Friday, December 26, 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

  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Transit survey: 47 percent ride bikes to UCD campus

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Exchange students bring the world to Davis

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

     
    Pastor has many plans for CA House

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    Playing Santa

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Goats help recycle Christmas trees

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Special holiday gifts

    By Sue Cockrell | From Page: A3

    Woodland-Davis commute bus service expands

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Learn fruit tree tips at free class

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Davis Bike Club hears about British cycling tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Pick up a Davis map at Chamber office

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Sierra Club calendars on sale Saturday

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

     
    Explorit: Get a rise out of science

    By Lisa Justice | From Page: A4

    NAMI meeting offers family support

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    Yoga, chanting intro offered

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

    .

    Forum

    Blamed for her sister’s rage

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    How much for the calling birds?

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

    Steve Sack cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A10

     
    Many ensured a successful parade

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    Thanks for putting food on the table

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A10

     
    .

    Sports

     
    Two more for the road for 9-1 Aggie men

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Patterson is college football’s top coach

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Clippers get a win over Golden State

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    NBA roundup: Heat beat Cavs in LeBron’s return to Miami

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B10 | Gallery

     
    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    ‘Unbroken': A bit underwhelming

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    Folk musicians will jam on Jan. 2

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A11

    .

    Business

    Passat: Roomy, affordable sedan with German engineering

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    James J. Dunning Jr.

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    Floyd W. Fenocchio

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, December 26, 2014 (set 2)

    By Creator | From Page: B7

     
    Comics: Thursday, December 26, 2014 (set 1)

    By Creator | From Page: A9