Eric Lui tells a story in Become America about the writer Saul Bellow walking through his Depression-era childhood streets of Chicago.
He could hear the same fireside chat by President Roosevelt streaming through every parked car and open window he passed. Young Bellow was able to listen to the address in its entirety just by eavesdropping on his neighbors on this hot summer night.
Now, our modern day media landscape is littered with political partisanship, bias by omission, and outright falsehoods that too often replace fact gathering and news reporting that follow established journalism standards.
No wonder we feel nostalgia for simpler times.
Just a generation ago, most of us read the same national newspaper every day. We watched the same news broadcasts and tuned into the same three networks.
As tempting as it is to, as Lui says, “sustain the pretense of the common narrative,” the truth is that the notion that most Americans ever agreed upon the same reality was completely false.
The “good ole days” were “good” for only a select few.
If you were white and wealthy and male, you had power, a voice, and a vote. If you were Black, female, or poor, you weren’t able to participate in our democracy.
The illusion of simpler times came with a cost, a cost most of us are no longer willing to pay.
Now, with social media, clickbait, and open source news outlets, the onus is increasingly on us to critically assess not only the news, but where we get it.
Let’s be honest: seeking out the truth is hard work. And we’re tired.
So much about this historic moment is about waking up to how we, as a collective, need to be the ones who safeguard our democracy. No one is coming down to save us.
When we feel the tug to yearn for the “good ole days,” it may help to realize the unprecedented opportunity before us.
Our beautiful America is an adolescent ripe with promise. On the cusp of growing into her potency, she’s full of wonder and awkwardness and complexity.
But she won’t get there on her own.
We must rise to the challenge of living into our responsibility as engaged citizens because we’re her parents. We’re the ones who get to shape her and mold her to become the nation we believe she can be.
What possibility, what responsibility, what repossibility.
Parenthood means making mistakes, failing, learning, and growing. It’s joyous and exhausting and scary and imbues our lives with meaning.
Parents need support. We need spaces to reflect and learn and process and recharge.
Living Room Conversations are those spaces.
Engaging in structured conversation helps us reckon with the immense repossibility before us.
As we grapple with the hard work of becoming more informed citizens, our freshly revised Conversation Guide, News in the Modern World: Expectations vs. Reality, can support us.
With clear eyes and open hearts, alert to the true complexity of our reality, let’s break open the gates of the public square to include each and every one of us.
Let’s become the parents that America deserves.