My father used to read the daily newspaper each night after work, home from the manufacturing plant, before Ted Koppel came on. Dad read and watched the nightly news at the same time, right before Nightline. He was stalwart in his news consumption, not a literary or frivolous man with time to spare on novels or board games or shows that promised prizes behind Curtain #2. (I never knew which curtain to pick.) I can't remember ever leaning over his shoulder as he read, molded to the crushed velvet rocker, to see what he was learning. I do remember never seeing a newspaper laying around unless it was in his hand. He read them and threw them dutifully away, of course, because recycling was not in vogue. The next day, another Daily Democrat arrived at our door.
I take one weekly as an adult, the Sunday New York Times. They are stacked in various corners of my bedroom. Unread. They deserve my attention. It's the effing NYT. I rationalize that they are neglected because I'm busy making my life into something. Rather, minutia in my life hangs me up. Counters need wiping. Corners need dusting. A dog's eyes beg: "Take me for a walk. I don't fetch." I cringe at what my dad might think at my wasteful, non-news habit. I'm not a hoarder of newsprint, just a hopeful public citizen, whose duty to keep up keeps falling down.
Sometimes my dad would give me, the adolescent, clippings, the ones in ink which mentioned me. I started reading the newspaper in search of my own name. I skipped the parts about Iran and gas lines. What Nixon was up to. Where Israel was. I looked for pictures of myself wearing medals, round and heavy ones around my neck for good public speaking. Good for her, the city fathers must have thought, not that she'll ever make the same wages as a man.
I stack and restack the papers in my room. Pull out sections (the magazine, of course, and Book Review). Reshuffle. Scan. Set aside. Always aside.
If I read from front to back of my Sunday NYT, without fail, on the day it arrives, would I change the world? Experience enlightenment? If I could just sit for the hours it would take to digest world events, could I end global hunger, cause banks to behave, crush the overkill of personality cults?
My newspapers are the child and I am the dead-beat parent. Usually, I give it nothing. I ignore my offspring's world and, nonetheless, occupy it. I am the 99 percent of too-busy-to-give-a-damn. A good person votes and works hard and practices engagement. The world in the newspaper is discontent. Your discontent. His discontent. Their discontent. My discontent. I shall not overcome.