I grew more and more alarmed when the political universes my mother and I lived in seemed to drift further apart as the 2016 election droned on.
All of a sudden, we were having serious disagreements about what ought to be obvious: facts and which candidate we categorically should not be voting for. Over the years, we had always been able to have healthy and gracious conversations about politics, but the 2016 election defeated us.
We hear a lot of talk about healing and coming together, but that’s unlikely given the acrimony of the past year-and-a-half without some serious changes to how we consume and approach the news. So here’s what my mom and I decided to do.
I wanted our relationship to strengthen in spite of the hostility that had been bred in the 2016 election. I have heard that in “used-to-be times,” before cable news and 24-hour commentary, everybody watched Walter Cronkite and made up their own minds about the information he shared. Everybody heard the same news, and they were all smart enough to figure out what they thought of it. Now, we all get different news and let pundits and talking heads instruct us of its meaning and significance.
So, after the election was over and we were forced to speak because of the Thanksgiving holiday, I offered a plan. If we received our news from the same sources, then our arguments would be rooted in the same universe. And since we are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, any list of sources we could agree on would be balanced.
We settled on a list of sources and these will be the only news sources we are allowed to consume. We started with a goal of four, but apparently mom and I are news junkies so we ended up with 12: two national dailies (The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal), three websites, one radio network, two weekly news shows, two Sunday morning political talk shows (Sunday Morning with Chris Wallace and State of the Union with Jake Tapper) and each of our respective local papers. No cable news networks.
We both had to give up several sources (CNN and Fox News, The Atlantic and The Weekly Standard to name a few) that we would otherwise regularly consult but it’s worth it for a few reasons.
Firstly, less news is probably a good thing as there are so many other diversions like gardening, piano playing, reading irreverent Swedish fiction and performing routine auto maintenance that make life better and more interesting.
Secondly, if giving up some news allows us to return to rational conversation, then that is a fair price.
Thirdly, it’s entirely possible that I have been led astray by one or two (or 10) of my preferred sources, and I would hope not to be consuming rubbish of any kind, especially news rubbish.
We’re not sure how long we will last on this diet, but I think it will be longer than my husband expects (two months, maybe). My mom means too much to me to go on living in separate universes, political or otherwise. If anything has made me a better thinker, it is having had to defend my beliefs against her arsenal. I want to continue our deep, practical and fair discussions on these matters and I hope very much that our mutually agreeable news plan is one way to move forward.
Amy Fox teaches English at Bellevue Christian High School.