Last Monday, two ‘events’ transpired, only one of which elicited national anger. On the one hand, 25,000 children around the world died from eminently treatable illnesses like diarrhea–25,000 human lives, with all their potential, their beauty, their hope, snuffed out due to a lack of clean water to drink or cheap antibiotics to treat them. On the other hand, the Green Bay Packers lost to the Seattle Seahawks on a last minute call that, observers around the country agree, was blown by replacement referees. Now, there are many angles to this. For one thing, the regular, unionized referees have been locked out by the NFL due to a dispute over pay and pensions, creating a fascinating dynamic whereby numerous anti-union figures, such as Wisconsin Governor Scott Walker, find themselves begging for a return to the unionized referees. What’s more, it’s been absolutely fascinating to read about the fact that, despite a litany of horrible calls by these amateur refs, many of which have literally changed the outcomes of games, viewership has actually gone up! So it seems that the old adage ‘there is no such thing as bad publicity’ holds true.
Anyway, where was I? Oh, right, national anger. So one of these two events got the President of the United States, presidential and vice presidential candidates Romney and Ryan, several governors, talk show hosts, tv show hosts, bloggers, newspapers and countless millions of ordinary Americans to unleash a unified crescendo of dismay, disgust and disdain for…the NFL. The fact that so many died quiet deaths in distant villages, crowded cities and everything in between? Not a peep. Not a word. Not even a side note on the evening news.
Am I surprised? No, of course not. And there’s no use rambling on and on with an acerbic and cynical tongue about how much more Americans seem to care about football than about injustice. Instead, I want to propose something. It’s an idea I got while thinking over the paradox that when 30 people are shot dead in a movie theatre, the entire nation is moved to support the victims, but when tens of thousands die in unspectacular–one might call it unglamorous–fashion, nothing happens, beyond the trickle of donations that reach NGOs around the world on an annual basis–donations that fall far short of what it would take to ensure dignity and justice for all human beings. So here’s the idea: one day, just one day, I’d like for the front page news in the New York times to read as follows;
“Today, 25,000 children around the world died for no other reason than that no one cared enough to keep them alive, just as 25,000 more children will die tomorrow, and the day after that, and in perpetuity until we decide to care.” The rest of the article will be a real article, treating the death of these children as though it were as ‘exciting’ as a war or a natural disaster, instead of the unnatural and entirely avoidable calamity and injustice that it is.
I wonder if such an article would spur people into action? I mean, after the tsunami of 2004, or the earthquakes in Haiti or Pakistan, Americans, and people all around the world, contributed billions of dollars and got involved in countless other ways. So if we could just frame daily suffering in the same way we view disasters and war, might we not see a similar outpouring? And, most importantly, might be not see so many lives lost to apathy?
I challenge the New York Times, or any other media outlet, to publish a story of this nature and see what kind of impact it has.