Sunday, August 31, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

It’s hard to decide how much to watch

MarionFranckW

By
From page A17 | May 26, 2013 |

A couple of weeks ago I found myself alone in front of the TV with my hand hovering over the remote. To click or not to click? I clicked, terminating the movie I was watching at the one-hour mark.

“The Killing Fields” is a 1984 Oscar-winning fictionalized account of real events during the Cambodian genocide. I had just reached the point in the story when Dith Pran, a character both lovable and worthy of respect, had to leave the protection of the embassy to fend on his own against the Khmer Rouge.

I knew that violence, sadism, hunger and death would follow in the second half of the movie, because that was the reality of Cambodia in the years 1975-79, and I couldn’t watch.

Until the next morning, which dawned light and cheery, and I felt strong enough to try again. I finished the movie and watched a second time in order to listen to the director’s commentary. However, I saw a few scenes only through a curtain of my fingers with my eyes half-shut.

I’ve made choices about upsetting movies many times in my life, often choosing not to watch. Here’s another choice, which I faced the same week.

After receiving an “alert” on my smartphone, I turned on the TV and caught early footage of the bombing at the Boston marathon. At that point, every newscast was playing the same tape, over and over. Big puff of smoke. Runner falls down on the street. Woman’s face contorts. People are loaded onto stretchers or placed in wheelchairs, and the voiceover tells us we’re not seeing the worst cases. People died. People lost limbs.

In the following days, I turned on the TV many times, and at one point I remained glued to it for two hours watching police pursue the Tsarnaev brothers while the city of Boston waited in suspended animation. At various times I caught other scenes: heart-broken relatives and family members, photographs of the dead. For some reason the open, gentle face of the murdered MIT police officer sent pain through me every time I saw it.

Watching tragedy affects us in a variety of ways. My daughter told me she made the mistake of checking news before bedtime and couldn’t sleep. I thought I was handling things well until, after a few days, my stomach hinted otherwise.

During this same period of time, I ran into friends and acquaintances who were also watching coverage on TV. Some chose not to do so. Some turned to newspapers. Several talked openly about their struggle.

Considering all the advice that fills books and websites, it amazes me that I’ve never encountered advice on how much tragedy to watch.

The dilemma is complicated. Some people have no choice: the TV is always on in the house. Others have young children and turn it off. But for people who can choose freely like me, how much should we watch?

Two ideas war within me.

The first says that there is a moral choice to be made. When our countrymen are suffering, it’s not right to click off the television. Be it flood or killing or fire, we should care about others and sometimes get involved. On the other hand, I can’t send money to every cause, or every disaster, so I often find myself watching but doing nothing else.

Does this take me over an invisible line to voyeurism? I don’t feel good about that.

My second issue involves health. What is the healthy response to horror? Surely we shouldn’t overdose. I’m reading a lot about the Cambodian genocide now, but I’m not studying the Holocaust simultaneously or even paying much attention to dysfunction in Congress.

Isn’t it our responsibility to keep ourselves healthy enough to be a positive force in the lives of family, friends and community? No one wants a false optimist, but like others, I’m drawn to people who are balanced, or maybe even tip a bit toward the optimist side. Can I watch every compelling tragedy unfold and be that kind of person? I don’t think so.

I try to be gentle with myself as I struggle to decide whether to turn the TV on or off. I’m glad I finished “The Killing Fields.” It was a heartfelt movie, featuring a Cambodian physician-turned-actor (Haing S. Nor) who suffered under the Khmer Rouge himself, a man whose performance I’ll never forget.

I went a little too far with the Boston manhunt, watching with a sort of distanced curiosity that is better suited to movie-viewing than to real life. I stopped.

Now a tornado has devastated people in Oklahoma. Faced with this tragedy so soon after the marathon, should I turn on the TV? Do I risk “compassion fatigue?” If so, does that make me a lesser person?

I have to work this out on my own.

— Marion Franck lives in Davis with her family. Reach her at marionf2@gmail.com

Comments

comments

.

News

Davis audience hears from civil-rights hero

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A1 | Gallery

 
 
Legislators wrap up with water, ethics, guns bills

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

 
Bob Dunning: This new kid might have a future

By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

Five U.S. airstrikes target Islamic State fighters

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

 
EU threatens Russia with more sanctions

By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

Robbery, pursuit in Central Davis lead to one arrest

By Anne Ternus-Bellamy | From Page: A3

 
Rotary clubs offer Davis High students some life lessons

By Evan Arnold-Gordon | From Page: A3 | Gallery

Beamer Park featured at Stroll Through History

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Yolo Federal to hold photo contest

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Katehi will speak at Chamber’s community luncheon

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Bean Feed supports for Yolo Democrats’ activities

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

 
Bauer garden marks one year

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

Dinner will raise funds to help farmers in Burkina Faso

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

 
Walkers welcome to join Sierra Club outings

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

Tuleyome Tales: Be safe on wilderness trails

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5 | Gallery

 
Small wineries suffer big losses in quake

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A6 | Gallery

Grande site has been a convoluted saga

By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A7

 
Say goodbye to summer with a ‘Final Blast’ at Explorit

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A9 | Gallery

 
Bay Bridge project’s rainy-day money is nearly gone

By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A15 | Gallery

.

Forum

Already made herself at home

By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

 
Keep our green waste piles

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

How to make a good living

By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

 
Nate Beeler cartoon

By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

Changing local election dates benefits Democrats

By Tom Elias | From Page: A10

 
Ad-free email? You can still find it at Davis Community Network

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A10

Speak out

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

 
City panel working to tighten scrutiny of taxpayer dollars

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

Try round-robin storytelling at crafts fair

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11

 
This epidemic should scare us

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A14

Marriage doesn’t mean we agree on everything

By Marion Franck | From Page: A14

 
.

Sports

Coach likes what she sees from Devil field hockey squad

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
UCD notebook: Coaches positive about FCS schools ‘playing up’

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

Devils open with an impressive volleyball victory

By Spencer Ault | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Stanford scores early, often in opener versus UCD

By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

New coach, new tougher league for DHS football

By Thomas Oide | From Page: B1 | Gallery

 
Sports briefs: Aggie harriers secure season-opening sweep

By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

Baseball roundup: Cats win late to pull even with Aces

By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B8

 
.

Features

.

Arts

.

Business

Comings and Goings: Is fro-yo craze melting?

By Wendy Weitzel | From Page: A13 | Gallery

 
Sutter Davis Hospital honored again as a ‘best place to work’

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A13

Engage3 attracts investment for shopping app

By Enterprise staff | From Page: A20

 
California growers can use MBI’s new bioinsecticide

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

Sudwerk, Davis Food Co-op join for ‘co-hop-eration’ brew

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20 | Gallery

 
Community pools its purchasing power to reduce the cost of solar

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A20

.

Obituaries

Wanda P. Daley

By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

 
.

Comics

Comics: Sunday, August 31, 2014

By Creator | From Page: B8