The events and images of the past several weeks, coming on the heels of an extended lockdown and in the midst of the worst pandemic in a century, have left Americans reeling. In all the madness, I want to give props to a group of people that is getting largely overlooked in all the protesting and rioting of the past week.
These are the journalists on the ground who have been risking their own necks to bring these chaotic scenes into our homes, where we sit safe on our couches and recliners. They have been placing themselves squarely in the middle of incredibly volatile and dangerous situations in order to keep us informed. Situations where any “pop” or bang could be a gunshot or bomb.
Over the weekend, I saw news crews for Fox and CNN literally being chased, harassed, and physically assaulted by protesters, who were throwing water bottles and other projectiles at them. Reporters’ attempts to put microphones in front of some of the protesters to try to give them a voice was often met with profanity, hostility, or worse. They also had to suck up tear gas and pepper spray set off by overwhelmed cops.
Forget whatever you might think of the politics of Fox or CNN. The people on these news crews are human beings–something we tend to forget–and I could see very real fear on their faces as they tried to keep it professional and keep their cool while dealing with a terrifying and unpredictable situation.
And let’s not forget the photojournalists: the cameramen/women–who are also journalists. Because we never see their faces, it’s easy to imagine that the camera that’s bringing all these horrible images into our homes is holding itself. No, there’s a flesh-and-blood human being behind it, who is just as frightened as we would be.
Journalists have been badly injured and even killed covering wars overseas. Many of them probably never imagined there could be a very real possibility of that happening while they were covering news stateside. People love to beat up on the news media; I’m guilty as charged. But these journalists on the ground are unsung heroes. Let’s give them all their due.
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Shifting gears a little, I want to share something I read in the Wall Street Journal that I found pretty insightful. I have been telling my friends during this pandemic lockdown that we are lucky; we all live in spacious, comfortable homes with large yards and we’re relatively financially secure. Others aren’t so fortunate. They have to shelter-in-place in small, cramped, crummy apartments, often with one or more other people, and they live with precarious economic circumstances. I have been in such living situations myself, most of us have. This must be especially rough on the young, who can’t go out and play basketball or other sports, go to the movies, or hang out with their friends. The result: a ticking time bomb.
If you think the riots don’t have something to do with the virus, you are probably one of many Americans living in a comfortable suburban or country house, with independent means or a high-paying job that can be done from a laptop. You may have forgotten previous periods of your own life: what the lockdowns would have been like if you were 15 and stuck at home, or 20 and booted from college, or suddenly jobless in a crummy studio apartment or in a group home full of equally unemployed roommates. Never mind being a member of a large immigrant family jammed in a creaky high-rise or a single parent without savings or safety.