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Friday, December 23, 2011

No news today - Guest Post - Shelly Oria

Following the News

Do you follow the news?

An incident occurred, and it involved ships. I am not delivering breaking news here; this happened a while ago. And yet in all likelihood, I am telling you something you don't know. If you followed the news, you'd know about this incident. If you don't that's fine, but please accept responsibility. Accepting responsibility is the first thing to know about following the news.

An incident occurred, and it involved ships, and it also involved the military. Please don't assume that I'm referring to the U.S military, because you'd be wrong, and being wrong is the worst thing you can do when it comes to following the news. I am referring to a Foreign Military; one thing you absolutely need to remember in order to successfully follow the news is that there are militaries around the world that are not the U.S military. These are called Foreign Militaries.

I happen to be extremely qualified when it comes to reporting this piece of news, and possibly I am the most qualified person to be reporting this piece of news, and that is due to the fact that I once belonged to that Foreign Military. Please note my grammar, my use of the word 'that.' You need to know your grammar in order to successfully follow the news. You don't have to be advanced, but you do need basic grammar skills, and you need to pay attention. If you possess basic grammar skills and are paying attention, then you have probably already figured out that not only did I belong to a Foreign Military, but that I belonged to this particular Foreign Military, the one involved in this particular incident, which involved ships.

Being the most qualified person to report this piece of news means that I understand about details; I understand the general unimportance of details, and I understand, too, that sometimes certain details are in fact important. Therefore, you can trust that I will only provide you with the absolutely necessary details regarding the incident which involved ships, and that I will spare you any details which are not, or are less than, important.

When I heard about this incident, I immediately decided to continue reading House and Garden. Shortly after, I ordered a slice of carrot cake. These are important details. Both the reading of House and Garden and the eating of carrot cakes are of insurmountable importance when it comes to following the news. If this is not yet clear, I assure you that it will become clear very soon.

In the incident in question, which involved a Foreign Military and ships, nine people were killed, or perhaps eighty. Alternately, it is possible that a total of four (4) people died as a result of this tragic and unfortunate incident.

Now, this is not my first time reporting this incident, and in the past every time I reached the part in my report which addresses the casualties, many people would leave the room. Some, on their way out, would even ask me for my e-mail, so they can later send a letter of complaint. (I have learned that people in the U.S prefer to complain in a way that doesn't require their presence.) So please don't leave the room, and whatever you do, do not ask me for my e-mail. Due to my past involvement with the Foreign Military, very few people have my e-mail, and I would like to keep it that way.

But moreover, and more importantly-- the first thing to know about following the news, is that you don't complain. Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that there's nothing you can do. I am not at all evoking a discussion about passivity, not even mentioning the word 'passivity.' There certainly is a lot you can do. You can take your dog for a run, for instance, if you have a dog. Upon your return, you can put fruit in the blender and make a healthy shake. (I recommend mangos for their excellent antioxidant value). A man who goes for a run with an animal and subsequently drinks a healthy shake is not a passive man, and the same is true if you're a woman. Anyone knows that. But one thing you can't do is complain. Please believe me, and even if you don't believe me, accept my advice, and even if you don't accept my advice, don't complain.

Now, asking you not to e-mail me is different from saying I did not read the e-mails in question. Please note that I said no such thing, made no such reference. Reading e-mails is probably the most important thing to do when it comes to following the news. I read each e-mail several times, out of respect for the sender, whether he or she followed the news or not. In respecting the senders and reading the e-mails, I made the e-mails a News Source, and that is why e-mails are important.

I learned many things from the e-mails, once they became a News Source. The main thing I learned was the reason behind people's departure from the room whenever I discussed the casualties. If you are from the U.S then you may already know the reason, but I am not from the U.S and it took a lot of e-mail-reading for me to understand. I initially assumed the reason was death, that people didn't want to hear about death. I made that assumption because where I come from people take great joy in the telling and retelling of death stories, but part of the joy is pretending that there is no joy but rather suffering. This may sound complicated if you are from the U.S but it is simple. Please understand: Where I come from, it is considered untoward to take joy in the telling of death, and so in order to truly take joy, one must pretend not to be taking joy. And so, for a long time I assumed that the people leaving the room were only pretending to leave, while in fact not leaving at all. Thank God for the e-mails, because they were the News Source that taught me that things in the U.S are different.

