Some guys like fishing, others like watching sports, but me, I'm a news junkie. I watch and read news both local and international with the enthusiasm that many reserve for the Saturday night hockey game. But the events of the past few months have exhausted me and frazzled my brain, and I think I might need to give myself a news vacation – but not yet.
Obviously I am constantly immersed in local news and events, so much so that paragraphs from reports to council sometimes creep into my dreams and I wake up with municipal service delivery reviews or budget presentation pie charts on my mind. In spite of major recent events locally, like the library board issue or the hospital issue, both of which have evoked a lot of passion and interest in the community and have taken up a lot of my time, the local news isn't what has been exhausting me, it's my hobby news, my recreational news. The news I spend hours upon hours each week sussing out, reading, watching, comparing viewpoints, and burying my mind into the never-ending analysis. That's the news I need a break from.
Whether it's the latest and often horrific antics of newly elected President Donald Trump, the latest bombing or mass shooting, or the Ontario Premier trying to placate the populace by vowing (finally) to do something to address skyrocketing hydro rates, news is like crack to me and it has been since I was a teenager.
But the news of the past few months has brought with it a frustration and melancholy that I haven't experienced before. I'm not sure if it is because I have some deep-rooted fears about the road that President Trump wants to drive America down, or if it is my cynicism about supposedly progressive politicians whose actions rarely these days seem to match their rhetoric, or if it is as simple as a few months of information overload, but whatever it is, I'm almost certain that the cure is a break, but thus far I haven't been able to look away.
Recognizing that I need a break from the news, I decided to watch a favourite movie over the weekend as an escape. I even made some popcorn to celebrate the rare occasion that I turn on the television and plunk a DVD into the player (the addict in me would refuse to tell you the title of the movie I was watching because if the addict were to tell you that to take a break from the news I watched a movie that was predominantly set in the newsroom of a Washington newspaper, the addict would insist on a trip to rehab).
That was Sunday night. Less than an hour into my movie I received a text from a friend (enabler) asking if I had seen what had happened in Quebec City. I hadn't.
As you might expect, I was glued to my computer for the rest of the night, horrified, saddened, and angry. Horrified at what I was reading and watching, saddened that this is the world we live in, and angry that some sick bastard had walked into a place that was supposed to be safe, a place that was supposed to be a sanctuary, and with a few bullets and a madness that I will hopefully never know, killed and injured innocent people who were simply trying to practise their religion.
They were praying, for crying out loud. Praying.
It's no secret that I'm not a religious man. I'm the furthest thing from it, but I have a very deeply held belief that others can believe whatever they want, as misguided as I might personally think their beliefs to be, and I would fight to the death to defend their right to believe what they want so long as they aren't hurting others in doing so.
So when I got sucked back into the news world after my brief escape from reality, as I read the reports and watched the video from various news services, my want of an escape, my desire to disconnect from news outside my community all but dissipated.
In the days since, the horror has faded, the anger I had felt had been rationalized, but the sadness has stuck with me. My heart goes out to the families of the victims as well as to the family of the perpetrator of the crime – no family intentionally raises a monster. No family anticipates one of their own doing such a terrible deed, and they, like the families of the victims, are most likely horrified themselves.
So I know what my problem is – I'm addicted to news. I know what the solution is – I need a break. The trick for this addict is to somehow act on the solution, and I will. Before going to bed on Monday night I vowed that I would take a full week break from the news starting Tuesday morning, and I was doing well for the first few minutes after waking up, but then I heard that President Trump had fired the acting Attorney General for refusing to enforce his ridiculous travel ban, and I was sucked back in again. So now my goal is to start my non-local one week news sabbatical on Saturday.
Wish me luck – I'm going to need it.