Many moons have passed since I could, in all honesty, declare myself a well-informed person. It’s been years since I sat in a bookstore or library leisurely reading newspapers or magazines. It’s been longer than that since I deliberately sat down in front of the TV news for a daily dose of current events. Oh my dear lord where do newscasters find the time to practice being so annoying?
Well, I’m not a masochist, so there will be no attempts at putting myself through such torture. (However, I do make an effort to listen to a half hour each week of BBC World News, when I remember that’s an option. Local news is just, no. No.) I don’t have the flexibility in my schedule to schlep down to the bookstore or library anymore, and for quite some time I didn’t have the budget to spend $$$ on newspaper and magazine subscriptions. Thanks to a little incentive program at the new (permanent!) job, I recently got a bit of financial breathing room to indulge myself in some good reading. I’m now a New York Times subscriber.
Why the Times? In November, after passing by a friend’s TV blaring terrorist horrors, about a dozen questions popped into my head. No one around that particular TV could answer any of the questions I asked aloud. Out of curiosity, while taking a break at work the next day, I used Google on the handy dandy smartphone to search for answers. A link to a Times article popped up. I became an avid online reader.
Turns out, there’s a limit to how many online articles a reader can enjoy for free. When I got the modest gift card in the mail from the aforementioned incentive program, I knew exactly what to do with it! Here’s what I have learned since: NOT ENOUGH PEOPLE READ THE TIMES.
I do recognize the possibility that there are other informative newspapers in the nation (I hear the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Post are good). Google just happened to point me in the direction of a quick, happy discovery. Okay … let me attempt to tighten this all up a bit. I’m getting rambly.
The horrors I mentioned coming from my friend’s TV? That was a report on Syrian refugees, within which I heard the words “ISIS” and “caliphate” mentioned. I had a vague understanding of what “ISIS” is (or thought I did), and I recognized “caliphate” from reading on Islam during a comparative religions study in college. At the risk of sounding like some idiot who’s been living under a rock, I had no idea about Syria until that moment. But caliphate … that really struck me.
This is an old word taken out of play after the fall of the Ottoman Empire. I had a mental uh-oh moment and started spilling questions. When the lack of answers inspired a long-winded recitation of world history I got some interesting (you must be crazy!) looks from the people who were, just moments before, seemingly engrossed in the televised story.
So, what the heck is going on in Syria? This is the question I posed to Google the following day. And wow.
As much as I prefer BBC World News over the other options, in my search there I only received current reports. No history of the situation. When did this begin? I didn’t want to know when everyone in the west began reacting, I wanted to know the beginning.
Now, I’m mostly caught up.
So, why was my interest in current events suddenly renewed by hearing the word “caliphate”? What knowledge have I gleaned since? Why should anyone else care? Where is all this going, Kathy?
Over the next few weeks I intend to touch on those questions and more. Meanwhile, if you’re just emerging from under a rock like me (I’m not judging), have some links:
ISIS Women and Enforcers in Syria Recount Collaboration, Anguish and Escape. NYTimes, Nov. 21, 2015
Who Is Fighting Whom in Syria NYTimes, Sept. 30, 2015