As you might have gathered if you are from the U.S, all these people did in fact leave the room. I know that now, and know also that they left not because they glorified in the stories of death, but because they found the numbers I was reporting “confusing,” “inconsistent,” or even “inaccurate.” (It is important to note here that I found these claims quite presumptuous, considering this was an incident these people had never heard of before). Moreover, and this too is important: these people assumed, as people from the U.S often do, that my confusion, inconsistency, and inaccuracy were in fact signs of disrespect for the human life.

How could they think that I, a former soldier of a Foreign Military, would disrespect the human life? If I could share my anguish with you, I would—believe me—and you would know then that I have suffered. But sharing my anguish with you would of necessity include several unimportant or less-than-important details, and that is no way to conduct reports. Despite the temptation (which, I might add, I feel because I have a deep respect for the human life) I am proud to tell you that I have never discussed my personal anguish in any of my reports to date.

The next detail of importance is that the victims were from different countries. In all probability, that is what people mean when they use the expression 'citizens of the world,' although there is no conclusive data supporting this claim at the date of this report.

Please understand: I am a critical thinker. That is part of what makes me the most qualified person to report this piece of news. My being a critical thinker is evidenced, for instance, by my use of the word 'victims.' Had I not been a critical thinker, I'd have believed every word of the military I once belonged to, and none of these words are the word 'victims.' There are plenty of ways to believe the military's every word where I come from, and a common one is reading the paper. Where I come from, if you're looking at a man reading the paper, what you're looking at is an uncritical thinker, and the same is true if it's a woman. That is because where I come from, when people read the paper they forget to disbelieve. Even I, a critical thinker, often forget to disbelieve when reading the paper. Other times I remember to disbelieve, but can't remember how to disbelieve.

Therefore, if I read the paper, I could not report the incident in question to you. I wouldn't know who attacked who and who is whose victim and who is less or more at fault because of something having to do with weapons. Additionally, I would not know whether or not ships were involved. This confusion would quickly become so exhausting that I'd be forced to read House and Garden and order a slice of carrot cake, only to stay awake. If you're astute, you may point out that either way—with or without reading the paper, with or without critical thinking—the result is the same, and involves cake. You'd be right, but being right is of no consequence when it comes to following the news.

Allow me to report to you now the last detail of importance about the incident in question. Once you hear this last detail, you will know everything you need to know about the incident which involved ships. You may take a moment to celebrate your achievement; that is only natural. But I do have to ask that you refrain from reporting this incident to others; you are not a qualified person when it comes to reporting this piece of news, and possibly you are the least qualified person to report this piece of news.

If you do not feel comfortable with my request, I would have to ask that you leave the room at this time. If you choose this course of action, please know that I will harbor no resentment toward you, but you are to make no further attempts at following the news.

Now. The last detail of importance is a detail you may have already surmised from the fact that the victims were from different countries: I did not know the victims personally. This detail is incredibly important. Reporting the incident in an objective manner might not have been possible otherwise. But more importantly: the reading of House and Garden and the eating of carrot cake would certainly not have been possible otherwise. That is what I keep explaining to anyone who would listen, and that is the reason I started reporting this incident to begin with, long ago.

You now know everything you need to know about the incident which involved a Foreign Military and ships. I thank you for listening.

Shelly Oria was born in Los Angeles and grew up in Israel. Her fiction has appeared in McSweeney’s, Quarterly West, cream city review, and fivechapters among other places, and won the 2008 Indiana Review Fiction Prize among other awards. Shelly curates the series Sweet! Actors Reading Writers in the East Village and teaches fiction at Gotham Writers' Workshop and Pratt Institute as well as privately.

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