NORTH ADAMS -- If you're someone who eats up depressing news, then you're having a great time of late, but for me, a newspaper columnist, it becomes an issue of which depressing news item I'll choose to expand on in my column. But sometimes the news wads up into a big, alarming gloom, and there doesn't seem to be any manner in which I can go on with the "white male of a certain age columnist" schtick that week.

So many of us columnists are white males of a certain age. I've always had a big mouth, been opinionated, but no one wanted to hear what I had to say until I became of that respectable age at which my white maleness combines to make me a reasonable-minded expert that can tell you what to think and how to react. Our head shots reveal serious people with serious opinions, assigned each week to put our 2 cents into solving something, anything.

But many of us white males of a certain age are grasping just as much as anyone else. Take Robin Williams. His sad, sad death set a tone that many people weren't ready for. You don't even have to really be a fan of his work to feel that heaviness in the air, to be compelled to oversimplify it by thinking to yourself, "This world is so awful that even Robin Williams couldn't bear to be in it any longer."

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Maybe the tear gassing will some day end in Ferguson, but the damage will have already been done.

Last week, we found out Michael Brown was shot six times, justified, it seems, by the alleged theft of cigars.


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The entire situation in Ferguson -- the apparent racist murder by a policeman, the military-style reaction to protest, the arrest of journalists -- was a clear symbol of how dour our world has become. You don't need thousands dead in Iraq and Gaza to truly realize that, but you do need to be fearful the more gung-ho in our society will do their best to try to create an equitable bloodbath here.

We needed the press to be on the ground there, to tell us the truth, because the police sure weren't. It also was helpful when photos were being passed around of the KKK supposedly descending on Ferguson. Another Internet hoax that enraged people, as if they needed fiction for that, and the truth could help parse out the stories. That's why the press has been hounded in Ferguson, though. The press is always hounded when those in charge have something to hide -- even in times when the press might be on the side of authority. Authority says it's for safety, security, that sort of thing, but we all know what it's for. Look at the number of TV shows that lionize police but demonize the press, and you'll see how devoted our country is to the truth.

So much of this is a manufactured diversion by people who can only see the small picture, specifically those in charge who use their personal prejudices to cut huge gashes in societies in the name of order. But those in charge aren't very good at keeping order. Often, they don't have the slightest clue how to do that. The one thing those in leadership positions worldwide seem to understand how to do better than anything else is to make any given situation worse, and to do so in such a way that tempers flare and the important matters are ignored.

Meanwhile, I and all my white guy columnist friends will keep talking like we have answers, no fears. We don't have answers, but we're there for you.

John Seven, a writer, lives in North Adams. He can be reached at mister.j.seven@gmail.com or at vknid.com.