Everything is being compressed into tiny tablets. You take a little pill of news every day - 23 minutes - and that's supposed to be enough. -Walter Cronkite
When I saw the news that legendary newsman Walter Cronkite passed away, I recalled the concern he expressed so often about the dangerous changes that were occurring in news programming. Real news, the way Cronkite viewed it, had to do with major world and national events. Yes, the death of Michael Jackson, for example would be real news. But, the extensive follow up covering every rumor and every aspect of his life was not news and would, in his opinion, push aside reports of more major events.
I thought of his words this morning when our local newspaper reported a giant piece of news that the television stations managed to miss. At this moment, the story said, it is estimated that over 200,000 people are being held as political prisoners in North Korea in conditions indistinguishable from the Nazi concentration camps of World War II.
Any caregiver would be appalled at the enviornment in which these people are living. According to the report, filed by Blaine Harden of The Washington Post, prisoners are fed a "diet of mostly corn and salt" causing chronic malnutrition and early death. They are given one suit of clothes for the rest of their time in prison and nothing else - no soap, no underwear, no sanitary napkins, no socks. Of course, the clothes often become rags. As if the forced labor and criminal living conditions were not bad enough, prisoners are often tortured by sadistic guards in the same way the Nazi's tortured Jews in Germany, Hutus murdered Tutsies in Rwanda, Serbs tried to wipe out Bosnian Muslims and Saddam Hussein tortured and killed Kurds in Iraq.
What can any one of us, as caregivers, do about such horrors? Part of the answer is for us to be aware of these injustices as well as to speak up about them. That's what Cronkite was trying to tell us. If we allow ourselves to be preoccupied primarily with fluff stories about Britney Spears and Paris Hilton, then we will lose our sense of the truly important news of the world. And we will turn our back on those in need.
Politicians and news stations say that they focus more on fluff now because "that's what the people want." It's frightening to think how true this may be.
Meanwhile, at this moment, tens of thousands of innocent people are suffering in North Korea along with millions of others elsewhere in the world. Who will do anything about international crimes if we, as caring Americans, do not?
And by the way, here's another quote from Walter Cronkite that describes a truth closer to home: "America's health care system is neither healthy, caring, nor a system."
What do you think?