Homer Alaska - Opinion

Story last updated at 6:45 PM on Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Let's turn off our TVs and see what happens

By Andrea Van Dinther

One afternoon a few years ago, while watching my rambunctious 1-year-old son, I turned on Oprah. Commercial time came and suddenly we were watching graphic fast flashes of gory crimes advertising a later episode. I quickly shut the TV off.

I sat on the edge of the bed, looked at my son, thought about what he just saw during "daytime" TV and knew in my bones — in my heart — I never wanted him exposed to violence for no good reason at all. With the baby in the room I wasn't numb.

We do get numb. We are bombarded with so many images the visual cacophony dulls us into a zombie like state and what could have been a relaxing bit of entertainment becomes a dangerous jaunt with manipulative graphics penetrating our tender psyches.

I'm not puritanical in my approach to, well, anything. I love movies, sitcoms are great, and Charlie Rose is cool.

There are still a few gems on TV like the Olympics and the Super Bowl and the State of the Union that draw people together rather than apart. Well, maybe not the Super Bowl; turns out more men hit their wives on Super Bowl Sunday than any other day of the year.

Even so, when I recently found myself stuck in an institution with a television, I admit to feeling a little bit of excitement. I sometimes feel like I'm missing out by not watching TV. Unfortunately, the gems make up less than 1 percent of what there is to watch and it took less than 10 minutes to realize that not only am I not missing out, but also that box is freaky.

It wasn't the violence that cast shadows on my TV dream this time. I remember enough to steer clear of that junk. This time it was show after show not worthy of more than a minute of viewing that left me flipping channels. Every other channel was dedicated to decorating or weight loss. Overly enthusiastic and therefore exhaustingly cheery people jumping up and down pretending that the duvet choice changed their life. Blips filled my brain, over made up heads bobbing left then right blah blah blahing absolutely nothing of note.

Quitting is not my style so I persevered thinking perhaps I had lost my honing skills. Sadly, I could not drum up one stinking thing worth watching. Giving it one last try I wandered over to the 24-hour news channels and gave them a shot. My mom loves CNN and for that fact alone I thought they might be worth a look-see.

I was deeply saddened by what I saw and heard. It was not news.

I listen to NPR. I read the Homer News (of course) and spot-checked several different papers. I am relatively up on the latest news. But what was happening on these channels was such an over indulgence in "analyzing" it seemed absurd. Anderson Cooper's well-practiced I'm-listening-and-thinking-really-hard-face was ridiculous and still, I think he might be one of the best on television.

Who have we chosen to edit our news? Why did we put these people in the No. 1 spot? The shiny box and all it brings with it (cable bills, violence, stories contrived to sell us things, and images designed to leave us wanting) simply does not deserve center stage in our lives (or our living rooms).

So I turned off the TV and wondered: What if they didn't get our attention? What would change in our culture, nation, homes and families — in ourselves — if we ditched the television? Would we want less? Save more? Feel more whole? Who would Sarah Palin be without TV? Who knows, maybe sticking with her job as governor would have been a great path without celebrity as a career choice?

How much energy would our country save if we turned that whine off just one day a week? Would our town change? Dare to dream ... what if the whole next election could only happen over newspaper?

No one in this world is better for having doused themselves in violent images, no one is better for watching Sarah Palin complain her way to the bank, no one needs a Febreeze refill, and no one needs to spend one more hour of their precious life in front of the tube.

So, please, dear reader, be careful what you watch. For these things are certain: We have a nation to change, an earth to protect, and children to raise.

Andrea Van Dinther has lived in Homer for six years. She writes of herself: "She has three talented children and one handsome husband. She is a stay-at-home mom with three jobs on the side. And, she adores this little community on the beach."