Friday, July 20, 2012

the news and the Colorado tragedy

"Mom, why do they keep showing the same thing over and over?"

From the mouths of babes - and my thoughts exactly.

First, and by all means foremost, I join everyone in sending my thoughts and condolences to the families of the people injured and killed in last night's tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. It's senseless and almost impossible to comprehend. Those families' lives will never be the same again, and my heart breaks for every one of them.

It might be a little soon, as we are all sharing in the grief right now, and trying to come to terms with what's happened. But I feel so strongly about this, and it's so fresh, I think now is the best time to get it down. So please forgive me.

As I have watched the events unfold today, there are things that are troubling me. With perhaps the exception of 9/11, when new details emerged almost constantly (and I was admittedly glued to the television for three days straight), I've always thought that the 24/7 coverage of tragedies like this was a little self-indulgent. I turned on the "Today" show, and had to turn it off as the hosts' and news teams' questions made me so uncomfortable I couldn't watch. How do you think they feel? How many different ways can these poor people say the same thing over and over? And how many times do you really need to replay the footage? In this age of instant news, if someone wants an immediate update, they can check any of a zillion online news sources to get the latest. I just don't see the point in the ongoing coverage on our major networks. If an important detail emerges, by all means, put it on the ticker or tell us about it during a break. But there is just no reason to dedicate an entire extra half hour of noon news to rehash what has been turned inside and out, every which way, already.

I think the reason it bothers me so much is that to me, it reeks a little bit of one trying to outdo the other. If Susie is going to get a scoop of ice cream, I'm going to get two. I don't think that this method of reporting does anything to honor the victims; in fact, at the risk of sounding callous, I think it exploits the situation.  I can't say if it's for ratings or to make sure they aren't criticized for inadequate coverage - but I think it's just way too much. Does it deserve some extra airtime? Absolutely. But this has been excessive.

I'm equally troubled by the intense scrutiny of how the two Presidential nominees reacted. Again - while I feel 100% confident their sentiments are genuine - do we need to analyze, blow by blow, whether or not President Obama should have cancelled his event in the wake of the tragedy? Do we have to spend 20 minutes discussing with a political expert the wisdom of not having someone ask the crowd, prior to his appearance, to remain silent? (Some cheered during Obama's statement, I think when he said something about justice for the shooter, or something along those lines). Really? And then cut in with breathless anticipation to see if Romney makes the same gaffe at his rally today? You can not tell me that the thought that went into the words they chose, how they presented them, and how they chose to handle the situation, had as much to do with the victims as it did with making sure they didn't do something to hinder their Presidential aspirations. Is it their fault, or the fault of those covering it? I don't know. But it makes the hairs on the back of my neck stand up.

The other thing that bothers me is the reaction. I heard on a newscast today something about having police posted at every movie theater door this weekend - frankly, I am floored. You cannot "fix" what happened, and you need to be careful not to react immediately and impulsively out of fear. As a mother, I am constantly reminded that the world is a dangerous place. If we did everything, I mean everything, we could to keep our kids and families safe, we'd never go anywhere or do anything. We'd never let them swim in the ocean or ride their bike alone to a friends' house.

It's like having to squeeze my toiletries into a quart sized Ziploc bag every time I carry my bag on the airplane. These reactions are to me ridiculous, unnecessary, and a total waste of important resources. In the case of terrorism and national security, let's pour our efforts into the front end in tracking these crazy folks and trying to keep them from ever even getting to the airport with their guns or explosives or whatever in the first place. And with senseless tragedies like the one last night in Colorado, posting a policeman at every theater in the nation makes absolutely no sense to me.  

It's like they tell me as a mother - you can't wrap your kids in bubble wrap and be a helicopter parent. It feels to me as though we are trying to wrap the country up in bubble wrap. People, putting our lip gloss in a baggie, posting a policeman at every movie theater entrance, or putting our high school students through pat downs and metal detectors will not save us from these nutjobs.

These efforts come from the right place; something horrible just happened in our own backyard, and we want to do something about it. I just think sometimes we're misdirecting our sorrow, our anger, and our desperate need to understand. 

And for the record? When I did watch the news obsessively after 9/11, I don't think it was healthy for me, and I don't think it's healthy for our nation. It was a horrible, horrible tragedy, and if there's a realistic, productive way we can avoid it in the future, then by all means, I support those efforts. But when we live, eat, and breathe these tragedies, our children do, too, and I think it breeds too much fear, distrust and negativity.

Bring us the news, period. Give the victims the respect they deserve. And then let it go, to God, to the cosmos, whatever helps you heal and understand.

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