create any sort of fantasy, a nation run like a reality TV show, and his fans blindly agree with him. That’s a pretty frightening scenario.

If his madness seems familiar, perhaps it’s because you remember this scene:

alex jones tinhatYes, it was a good year for conspiracy theorists and wackadoodles. Normally it’s only fans of head paranoids Glenn Beck and Alex Jones whipping up the crazy, but this year, crazy went mainstream. Remember Jade Helm in July? Texans sure do; as on January 1st, open-carrying is now legal in the state. Sales of guns have never been higher in the U.S., even though Obama’s almost out the door and he STILL hasn’t come for their guns.

The British election even caught comedian/activist Russell Brand’s attention, and he used his Youtube journal “The Trews,” to let his followers know he’d just realized that choosing not to vote wasn’t quite as clever as he’d previously thought. Throwing his support to Milliband and his MilliFans, however, seemed to sap him of further public politicism, as the Trew News was quietly shut down when David Cameron rode back into power once more. cameron and pig(Cameron didn’t escape scandal this year either, as he sought to defend himself against a book alleging that he’d once stuck his “private part” into a dead pig’s mouth in an initiation stunt.)

 

Before we get weasel on woodpeckerto the Syrian refugee crisis and other heavy stuff, here’s a photo that went viral of a weasel riding a woodpecker, to clear your palette.

In January, the offices of Charlie Hebdo, a satirical magazine based in Paris, were invaded by two armed terrorists, who identified themselves as belonging to the Islamist terrorist group Al-Qaeda‘s branch in Yemen. They murdered 11 people, and injured 11 more, before leaving for the Île-de-France region, where a further five were killed and 11 wounded, as the world watched in horror.

“On 11 January, about two million people, including more than 40 world leaders, met in Paris for a rally of national unity, and 3.7 million people joined demonstrations across France. Je Suis CharlieThe phrase Je suis Charlie has become a common slogan of support at the rallies and in social media. The staff of Charlie Hebdo continued with the publication, and the following issue print ran 7.95 million copies in six languages, in contrast to its typical print run of 60,000 in only French.” (Wikipedia.com)

And then we all went about our businesses, and moved on to other matters. Sure, we knew there was unrest in the Middle East, and we’d heard something about Syria and civil war, and wasn’t there something in the press about the British being annoyed by refugees arriving on their beaches and spoiling their summer holidays?

But that was all just part of what we glanced at in the papers or on social media. We psychologically portioned off what wasn’t affecting us personally as something bad happening somewhere else. Over there, not over here. To them, not to us.

Until that photo in September.dead syrian boy on beach The Independent

The images of 3 year old Aylan Kurdi, washed ashore on a Turkish beach, tore the hearts out of people everywhere. Suddenly the Syrian refugee crisis had become real, which could only have come as a shock to those who had been suffering and dying for the last three years.

More than a million refugees and migrants crossed into Europe in 2015. Many thousands didn’t survive the journey. Some fled barren lands, others, like the Syrians, were caught in a crossfire between a bloodthirsty death cult and an amoral military regime.

They came from Syria, Afghanistan, Kosovo, Iraq, Albania, Pakistan, Eritrea, Nigeria, Serbia and the Ukraine. They arrived virtually penniless, often with just the clothes on their back. The lucky ones have family in Europe, or America or Canada, and hope to receive asylum. Many will go through a formal refugee/asylum seeking quarantine, which can last three or more years, in makeshift camps.syria_refugees_snow_01a

And if they do make it through the process, and somehow get to be accepted into a new country, there is no guarantee that they’ll be greeted with a welcome. In fact, as Muslims in the ‘civilized’ countries are well aware, fear of ISIS has translated into aggression against all Muslims, and those who may look Muslim. Aren’t we a charming lot? Immigrants ourselves, who claim Christian/Judean traditions, and still so many of us more terrified of the possibility of a terrorist sneaking in with the downtrodden, then of the state of our hearts and souls when we choose to deny those in need of a helping hand.

ISIS/ISIL continues to be synonymous with terror, helped along by periodically released videos of horrifying torture and murder, and fanned by the inflammatory voices of politicians well aware that fear is a wonderful way to capture the attention of voters. No one wants to see a repeat of the November attacks in Paris, where ISIS claimed responsibility for the deaths of 130 people, and the wounding of 368 people, 80–99 of them seriously.

isis airstrikesAnd yet it’s hard to be convinced that governments have the ISIS situation under control, as the current military air strikes – by the United States, France, Russia, the United Kingdom — along with several Arab nations and the Kurds, who are fighting them in northern Iraq and Syria – all seem to be at odds with each other. Many triumphant reports emerge of fighters claiming to have destroyed training centers, camps, and ammunition depots, but the civilian death toll continues to rise, with no end in sight.

To end on a brighter note, December’s climate conference in Paris, attended by far too many dignitaries traveling on far too many gas guzzling jets, would seem to be taking seriously the spectre of global climate change. It’s good to know that being a ‘denier’ of the impact humans have had on the planet is now a mark of self-centered shame rather than a badge of misinformed honour. We’ve closed our eyes to the countries hardest hit by climate change for too long, and are now reaping the rewards in the form of refugees, migrants, animal extinction, and innocents killed in the name of corporate greed and civilian disinterest.

Hope springs eternal in humans; it’s why the race has lasted this long. positivityI have faith in the good people, the people who aren’t internet famous or fabulously wealthy, but who struggle along day by day, living life with dignity and respect for themselves and others. Those who keep positive in the face of the events that challenge us should be applauded for their courage and humour. I strive every day to be more like them.

Happy New Year, frustrated boomers!