What in the world is going on?

Oct 13th, 2017 | By | Category: 2017-2018, Opinions

By Jessica Weiss
Staff Writer

In a world where international headlines seem to be defined by the rogue actions of a single man (not Bashar Al-Assad or even Kim Jong Un), a citizen of the United States cannot live under a rock anymore. Young Americans are exposed to the president’s Twitter rants, cabinet members’ Instagram posts and the endless amount of memes, jokes and commentary through social media outlets. Older Americans can’t stop reading, watching or listening to headlines about the president or his counterparts. Not even the “apolitical” sports fans have been spared.

The times we live in call for an ever vigilant press and public of happenings in our distant capital. It is admittedly impossible to keep up with the back-to-back breaking news headlines with seemingly unbelievable content, and the smokescreen the administration seems to set up has made it difficult to keep up with what needs to be spotlighted more than every other crazy thing. It has been so difficult that even when things move way closer to home, it is hard to keep up with (see Betsy Devos visiting McMinnville High School today, Wed. October 11). Given these troubling obstacles however, a terrifying trend of ignoring international issues with little to do with our administration has arisen.

This is not to say that we as citizens, college students, curious individuals or any other way to group people who have some form of engagement with the news, have done a great job historically breaking out of our domestic news bubble. We’ve always been way more interested in ourselves, and our news outlets comparative to foreign outlets reflect that. Spend five minutes scrolling the websites for CNN or even New York Times, and compare it to the same amount of intake on BBC or The Economist’s website. The problem has always been there, but now more than ever there has been extremely light focus on the international realm outside of the happenings of the American executive branch.

And sure, there is some validity when in the span of under a year the administration has managed to disrupt the lives of millions of people, igniting anger amongst marginalized communities, activist groups, the political right and left at large.

We are the spotlight of many international news outlets, often the subject of disbelief and curiosity, as the world questions the logic behind many of the decisions coming out of the executive branch.

But in our quest to never let our guard down or fight tooth and nail to fulfill a burden of resistance, we have forgotten about many populations, and thus fail to raise outrage where outrage may be deserved. As we criticize the handling of the developing humanitarian crisis in Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory with U.S. citizens (a fact unknown to nearly half of Americans, according to a poll by Morning Consult), we have yet to see widespread outrage on the ethnic cleansing in Myanmar. Or an extensive discussion over the referendum on independence from Spain in Catalonia. Our media reports on these issues, and those in circles that follow international news, may say it is ludicrous to suggest these are not big headlines, but public engagement in the United States is inevitably driven by the attention-catching headlines on Trump.

While it seemingly makes sense to prioritize issues that hit closer to home, it is important to force ourselves to engage with the headlines that don’t make the cover. It is important to remind ourselves that there are people out there that are facing crises different from our own, and possibly in more crucial need of being discussed. If nothing else, we need to look further for ourselves in order to better understand the dynamics of the global system and how our stories fit into it. A reminder that some of the worst crises in the modern day are ones where we act too late, or perhaps not at all. In Syria, we say we could not have done anything when the options were there. There was no widespread push to act, and in our hesitancy emerged one of the worst humanitarian crises of the modern era.

Public opinion and interest matters, and the attention of the American public is an important factor in determining foreign policy. Because of this, it should be our duty to learn about more than just what is in front of us.

 

jweiss@willamette.edu

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