As is my custom, each morning, first thing, I walk down to the street and retrieve the newspaper. As I walk back up the driveway, I scan the headlines to see what new crisis awaits my purview. You will note that I didn’t say what ‘news’ awaits me. I haven’t experienced that sensation in quite some time. No, I have become accustomed to the daily dissertations about floods, fires, quakes, shootings, bombings, and political scandal spun in whatever direction the publisher wishes to advance. You have to look a little harder and dig a little deeper to find anything that tends to appeal to our more civilized norms, even if it entails proceeding all the way to the sports pages and applauding a win by a regional team, or finding a feel good story buried back in local news.
I started thinking about how different things are today. How the news has changed so dramatically. How everything seems to focus on the negative. Logic dictates that this is what sells papers and gets us to watch the media talking heads. Apparently good news doesn’t sell. Is that what our world has evolved to? Is that who we have become?
One of the stories that caught my eye (couldn’t miss it. Front page, above the fold) was about the fires in the West and the floods in West Virginia. Although some space was given over to the extensive rescue efforts and selfless deeds performed by ordinary citizens, the majority of the article focused on the devastation, with interviews of now homeless people and the loss they have suffered. And then it went on to describe the looting of stores and peoples belongings. It also described the gouging by some that had products and services that are now in high demand and could therefore command an inflated price at the expense of those who needed them most. That is the part that disgusted me the most.
Yesterday, our newspaper ran a story on Portland, one of Maine’s premier cities and harbors, that once suffered a major fire that wiped out a large part of the city and left 10000 people homeless. It read like a documentary of the fire that burned for three days and destroyed a large part of the local industry as well as homes. It told of how surrounding communities pitched in and how money and supplies were sent from Philadelphia, Boston, and New York. It chronicled how overwhelmed the city services were, especially the police and fire departments. City hall was gone as were many government building like the Customs House and the Post Office, as well as most of the newspapers. And then there it was. A paragraph that read as follows”
“Soldiers were deployed to stop the widespread looting. Two special police forces – one made up of Marines and another of regular citizens – along with other armed residents,were successful in turning back opportunistic thieves, described as “a multitude of rough and disparate characters’ from larger cities. Those who had come to prey upon us left and good order and quiet were soon restored”.
The fire I describe was on July 4, 1866. The more things change…….. Just sayin.