I woke up in a sweat because I left my socks on when I went to sleep and I overslept so I couldn’t take a shower.
But that wasn’t the hard part.
I put on three different outfits and none of them looked right, so I settled on the “least worst” of the three. I couldn’t find a sweater to match.
But that wasn’t the hard part.
I went to my favorite class this morning (hint, hint, it’s the one where I get to talk about journalism the whole time). We started a documentary about one of the greatest columnists and reporters in history, Nicholas Kristof of the New York Times. It was appropriately called, “Reporter.”
Aside from the fact that I’m looking for the 20-something year-old version of Kristof to explore the world and write and have children with (What? It’s a blog. I’m going to be brutally honest. He’s a really smart, really attractive dude who happens to be an incredible writer), I was captivated by his manner of reporting. Over years of writing about conflict and unrest he discovered that people will respond most fervently to the worst case scenario.
Kristof realized an extreme version of “show not tell” would galvanize the masses far better than simply writing a detached column from thousands of miles away. If a writer could bring the people to the problem, help them empathize and move toward a goal, then perhaps he could make a change. And he did.
His coverage of mass killings in Darfur pushed international officials to recognize the problem and respond. The relentless, repeated columns on the conflict garnered the support of the international community. Yet, the conflict still rages on 20 years later.
Before I continue, let me just say I’m an idealist in every sense of the word. The glass is never half-full, people are always a light and a joy to me.
But on days like today, I have my doubts.
For example: the documentary showed a woman from the Congo in her 40s who used to have life and wealth and abundance, but huddled in a bundle of rags somewhere in the mountains, shrieking from bedsores on her buttocks, dying from starvation. It made me wonder: is there an answer? Can we even begin to help?
Then I left class and read an article about immigrants from Central America looking for a better life in America. They were barred by poverty, a lack of resources, the control of drug cartels, the threat of border militarization, the constant fear deportation. We left them somewhere — neither here nor there.
I went to the gym and the television screamed at me, NATIONAL GUARD CALLED TO RIOTS IN BALTIMORE. And some talking head pretended to have the answer as his city fell apart and I knew people watched from their homes but everyone was too scared to actually go and help.
And then I wondered:
Do we care? Does anybody care? Will there ever be a solution?
And I thought maybe if I wrote about it, people would care. But would my words sustain people’s interest?
Then I thought, could I ever remove myself enough from the situation to be able to report without feeling guilty for not helping? Could I ever be a Nicholas Kristof and examine the worst case scenario with a clinical approach?
I don’t know, and I don’t think I’ll know for a long time, but the unrest ate away at me as I went about my day. I know tomorrow I’ll feel better, but maybe I shouldn’t. Although I might convince myself to look beyond them, the problems always exist.
That’s why today was hard.