One of the best decisions my wife and I ever made was to keep our television out of the bedroom. We’ve never fallen asleep bathed in the blue glow of some late-night comic or some not-quite-funny comedy. The bedroom is our oasis.
We may, however, do something almost as bad these days. We sometimes eat dinner while watching the evening news.
It is generally a bad idea at any time of year. The network news anchors compete to bring stories of mayhem and disaster, while the advertisers bank on our need for costly medicines for the ailments provoked by all that bad news.
The news needs a warning label like we hear rapidly recited for every high-priced drug: Watching this show may cause fatigue, then anxiety, ending in despair.
This past month has been really tough. The pictures and stories from Ukraine are horrific: the shelling, the bodies, the refugees, the children, the tears. It is a nightmarish kaleidoscope of tragedy. It is difficult not to feel rage at the senselessness of this war.
There are many other wars that deserve this kind of coverage — in Africa, in Asia, in the Middle East, in our inner cities. Knowing that to be so, however, does not lessen the anger or sense of hopelessness with this war. It is a war of brothers brought about by greed and ego and nostalgia for a mythical golden age of empire.
This indigestible reality is our evening fare. New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman suggests we are watching the first true world war. It is being viewed on TVs, cellphones and computers all over the world. It is impacting gas prices at home and wheat prices in Africa.
Many are suffering the effects of this war although they could never find Ukraine on a map. It’s a world war because it demands the world’s attention in a uniquely 21st-century way.
Perhaps for a few decades we were lulled into a dreamscape: It was the end of history, we were told. The good guys won. The bad guys were vanquished, their systems of control in ruins. It was never so neat as the pundits described, as 9/11 showed us. But for a time we did not fear nuclear holocaust. Our rivals were diminished. Our wars far away.
This was a dream. Perhaps a foolish dream. Human nature had not changed — neither ours nor anyone else’s. Sin still stalks the land, even if we are blind to the suffering about us and deaf to the cries of the dispossessed.
This Easter comes when we need it more than ever. The man who healed the blind and the deaf is risen. This is not the end of history. A news anchor’s grim highlights of Armageddon will never be the last word. But the final chapter has been written already by the Lord of Easter. This night ends in dawn.
Let us remember this as we pray the beautiful Exsultet on Holy Saturday:
“This is the night
of which it is written …
The sanctifying power of this night
dispels wickedness, washes faults away,
restores innocence to the fallen, and joy to mourners,
drives out hatred, fosters concord, and brings down the mighty.”
Our hope remains in the Lord, for he is risen. We strive to comfort the refugee and defend the weak. Much work still needs to be done by each of us, but done knowing the final chapter has already been written. What we have no time for is despair.
“This is the night,
when Christ broke the prison-bars of death
and rose victorious from the underworld.”
Greg Erlandson, director and editor-in-chief of Catholic News Service, can be reached at email@example.com.