For Some, Ignorance Really is Bliss
On May 6, 2013, America was shocked when three women and a six year old emerged from abusive captivity in Cleveland, Ohio. Ariel Castro had kidnapped and abused these women, and held them captive for approximately ten years. In the days and weeks following, the news was filled with images and emerging details about Ariel Castro and the women held captive. Since media outlets did not have immediate access to interview the kidnapped women, “experts” were interviewed on all media outlets to describe what these women went through, and the long road ahead for their mental and emotional recovery. Conversations took place at work and home as people exchanged their opinions about what kind of punishment Arial Castro should receive for his horrendous crimes. In short, one really had to try to not be aware of what was going on in Cleveland, Ohio.
I cannot recall why, but I started a conversation about the kidnappings with my wife about three weeks after the women were released from captivity. I started with “you know how those women were knapped and abused in Cleveland, Ohio?” She replied, “what are you talking about?” I was completely baffled that she had no idea about the kidnappings. After all, every newspaper, internet news site, and radio station had kept discussing the kidnappings day and night for weeks.
Two things were alarming to me about this situation. 1) I knew my wife was not big into keeping up with the news, but now I knew she was really out of the loop. She had always made comments to me before that she only knew about something if I told her, it was on face book, or one of her work friends told her. 2) There are enough distractions in place at any given time that one could really just avoid keeping up with current events. I suppose if my wife always played iTunes or Pandora when driving around, she could avoid any radio news, or even short news snippets between radio songs. With DVR’s in every home, I suppose it is possible that people can really just watch the shows they want to watch without watching commercials for the nightly news, “stay tuned for critical details on Ariel Castro’s past, news at nine.” In social situations, if she finds the conversation boring, my wife can simply play on her iphone while everyone else discusses Ariel Castro or whatever else is going on in current events.
After she admitted that she did not hear about the women in captivity in Cleveland for ten years, I went on to tell her that is really is important that she stay informed about current events. Although in retrospect, I probably sounded like a lecturing parent more than anything. I tried my best, and with all the reasoning I could muster, I could not successfully convince my wife that she needed to keep up with current events. I tried to find websites that could make it as a painless as possible to know important news without having to see what the Kardashians were up to. Still, she would not take my advice and stay informed.
Fast forward to August 2014. A twitter feed shows a person holding a message written in Arabic in front of the White House and a prominent building in downtown Chicago. Translated into English, the message reads “We are in your state, we are in your cities, we are in your streets, you are our goals anywhere.” Most news outlets were discussing the twitter feed and speculating about the threat to the US homeland. After seeing the twitter message in the news along with that news media outlet’s interpretation of the coming doomsday, I thought nothing of discussing it with my wife. I knew she was not paying attention whenever I discussed my thoughts on ISIS with friends and family, and I was sure she did not want to hear about the twitter message.
A few days later, she comes home from work and mentioned that one of her work friends showed her the twitter message and gave her the background on ISIS. She told me that she was genuinely scared and asked if I thought she should just stay home from work. She was convinced that her hospital would be a target since she works at a prominent hospital in downtown Chicago. It took me a while to convince her that yes, she should continue to go to work. I tried to use the “what are the chances argument,” and even quoted a statistic that said the chances of getting killed in a terrorist attack are one in twenty million. I talked her off the ledge, but hardly. She reluctantly continued to go to work, nervous about the idea of ISIS attacking her hospital.
After the news about the Ariel Castro kidnappings, I had repeatedly tried to convince my wife to somehow stay engaged with important current events. I was frustrated that she resisted me at every attempt. However, now I believe my “everyone should stay informed” thought process may be flawed. What is the point of someone staying informed if they are too scared to leave the house? Perhaps some are better off just being distracted, and leaving the news to those who can stomach it without living in fear. After all, absent an attack, the terrorists win when they instill fear to the point that we cannot go about our daily lives without being afraid.