Good morning, men,
It isn’t often a guy with a philosophy degree can lean back, light a cigar and feel accomplished about paying thousands of dollars to know the meaning of words like “phenomenology”. Friends, today is that day.
After a tumultuous (well, ugly) election season, many feel the need, conservative or liberal, to answer different versions of the question “How did this happen”? Several answers have been graciously provided by all sorts of outlets. Hillary was corrupt. Trump spoke to the common man. Russia is playing us. America is racist. Americans are tired of hearing about how privileged they are from millionaire politicians and Hollywood celebrities.
To each his own. I want to focus on one: fake news.
Last week, in what felt like a climactic moment in the recent “fake news” controversies, President-Elect Trump pointed a finger at an angrily persistent reporter from CNN and with no small amount of irritation spit out: “your’e fake news!” That, to me, was not the interesting part. Feel free to go to your news outlet of choice to be informed about how this should outrage you and to what extent..or better yet, don’t.
The interesting part was the reaction from the crowd of journalists. Mr. Trump’s comment was greeted by some applause, some groans and one irate CNN reporter. The different reactions provide a mirror of the public sentiment toward media now it seems. The “main stream media” has become a term of derision. At the same time, there is this fear of so-called “fake news” which boils down to a mass disinformation campaign perpetrated by select news services and opinion outlets that do not agree with our own worldview. The response? Lightning fast grabs at being the self-acclaimed arbiter of truth. Most intriguing, it’s “the other” side that has a fake news problem. The liberal world is confident that Breitbart News is nothing more than a tabloid…but the Huffington Post is a sterling example of journalistic integrity. Likewise Fox News is championed by the right as the only news source “fair and balanced” while all others suffer a slant.
As a guy who overindulges his desire to get in the mud of political discussion and cultural outrage, these kinds of discussion call me back from the brink of chronic outrage and despair. Holy Mother Church brings reprieve from gossip and anger with invitation to truth and peace.
As G.K. Chesterton once purportedly referred to Catholicism as a “love affair with reality”. Truer words never spoken.
Last week, I enjoyed a cup of coffee with a priest friend and the subject of marriage came up. As we spoke about the need for self gift and the suffocating power of selfishness in marriage, I was moved to examine my own relationship with my wife and how when things seem stagnant or frustrating, it is always my own selfishness to blame. In those moments when I don’t feel like picking up after myself, making runs to the store, or when in the middle of the night her elbow becomes intimately acquainted with my eye, I’m quick to presume my outrage is justified. Why can’t she just…not hit me in the face? Well, she’s unconscious and 7 months pregnant and she can’t get comfortable. She’s carrying our firstborn and suffering for the cause. She works hard and makes herself available to her friends, family and even me. Taking a fuller view of reality, even the ones that don’t validate my frustration, invites joy. In these moments, I am called to get over myself and embrace reality over my own expectations or preferences.
And so we return to “fake news” and our love affair with reality. Much like in a marriage, we are tempted to take reality and shape it according to our preference and dismiss anything which would not cater to how “I” see things. Phrases like “Unfriend”, “Unsubscribe”, “Block” have descended on our vernacular. YouTube is loaded with videos with all sorts of inviting titles like “Atheist PWNS Christian – Epic” or “Liberal Challenges Conservative – FAIL”.
As Catholic men, we are driven by our desire to know God and the world he created, not bend it to our selective outrage. Our objective is to passionately pursue the truth, do good with urgency and invite others to the same by our example and our charity.
Mr. Christopher Helle
Editor in Chief
Those Catholic Men