COMMENTARY: I heard the news today, oh boy

by Oct 29, 2023OPINIONS0 comments


One Feather Editor


Turning to the media these days will scare you to death. Well, not literally, but it sure gives you a moment or two of pause in your day when you pick up the paper, turn on the TV or click on the radio.

Flipping on the news today, I got an earful of Israel-Hamas war stats and up-to-the-minute details on the latest ground war escalation. One headline cried that the people of Gaza were “seeing the most intense airstrikes that they have seen.” That says a lot considering where they live. With Hamas in constant conflict with Israel, seeing the rocket’s red glare must be a pretty familiar sight in Israel. And, oh yes, the statistics. As I am writing this, 1,400 dead (possibly another 7000 on the Gaza strip) and 200 are presumed kidnapped for ransom (exchange bait).

I watched ongoing coverage of the United States bombing two facilities in Syria because of repeated attacks by Syria on American soldiers. The United States has stated that it is done bombing, unless Syria continues to attack U.S. troops.

Then there is the Ukraine-Russia conflict. Over 600 days into the conflict, we find more carnage, homelessness, starvation, and devastation. One report states, “Casualties in the Russo-Ukrainian War included six deaths during the 2014 annexation of Crimea by the Russian Federation, 14,200 to 14,400 military and civilian deaths during the war in Donbas (2014-22), and up to 500,000 estimated casualties during the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine.”

We tend to focus on the conflict “du jour”, the one that hits the media cycle at the right time to get a spotlight shined upon it. As the conflict between Ukraine and Russia and that of the Israel and Hamas in Gaza show, much of the conflicts in our world today are battles between states and factions that have been going on longer than the media’s attention span.

By one account, some 56-armed conflicts are in progress globally, some dating back to the early and mid-twentieth century. Look at the top seven in 2023: Myanmar (conflict started in 1948) has had 11,509 fatalities this year; Israeli-Palestinian, 10,691 dead and rising; the insurgency in the Maghreb has claimed 11,686 so far this year; the Mexican drug war, 5,965 killed; Russian-Ukrainian war has claimed 95,088 and rising; the Ethiopian civil conflict has killed 2679 just this year; and the war in Sudan 11,501 dead. Africa, North America, Europe, Asia-As you can see, conflict is not new and not isolated to one place. The cumulative death tolls from the 56 conflicts reaches into the tens of millions for 2023 and the year isn’t over yet.

And while we waited for the next body count from the most recent conflict abroad, a mass killer, Robert Card, killed 18 and wounded 13 in Lewiston, Maine. Tricia Asselin, Peyton Brewer-Ross, Tommy Conrad, Michael Deslauriers II, Bryan MacFarlane, Arthur Strout, Joseph Walker, Joshua Seal, Maxx Hathaway, Ron Morin, Bill Young, Aaron Young, Stephen Vozzella, Bob Violette, William Bracket, Jason Adam Walker, Keith D Macneir, and Lucille M. Violette, shot to death by Card. According to CNN reports, “Some were participating in a cornhole tournament while others were enjoying a meal.” The killings occurred at a restaurant and a bowling alley.

The people in Lewiston were living life just like we in Cherokee are today. We have been blessed on the Boundary with a relatively safe environment regarding mass violence, knock-on-wood. Not so for others across the country. “As of September 30, at least 571 people have been killed and 1,947 other people have been injured in 487 shootings.” (Gun Violence Archive) That means that somewhere in the United States, just under two (avg. 1.8) mass shootings occurred each day since New Year’s Day 2023.

With this much destruction being routinely reported to us, it is easy to see how we could be discouraged. After all, the impact of international conflicts and mass shootings are felt in rural areas like Cherokee beyond the emotional. Laws are often changed based on traumatic events. Events have changed. Access to services or public places may be restricted. Heightened security. More drills. Less freedom.

I have been taking some public safety classes as part of my education for my responsibilities as a member of my church’s safety team. One of the recurring questions we are asked is “How much freedom do we give up in the interest of the safety of the congregation?” The same questions could be applied to our community and should. And while I am confident that our tribal emergency services, police, fire, hospital, have plans in place for catastrophes, there needs to be more effort put behind educating the community and public about the plan or plans.

For example, on Oct. 21, 2023, a mass shooting took place in Fayetteville, N.C. (5 hours, 8 mins from Cherokee) resulting in one dead and three injured. On Oct. 24, the shooting was in Greenville, N.C. (3 hours, 35 minutes from Cherokee) where another person died and another three were injured. And Oct. 26, just a few days ago, in Clinton, N.C. (5 hours 39 minutes from Cherokee), five people were killed by a gunman. In the Clinton shooting, as of this writing, Sampson County Sheriff Jimmy Thornton and Captain Eric Pope said that the four men and one woman victim were between the ages of mid-30’s and 80’s. Pope said, “This is not normal for our community. It isn’t normal for any community. It should shock the conscience.”

Yes, the news can be shocking and depressing, but ignoring it isn’t the answer. I have friends and family who just refused to watch the news because they worry it will affect their mental and eventually physical health. But the answer to good mental health and peace of mind may not be to ignore or hide from news and information. The answer may be in analyzing news, checking its accuracy, and deciding what it means to our lives. As the tribe extends its fingers of commerce into different states and potentially different countries, we need to be aware of not only the opportunities, but the threats. We have tribal members who live all over the country, and a few outside the country. Again, what are the best ways we may serve and protect our people, wherever they are?

So, keep reading the news. Keep watching and listening. And analyze and compare to gain a broader perspective so that you too will be better prepared for whatever comes. Teach your young ones the importance of knowing history and current events. We must learn from the news so that we will be better able to prevent or mitigate what may lie ahead for our community.