This post is actually two posts in one. I could treat each topic separately, but they actually fit quite nicely together: The US economic climate and Thanksgiving (big-T and little-t).
I feel confident in assessing that, for as epic as the global economic crisis might be, the media coverage of the economy is the truly epic part of many of our daily lives, if not in quantity rather than quality of coverage. With the ubiquity of media news in our current culture (the perils and frustrations about which I will save for a future post), not only are we hammered every day with more news (and "news") than we can digest, but now we are also hammered every day with more bad economic news and projections than we know how to process. With my new job, I don't watch a lot of TV these days, and virtually none of what I do watch is news. Since I take the bus instead of driving, I don't listen to the radio. I do read a smattering of news online (CNN and Google mostly), and I (sometimes selectively) read Time magazine every week. Also, the building in which I work has a news ticker on it, so I read headlines and snippets as I walk from the bus stop to the front door. I only seem to catch the ticker when it is reporting one of two things: sports scores/news or economic news.
I have to admit something: I have paid very little attention to the economic crisis.
I don't often advocate an "ignorance is bliss" outlook on life, but for the majority of people these days, I don't wonder if it is an apt exhortation. For starters, I (and I'm sure many of you as well, given that it's mostly students and new-career types that read this blog) do not have a significant amount of money. Matt and I make ends meet the best we can, and are swimming in student loans, and have no investments or mortgages or retirements funds. So really, apart from frustration at the rising cost of living, the economic crisis is not impacting us. Obviously, there are plenty of people directly impacted by the economic crisis - investors and factory workers (especially auto workers these days), to name a couple of groups - but I wonder exactly how directly most of us are truly affected by it all.
I'm not naive - I understand that there are huge and global issues at stake here. But when you are bombarded by the ever-worsening economic news cycle, when media outlets report as much doom as they can muster (because, of course, it helps their ratings), when we live in a media culture where news is to be consumed (and we gorge on it rather than keeping up a balanced diet): I simply don't believe it is useful, healthy, or necessary for me (or many of us) to obsess over it or to dwell in a state of heightened and perpetual anxiety. I, personally, do not need to know what John Deere's gloomy projections are. I do not need a second-by-second update on the auto bailout. I do not need to see lists of struggling companies or read articles about despairing predictions for black Friday. I feel that, with (comparatively) so little to lose, I am a happier, healthier person for doing my best to ignore as much economic news coverage as possible.
Tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and hopefully this day will give our country an opportunity to take a break from worrying about the economy. It is a day set aside to focus on what we have in our lives and be thankful for it - a welcome change from focusing on what we don't have or what we might lose. I am thankful for my family and friends, for simple joys, for a roof over my head and food on my table. I am thankful for meaningful work and the opportunities that have been granted me that I certainly don't deserve. I am thankful for my faith and for the grace of God.
And yes, my thankfulness does make me mindful of loss and neediness, but not what that the economic news would have us believe are our needs and worries. Having to downsize (house, car, expenses, etc.) or having to endure the rocky process of transitioning and adapting to new financial structures: these may cause stress and anxiety, they may certainly incite feelings of fear and loss, but we are woefully short-sighted if we only remember these needs.
On Thanksgiving, I will thank God for his blessings and I be mindful of greater and more dire global needs. I will remember those who don't have work, those who don't have food or shelter or basic needs, those without the love of family and friends, those who by no fault of their own find no opportunities, those for whom the plight of survival leaves no room for the luxury of joy.
The economic crisis does not have the last word. Hopefully, on this Thanksgiving Day, we can take stock of what really matters in our lives and think charitably and justly about the world in which we live. Hopefully, Thanksgiving will remind us that life is bigger than the economy, and perhaps inspire us to keep better priorities. Hopefully, we will wake up Friday morning with a new and greater resolve to live daily lives full of thankfulness and joy.
I leave you with this post from CNN.com. For me, it puts many things into perspective and reminds me just how loosely connected money and life-worth really are.