Thursday, April 19, 2007

There's no combination of words

So this has been a pretty bad week for a lot of people, according to the media coverage of various tragedies, and I feel remiss in not adding my two cents. Personally I had some good stuff this week - parents visit, patio progress, Ben and Jerry's Free Cone day - and also I wanted to consider my words before going off on the rant that would never end. Beware the political content. This posting is mostly about violence and the media. I worry that it will outlast the attention span of most of my readers but can't bring myself to post it over several days just to make it shorter, so I added titles. For issues relating to the birth control ban, see Shasta's blog - she's got it nailed.

Media Coverage
The thing that has me the most perplexed this week is the media coverage of the Vir.gin.ia sho.otings on Patriot's Day. The media exploded with coverage of this horrible tragedy - asking questions of how could it happen here? The day after this tragedy, 5 car in Ira.q killed 160 innocent people who were going about their lives, buying food for their family, or waiting to hear if they got a job. And this horrible tragedy got a couple of headlines. Admittedly, it got one or two more headlines than the other near-daily events of this sort because of the magnitude, but over all, the media considered it just another day in Ira.q. Not one report that I heard or read made any connection between the two.

I'm not saying that violence in Ira.q justifies violence here. I'm saying that it's justified in neither place and the horror felt by all the people at VT, their friends, and their families is what the Ira.qis are facing every day yet the media treats it as ordinary and I find that more than a little strange. Granted, frequency has that effect on a human brain. The more you see of something, the less novel it is. And frankly, I couldn't handle full reporting of all this suffering even if we had the resources to cover every in Iraq with the fervor of the VT sho.otings.

And then what really frosts me is that this jackass who, at some point had a judge rule him mentally unstable and a danger to himself and possibly others took time out of his busy killing schedule to mail a videotaped rant to NBC and NBC gave him airtime. That video should never have seen the light of day in the public media. The police should see it. Maybe counselors and psychology students should see it. But to give this nutcase an internationally broadcasted, posthumous forum is not going to help anything in our society that promotes celebrity above all else to the point where there is no such thing as bad attention.

Whenever something like this, or the way over-hyped recent death of a former starlet saturates the "News", I wonder what other stories AREN'T making the headlines. I didn't even see a headline for the Boston Marathon which was held during the worst weather in years, until I searched the science section of the online news and found an article about the astronaut on the ISS running it. Did anything unsavory have a press release this week that was totally overlooked because someone was just waiting for a cover opportunity like this? Call me a cynic, but this is what I think about.

Violence Generally
If you're considering killing yourself or others for any reason at all, think again, and don't. I'm telling you now, it's a bad idea and it will always, always be the wrong thing to do. Step back, take a deep breath, drink some water so you're not cranky from dehydration, take another breath, and think of some other way to express yourself. Your right to punch someone stops where my nose starts. I'm pretty sure my blog readers are pretty clear on this already though.

Violence against other people is almost never justified. I say almost because self defense is allowed. Pre-emptive self defense, however, is not. This kind of sums up my feelings about how I feel about our foreign policy, bom.bers, and people who decide to kill others they don't like for any reason at all. I've already blown my chance at brevity, but what I'm against is violence that causes permanent change in someone else's life, without their consent. If you step into a boxing ring or military uniform, you're outside my scope having given implied consent. I'm referring to violence in normally staid venues of a classroom, mall, office, or post office. Yet I feel that I also have to write a caveat about defining "violence" as well. Because in talking to my brother, we have different definitions of violence.

My brother and his friends have played a lot of touch football over the course of the last two decades. I asked how many games turned in to tackle football or had at least one wrestling match and after considering for a moment he replied, "all of them." In other words, a day that men knock each other to the ground is not considered any different or more violent than any other day for my brother and his friends. Whereas any day I am slammed into the ground by another person is generally not a good one. It also makes me wonder: for all the soldiers who are returning from Ira.q with PTSD, how many are having the time of their lives and will miss this when it is over? The weaponry is very cool and there's not much chance in peacetime to really go nuts with the fifty ought.

Mental Health after Tragedy
To end this on a sort of positive note, I've got a family story and I heard a couple of great interviews on NPR this week. One was with a man who, eight years ago, lost four friends in the Col.umb.ine shootings. His message was, "what ever way you're dealing with this tragedy is probably right, as long as you ARE dealing with it." The people who are still not dealing with it startle at loud noises even now; the people who have confronted their feelings are pretty much getting on with their lives.

The other interview was with someone who was in one of the VT classrooms but didn't get shot. His dad made record time in getting to the campus and this young man said, "I don't want to go home; I'd like to stay here. I'd like to deal with this as it occurs. I want to answer questions that the mur.dered students' parents might have because it might help them. I'm still kind of numb, but I've met a good counselor who I will see as I need to." I think this kid will ultimately be OK. Not ever again unaffected, but he'll do alright.

Just like my mom is doing alright. When she was in college, one of her friends shot his girlfriend then killed himself right in front of her on the quad. Thankfully, therapy and counseling has gotten a lot better since those days. And time helps too. She still has flashbacks, according to my dad, and her friend's name is on the tip of her tongue after events like this, but she does ok. I didn't even know about this until I was in my late teens or twenties. She had a challenge a couple of years ago, almost four decades after the event, when a man at her gym was offering workout advice and she was uncomfortable enough to mention it to me. She was edgy because he reminded her so strongly of her former friend. But my mom is good people and realized what was behind her fears and that this man was not the same and meant no harm. She talked herself out of her discomfort and wound up getting some good advice and free personal training for several months.


Anonymous said...

If you truly wish to know what goes on in the world...

May I recommend non-USA news.


SINFUL said...

Regarding your PTSD vs. "time of their life" comment . . . I've been thinking about that alot. How many fight because they're highly skilled, it's what they do, it's their life work vs. how many fight for peace. I know, "fight for peace"??? But OK knowing that if they're fighting for peace - they don't get to make the last shot, but might have to take it . . . I'm rambling . . .

Enjoy your blog CO.

CrankyOtter said...

FW2: thanks for the link.

sinful: I keep wanting to ask this question in other forums, but the time never seems right. Ramble away.

Alaskan hellcat said...

This is a great post, thanks for writing down your thoughts. I have been chewing on it for a couple of days and thinking about what I could "comment" on...
One of the things that Jamie and I have talked about is the fact that it seems like as a country, we have not "fought for ourselves" in a long. I mean, not fighting for another country, but for our own country. Jamie thinks this has made us react to violence in a "flight response" instead of a "fight response" because the fight response has to come from a place where you know you could die, but in doing might protect others...