Paul Greenberg

It was just a snippet of conversation overheard in a crowded restaurant: "... and we put the Buddha in the TV room."

At that point I stopped eavesdropping, lost somewhere between contemplation and amusement, fascination and puzzlement. They all have a way of mixing on hearing some comment that, from the moment it's made, I know will remain stuck in the little gray cells, like a roadblock, stopping all other traffic.

Yes, this one's definitely a keeper, I thought at the time, a stray comment sure to be called up again and again whatever state of confusion the news has reduced me to at the moment.

For the news is too much with us early and late, and watching and listening, we waste our powers of concentration. The flickering images in the corner come and go, distracting us beyond end, capturing and holding our attention day after day, night after night, while our own lives are put on hold, and the Buddha in the corner is forgotten, lost in the ferns and knick-knacks. It might as well be a potted palm, or some long unnoticed picture in the hall.

The ever-present flow of Breaking News seduces and betrays us, mainly by pretending to be new. The cast of characters in the news may change, but the plot remains remarkably the same: good and evil forever mixing. Just as weapons change but war remains the bloody same.

Vanity of vanities, as the Preacher observed millennia ago. And those charged with commenting on this all too familiar parade, like pathologists staring at X-rays day after day, yearn for surcease. Effect without cause, reaction without thought, one piece of news follows another with no apparent pattern or purpose, a string of random events that seem to have no connection with first things, permanent things, the kind of things that cry out with what Martin Luther King called the fierce urgency of now. And the Buddha in the TV room fades into the background, reduced to another ornament, left to collect dust.

Tens of thousands of children arrive at our southern border unescorted, unprotected, vulnerable and confused -- and our leaders want to debate how they got there, who is to blame, what laws need to be enforced or not enforced, repealed or changed or ignored. ... Meanwhile these children and political footballs are moved here and there and who knows where, the very picture of the least of these. You'd think anybody confronted by a child in need of help and help right now -- food, shelter, clothing, a comforting presence -- would help now, ask questions later. At least you'd hope so.

Paul Greenberg

Pulitzer Prize-winning Paul Greenberg, one of the most respected and honored commentators in America, is the editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.