Last Wednesday night I participated in a beautiful and compelling ecumenical Thanksgiving service in Napa. Over 250 people attended, and I know there were many other such spiritual and secular gatherings around the country during Thanksgiving. When I returned home, I regrettably turned on the 11:00 PM local news. In addition to what we now call the "normal" assortment of crimes reported on, there were continued interruptions of "breaking news." The excited reporter conveyed a deep sense of urgency and the news chopper showed images of approximately 100 vehicles and perhaps a few hundred people gathered to watch a few vehicles involved in a side show -- a variety of stunts including doughnuts and ghost riding. As the event progressed, the cars and people were surrounded by Oakland police cars and CHP and several people were arrested.
Watching it I realized that more people had attended the service in Napa than gathered for the sideshow -- yet the sideshow was the news feature of the evening. Indeed, this was a "sideshow" to the main show that most people care about which is current events, and, on the eve of Thanksgiving, some stories that would uplift our spirits.
I must tell you that I am tired of this kind of news. Is it really news? It seems like we no longer have local news on our television stations but rather a community crime report followed by weather and sports. I, for one, am fed up with this kind of assault on my senses and I am enervated by the media highlighting the acts done by a few, which tear apart our sense of community. I do not think I am alone.
Most people are good, hard working and caring people. We want to know about both the good and the bad, the cutting edge events and the problems -- but come on, "breaking news" stories about the sideshow in Oakland is over the top.
On the eve of Thanksgiving I was especially mindful of all the shelters preparing to serve thousands of meals to those in need. Here in the San Francisco Bay Area, approximately 36,000 people were homeless on Thanksgiving night. Like you, I know how many people who are ill, or are out of work and are still preparing feasts for their friends and families. There are so many groups and individuals doing good work, and their stories are never really told. Yes, the local news stations on occasion show brief stories of compassion, courage and kindness but all too quickly; it is back to the crime report and the "breaking news" of a car chase, the latest multi-million dollar sports contract or a sideshow.
My call to this action is this: Let all who agree with this sentiment bombard your local television stations with letters, emails and calls. Perhaps it is time that each evening there be a segment on stories that provide us with hope and encouragement about the good that so many of our neighbors are doing. We need to see these segments; our children need to know these stories. They do not have to be Pollyannaish, they can be substantive and connect to the concerns that most of us have about living in these chaotic times.
On Thanksgiving morning I saw something that is a much more profound and meaningful side show -- really the main show. It provides a great perspective on life. I urge you to take five minutes and watch it here. It shows the beauty in the world and all that we can be grateful for. It is human, it is humane and it is spiritual. It is a great side show that many more of resonate to than a few cars doing wheelies.
What if we showed a few minutes of this video or another uplifting story each and every night? It is time to say to our local media -- enough is enough, we want at least some of the side shows to be ones which tell the compelling and dramatic stories of people here in the Bay Area and all around the country who are trying to create a more just and peaceful community. I want to see these side shows each and every day, not just on Thanksgiving. These are the side shows that are changing our world.