Okay, now that were on the same wavelength, welcome back! Happy Groundhog’s Day.
I woke up to these headlines in Google News this morning. In keeping with our Groundhog Day theme it could have easily been yesterday’s headlines and I’m guessing they will look similar tomorrow. It could be that I’ve done this to myself. I have shown interest in the past in what Congress is doing (or notably not doing..see top headline) and thus maybe Google, through it’s mind-bending ability to keep track of things I am interested in, is serving this up to just me…but I don’t think so.
A few things are notable here. First, nothing above the virtual fold is about anything other than what is taking place in Washington. Yes, there are links that will take you to news from other parts of the country or local news but the headlines still seem strikingly national and political. I worry that this is the America we live in today.
Second, the sources are remarkably consistent. CNN stories show up three times on this page and the others listed here show up very frequently on other days as well. Lest you think I’m about to take you down some deluded “liberal media” rathole, I will point out that Fox News shows up a lot here too. If you want conspiracy theories here’s a link to an online reincarnation of Weekly World News…enjoy.
But I do have a problem with this collection of sources and it lies in its uniformity. I first heard about Google News soon after it was launched and found the idea behind it to be endlessly intoxicating. Think about the possibilities if every newspaper around the world were indexed every day and searchable. You could read stories from the Pittsburgh Post Gazette or the Pittsburg Morning Sun – the former, by the way, is covering the events in nearby Punxsutawney today. If you wanted to see how current events were playing in Peoria vs Presque Isle you could do so all on one page and for awhile Google News seemed to work like that, but it seems less and less so today.
Finally, I will point out the strange necessity of having a Fact Check box at the bottom right of the Google News page. It seems laughable to think that anyone could believe that President Biden had lowered the Age of Consent to 8 but see above about the deluded American mind…I’m not laughing.
The thing is, Pittsburgh and Pittsburg and Peoria and Presque Isle and Pasadena and Pasco too are all still out there. In each of them today people are working away on this Tuesday trying to make their life and the lives of the people around them incrementally better. They are not wearing a political party on their sleeve and most of them aren’t calling each other names, they are just debating complex issues like how to come up with the right balance of property to sales to income tax to meet the needs of their communities.
In my darker moments I will confess to occasionally feeling hopeless about the direction our country seems to be going in. The events of January 6th broke my heart and I will not soon forget the experience of wondering what my 12-year old son was thinking as he watched his dad staring at the television with tears in his eyes. But then, my prevailing, perhaps also misguided, optimism kicks in. You see, I’ve been to all those places listed above and I like to believe they are more or less as I last left them; full of imperfect but honorable people that still believe in the land of Hopes and Dreams.
So, given that it’s Groundhog’s Day and Sonny & Cher are probably going to chime in again momentarily I’m going to take you back to the end of a post I wrote more than five-and-a-half years ago when I launched this site. Most of it was about my hope that by helping people reconnect with the U.S. House of Representatives I could somehow bring about a change in the polarization and gridlock that was plaguing Washington. I never imagined how much worse it could or was going to get; to think I could do something about it seems naive now. Mea Culpa.
But the end of the post was about a concept I tried out for awhile and liked writing but seemed to lack a connection to Congress. It was, in essence, a series of virtual tours of the country based on different topics. They were color coded, sort of like the pieces of the Trivial Pursuit pie mentioned in the post and each day I planned to continue the tour and highlight a different place on a different topic. If you are interested you can read more about what I had in mind then but, suffice it to say, I have decided to revisit that idea.
It seems to me, and it might be just me, that there is still a lot to celebrate about this country and a lot of real substantive discussion about how to make things better going on in towns and cities across it. So, for the next, however-long-I-feel-like-it, I’m going to pick up this idea again and profile a different place in each post with a focus on two things: something to celebrate about that place and some real discussion being had in right now in that place.
As you may have noticed, I have made the mistake in the past in this space of outlining grand plans for a series of hundreds of blog posts or podcasts or baseball videos only to pull the plug when I got discouraged or busy or just wanted to be doing something else. My apologies for those fits and starts but I’m afraid it is the way this mind works. However, I am not going to do that this time. Professional demands may soon change the amount of time I can spend on this. Even in Vermont, winter will eventually end and I will want to be outside more. Maybe even, we will all be able to travel safely a little more in the not-too-distant future. But for now I am excited about this series. I envision six “virtual trails”: History, Arts & Culture, Industry, The Great Outdoors, Restaurants & Food and Sports and will alternate posts between them. The “stops” on each trail will even be close enough that if someone wanted to actually follow them for awhile someday they could. We will begin with The History Trail – smack dab in the middle of the country. Look for the first stop in Atchison, Kansas later this week. In the meantime, it is good to be back….Happy Groundhog’s Day.