Growing up in the 1960s and 70s we didn’t have all the media outlets that we have today. Back then we just had the basic radio, TV, magazines, and books. The first time I remember any of them being an influence on me was November 22, 1963, the day President John Kennedy was assassinated.

I was four years old and had just arrived at the grocery store with my mom. My mom had just pulled the car into a parking space and I turned off the radio. Anxiously my mom said to turn it back on. I didn’t understand what the man on the radio was saying, but I could see that my mom was visibly upset. She didn’t answer when I asked her what was wrong. Later I overheard her and the grocery store checkout clerk talking and then I understood.

TV was also a big influence on me. Back then we didn’t have cable, just antenna. TV’s had VHF channels, which went from channel one to thirteen, and UHF channels, that went from channel 14 to 70. Not all channels were full of programming like today’s cable TV; we had a total of seven or eight channels.

The influence I remember TV having on me was mostly from the news. As a young kid my friends and I used to play war. The TV news brought the reality of war into our home as it showed the war in Vietnam. I saw soldiers, tired and worn, trudging through rice paddies and mud. I saw the agony of the faces of wounded men.

When we visited my grandparents I would look through their copies of Life and Look magazines. I remember the photos of American soldiers making Vietnamese villages dig their own mass grave then shooting them. I vividly remember the bodies strewn in the trench grave. I kept on reading and re-reading the story to make sense of it—these were Americans, the “good guys;” how was it that they did such a terrible thing?

At home, the news showed the anti-war and peace movements. Also the civil rights and feminists movements. On hearing that women wanted equal rights, I imagined that one day the boys and girls would use the same bathroom at school.

TV movies were another big influence on me. A San Francisco station had a program called Dialing for Dollars that showed old movies. One particular movie that had an impact on me was Nine Hours to Rama, the fictionalized account of Gandhi’s assassination. I was taken aback when, at the end, the dying Gandhi forgave his assassin. That was the first time I had ever heard of Gandhi and it prompted me to learn more about him. (In reality Gandhi had no last words.)

Now I’m a TV-holic; I watch too much TV. Sometimes I just lie and vegetate in front of the TV. Other times I’ll have it as background noise as I do other things. Often I will turn on the TV first thing when I come home.

I have beaten my TV addiction on other occasions in the past, such as when I was going through college. At these times I simply got rid of the TV so there was no temptation. Now I live with others who want a TV so I don’t have that option.

I try to be conscious of my habits and regulate my TV watching to only programs I truly want to watch. But sometimes I’m lazy or tired (mentally and physically) and TV is a nice distraction that takes me away from it all—just like the drug that it is.

In the end I try not to be too hard on myself. One of my goals is to be happy, beating myself up doesn’t help me achieve that goal. Nor does watching so much TV that I feel guilty and that I’ve wasted my time. It’s a constant battle as is any addiction. As the old cliché goes, “Take it one day at a time.” I try to embrace the present moment, change bad habits into good ones, and focus on being happy.

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