Millions tune into the Olympics. They cheer for their own countries while sitting on the edges of their seats, watching their beloved athletes compete against those from other nations. Spotlighted by the global media, the athletes become beacons of light for their countries. It’s easy for viewers to think they know the athletes and their countries on a personal level with all the attention they receive from the media. Naturally, the media knows how to spin things to seem like the athletes’ victories represent the countries directly.
The 15-year-old Russian figure skater performed magnificently, so there is no way that there is turmoil in her country. The Jamaican bobsleigh team was able to make the trek from the Caribbean to Russia, so things must be running smoothly for their nation, right?
Wrong. The media too often sugarcoats global affairs and chooses to comfort society with heroic stories and noteworthy accomplishments rather than providing information about the political and social currents that are driving the world.
There are currently major crises in Venezuela, Ukraine, Uganda, Thailand, Italy, and Russia among others. Future generations will read about these events years from now, but many Americans are too caught up in their daily affairs to notice what other nations are going through.
The media may try to hide the truth from viewers to avoid seeming pessimistic and to selfishly try to leave the viewers in a better mood after hearing the news to improve show ratings, but we must push beyond that. There’s nothing wrong with enjoying the Olympics or supporting the accomplishments or discoveries the global news reports, but it’s important to remember that our brothers and sisters across the globe are fighting battles of their own. As the future leaders of the world, we must be informed about these events so that history is not repeated.
We are fortunate enough to live in a country with democracy and the rights to free speech and access to information without government control. Americans are not taking full advantage of these rights that other countries lack. If we become too caught up in living in an American bubble, only being concerned about our own affairs, we will lose perspective on the world at large and where we fit into it.
With the technological advances over the last decade, there is no excuse to be uninformed. Simple steps can be taken to make use of them. An individual wanting to learn more can read The New York Times on a smart phone or computer while eating breakfast, follow CNN International, @cnni, on Twitter, or read world news headline articles on www.msnbc.com or www.nbcnews.com. Every bit of knowledge gained will mold a person into a competent, informed global citizen who can properly form opinions based on fact, not emotions that may be correlated with war or poverty.
While we are American citizens, we are first and foremost global citizens. Country borders are subject to change, but nothing can take away the world we all share as our home. Learning as much as we can about that world may be our duty as global citizens. Our goal at the end of the day is to be as realistic as we can about the unfortunate global events, while not losing sight of the victories, discoveries, and accomplishments that remind us how amazing our world is.