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Should we fret over the news, or should we not worry and be happy?

A friend of ours is going through one of those life-altering periods and decided, in an effort to reduce stress, to take a 90-day hiatus from the news. A blissful ignorance of what's going on, he tells us, is resulting in a significant improvement in his disposition.

Alas, confirmed news junkies may never appreciate the joy of letting go: letting go of a need to know the latest bit of insanity playing out on the world stage; letting go of what may be the naïve belief that, as someone once said, "The truth shall set you free." (I'm not quite sure what this means, but it sure sounds profound, even if it's no more than rhetorical flummery.)

Since truth is as elusive today as it was when Diogenes was carrying his lamp, I'll settle for the facts. Just tell me what happened, sans spin, sans loaded adjectives, and let me decide if I should indulge my outrage or cultivate my sense of the absurd.

I've always admired those writers who can consistently produce humor-laced columns on even the most serious subjects. There should be a course offered somewhere titled, "How to Write Amusing Columns for a Largely Numb Audience on Matters of Grave Concern." I'd sign up in a New York minute. The syllabus could address the needs of those of us suffering from outdated attachments to visions of peace and justice. As part of the course, participants would learn strategies designed to facilitate the transition from dour to breezy. For example, listening to Bobby McFerrin's "Don't Worry, Be Happy," while reading about the latest vile shenanigans of Karl Rove, could be a soothing balm keeping the columnist from the unpleasant (and surely unhealthy) experience of futile fury.

So what's getting to me, you ask? (If you have to ask, you haven't been paying attention.) Oh, I don't know, how about the stampede to global self-destruction led by a cabal of lying, manipulative, immoral, power-driven, fascist greedheads also known as Rove's Rogues and their arrogant puppet Bush?

How about the much-too-late realization by the Democrats that Howard Dean's "unseemly" howl during last year's presidential primaries was a genuine expression of passion and should have been a source of applause rather than embarrassment?

How about the feds' use of the grand jury and material-witness laws (legal devices with no place in a so-called democracy), to stifle dissent? (Check out fbiwitchhunt.com.)

How about China and the corporate arm of the United States locked in a bidding war over the planet's dwindling supplies of crude oil while neither nation's government gives a rat's ass about the long-range consequences of climate change as they--locked in an economic embrace--hurtle toward a perilous future guided by Neanderthal thinking cloaked in 21st-century shibboleths?

How about Illinois Sen. Richard Durbin's caving in to political pressure and apologizing for his remarks on the treatment of prisoners at Guantanamo? After reading an FBI report describing those conditions, Durbin said, "If I read this to you and did not tell you that it was an FBI agent describing what Americans had done to prisoners in their control, you would most certainly believe this must have been done by Nazis, Soviets in their gulags, or some mad regime ... that had no concern for human beings. Sadly, that is not the case. This was the action of Americans in the treatment of their prisoners."

But what he said is true (though he might have phrased it more carefully). Imagine reading the report to someone and asking, "Which of the following three regimes is guilty of the actions just described: Was it the Germans under the Nazis, the Soviet Union under the Communists or the United States under the Bush administration?" You can be sure most Americans would choose between the first two.

Why? Because we are blinded by a belief system that assures us we are the chosen nation, the only one in possession of a wrathful God's permanent pass exempting us from evil. Never mind that in the same week Durbin apologizes, The New York Times and The New England Journal of Medicine publish reports on the creative use of shrinks at Guantanamo to help get those Koran-thumping detainees to cooperate.

Did I mention the FBI recruiting poster spotted recently at the Phoenix airport? A photo of a white male with his hand resting protectively on a young boy is accompanied by text encouraging the viewer (presumably male) to be a father, play baseball and join the feds. Now there's a career path with no downsizing worries.

Bringing it all back home: How about Katie Sabin, a Tucson teen driven to suicide in order to escape her father and grandfather's sexual abuse? If ever a crime cried out for capital punishment, it is the sexual abuse of children.

And the beat goes on, here in Tucson and across the globe. But don't worry, be happy; everything's gonna be all right. Right?

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