Friday, May 29, 2009

R.I.P. The Church

St. Patrick's Cathedral, New York City St. Patrick's Catholic Church, Toronto
(photo courtesy of Christina Crook)

We've all seen churches like these. Formerly grand places of worship, now 19th century architectural pieces of art. Their glory days long since gone and the culture that came with them, also vanished. But archaic churches don't get buried. They become museums, which is almost worse than dying I think...

Thousands of footsteps in and out, in and out, cameras clicking, lighting a candle because well--that's just what you do. Most of these churches have gift shops with a steady lineup. Whatever it takes to keep the lights on I guess, but it all seems a little irreverent and cheap to me.

I've "toured" St. Patrick's on Madison Ave in NYC a few times. The massive arches, stained glass, and iconic sculptures instill a sense of holy wonder in me. I think if I were to have grown up worshipping God under such historical beauty I would walk a little taller, be more pious, or something...

St. Patrick's Cathedral recently boasted of welcoming over 40,000 to receive their ashes on Ash Wednesday. Evidence, I think, of the economic toll on the emotional and spiritual system of most Americans today. I do wonder what the following Sunday's attendance looked like. I especially wonder what it will look like once the economy bounces back and people won't need God anymore.

Ultimately, I believe God isn't housed in pretty structures. I take solace in that when they crumble, or the Institution begins to fade, He doesn't. But I wouldn't lay out your mourning clothes for The Church just yet. Perhaps She's not really dying, just changing shape. Just because you can't recognize something, doesn't mean it doesn't exist.

Rikki Ratliff is the Associate Producer & Reporter for Listen Up TV

Sunday, May 3, 2009

When pigs fly, ratings soar

A friend recently sent me a viral text that read, "It was once said that a black man would be president 'when pigs fly.' Indeed, 100+ days into Obama's presidency...Swine flu!"

Just days after this "pandemic" has been declared, people are already finding clever ways to make light of the subject and poke fun at the president. The things we do to ease the onslaught of bad headlines and voice our democratic discontent.

We debated at our last story meeting as to whether or not Listen Up should cover this story. I groaned inward and outward for a few reasons. The first being that I already have my own case of headline fatigue over the media coverage on swine flu. Or wait, could that possibly be one of the symptoms of the virus? Should I see a doctor? Should Lorna interview me?

The second reason is a little less selfish. My sister is due to get married in Cozumel, Mexico in just a few weeks. If Listen Up covers the story then I've just affirmed that in fact, there is something to this break out, and I should not take the risk to enjoy a sunny paradise and see my sister walk down a sandy beach aisle. I'm afraid a blue medical mask is not the accessory we were hoping to wear with our coral bridesmaids' dresses.

The third reason is a little more complicated. While Listen Up thrives on covering the headlines of the day, our job gets tricky in that unlike any other news organization, we look for God amidst the headlines. And so I have to ask, "where is God in this swine flu?" "How will this story change our world for the better and bring people to a closer understanding of who God is?"

I have no idea. What I do know though is that comparatively speaking, very few people have died as a result of this pandemic than those that have died and will die of HIV/AIDS, malaria, or starvation. In the time that it takes for CNN, CBC, ABC, and CTV to run their latest spin on the Flu to keep you tuned into the fear, hundreds of thousands, if not millions of lives will be taken from other causes not related to a pig.

But this story relates to us, right? Americans and Canadians could die. Forgive my insensitivity to this latest breaking story, but I can't help but wonder what other headlines are being canned in light of this outbreak. Perhaps, they're not "sexy" enough for primetime at this time. In other words, when pigs fly, ratings soar.

In the meantime, I'm gonna scan the backpages of our newspapers and listen for the stories buried within networks' busy broadcasts. Who knows--I just may find God there.

Rikki Ratliff is the Associate Producer and Reporter for Listen Up TV

Monday, April 20, 2009

O Canada, they stand on guard for you

There's something of a phenomenon taking place in Ontario. It occurs regularly, along the route of highway that stretches from Trenton to the Office of the Coroner in downtown Toronto, as soldiers’ fallen bodies return from Afghanistan.

What began as a grassroots display of support, has become an overwhelming recurrent show of appreciation, respect, and love for fellow Canadian. Even American networks, which tend to keep their news coverage American-centric, dropped a video lens into this curious stretch of highway that has now been officially dedicated, “The Highway of Heroes." Highway 401 is known as Canada's busiest highway, but as you learn of the familiar procession that travels underneath 50 overpass bridges, you begin to secretly wish it were a road a little "less traveled by."

Photo courtesy of Amber Hogaboam

I recently had the honour of covering the procession for fallen Trooper Karine Blais as her young body was repatriated. This is not the celebratory reunion her family would have hoped for as she joins the 116 voluntary soldier sacrifices that came before her. But if one has to die, I can’t imagine a better memorial service than the one Canadians give their soldiers each time they return from a devastating and final fall from mortality.

Red, white and maple leaf drape the highway overpasses in sombre regard. Police officers, RCMP, and firemen stand erect and salute as the procession passes by. Ordinary citizens gather from far and wide to let the families of the soldiers know they are not alone in the mourning of their loved one. Often times, words fail in situations like these, but in this case, words are not needed. And there’s no uncomfortable silence either—just thousands of Canadians coming together in solemn support. You find yourself catching your breath and clutching your heart as you bear witness to it all.

This American has never seen Canada look so lovely.

After the procession ended, the ordinary citizens left as quickly as they came. One by one, and two by two’s they went. At first, I wondered to myself why they didn’t linger. I wanted to gather more interviews for our upcoming program, “News You Need,” to gain insight into this impromptu human wonder. But then it hit me. The grave realization that they would be back again. Why hang around when you know you’ll be returning for Soldier 118; yet unnamed, but already a hero in their hearts.

Rikki Ratliff is the Associate Producer and Reporter for Listen Up TV