My one week moratorium on news ended today when the front page of the West Hawaii Today caught my eyes. It wasn’t about Obama in South America, the no fly zone in Libya, a nuclear meltdown in Japan or that Hilo ranks number one in America for drunkenness (page 9). The photo sent shivers down my back. A huge colored picture of an older man and two women gutting a mastodon in Austin, Texas about 16,000 years ago. Yes, even back then a news blackout would have served a purpose.
By Thursday of last week, six days after the tsunami and in the throes of a nuclear meltdown hysteria in the US media I couldn’t handle the bombardment of speculated doom. When I received emails and phone calls from friends that radiation was headed to Hawaii I snapped under my own post traumatic tsunami syndrome. I became depressed and angry.
I needed to decompress, to step back from the all the chaos. My life had hardly been impacted by the 9.0 earthquake and the generated tsunami. I did evacuate. I spent a tense night following the wave across the Pacific. I waited all morning for the all clear. I knew something had happened in Kona. But with no loss of life Hawaii’s event wasn’t worthy of a mention on the world wide clutter of headline grabbing information. Nor should it have been.
After all, in Japan entire communities and families were lost. The real tragedy is that a typical Friday routine for one person had not only been disrupted, but had vanished from the face of the earth. To think that someone vanished and everyone who knew that person and everything associated with that individual--from entire families and friends, to a house, car, place of employment, a simple routine of going to the local market for a bowl of noodles--had disappeared was unfathomable. Irreplaceably gone. Multiplied tens of thousands times more. How do you pick up from that?
That was the real tragedy. Yet the media focused on the what ifs. The remote perhaps, maybes, and possibilities of a radiation leak drifting the west coast. Run and buy your iodine pills. A typical American response, a pill for every ailment. I’ve seen Godzilla movies. If radiation were so easily cured give the lizard a pill.
I was bombarded by too much news. So was everyone else. I couldn’t do much about that, but I could withdrawal. I decided to go on a news break for one week. I don’t have a TV so to curb my viewing habits was easy. But the radio, newspaper and internet became the challenge.
The word went out to family and friends. Unless Israel gets nuked, the President gets shot or a tsunami was headed to Hawaii, I didn’t want to hear it. I turned off the radio. I didn’t stop the newspaper delivery, but I carefully edited my way to the comics, the crossword puzzles, the sports section and the classifieds. At first, I read Anne’s Mailbox, the advice column. Keenly aware of the human condition in Japan, I found the drone of unfaithful husbands, ungrateful kids and dissatisfied wives lacking in intellectual depth.
The biggest challenge to the news blackout was the internet. On social media sites like FaceBook and Twitter friends post more than “What’s on Your Mind?” and “What’s Happening?” They post news stories or comment on news items. When I read comments about what a great lady Elizabeth Taylor was, I concluded she died, because nobody says those things while you are alive.
Back to today’s news, the gutted elephant in Texas. The headline: Discovery of Artifacts in Texas May Rewrite Human History. The news I missed this week will be analyzed, rehashed, editorialized and eventually rewritten. It might go down better the second time around. 16,000 years from now.
Photo: Butchering a Mastodon, 2. A older man and two women butcher a mastodon, an Ice-Age elephant. It may have taken several days just to carve the beast into manageable pieces and then many more days to dry the meat and prepare the hide. Painting by Nola Davis, courtesy Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.