Saturday, December 29, 2012

Sandy Hook


I’m sorry about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, but am I the only person in America who feels this turned into a gory spectacle? Did we really want to see witnesses in tears tell of the last moments? Or hear relatives describe the innocent children who were lost? Did we want to occupy the unhappy homes in Newtown for days? Even at this late date (it’s been two weeks), our news programs pause and record moments of silence for the victims. No report ends without some reference to the aftermath of the shooting.

It’s as if the initial report of the mass murder didn’t quite do the job of making us sad enough, as if some of us might not have FELT this tragedy enough. Details of the shooting so consumed the media you could only get away from it by turning off the TV, which is what I did.

Just when most of us approached the holidays with joyful anticipation, we get not just the report of Sandy Hook, but an inescapable and prolonged pandering to Newtown’s tribulation. We felt guilty for our own safety and dared not be happy.

At first blush, we might think this is compassionate reporting. But the media, by its very focus and anxiety, exhorts us to sustain for days feelings of sadness and sympathy for the victims. But who can or should do that? Does this manipulation have an impact on our character? Perhaps some of us will become inured to tragedy. Or wallow in sorrow. Or will sympathy turn to morbid curiosity?

There’s enough sadness in my life, in your life, in everybody’s life that we don’t need the media to slather us with the sadness of others. We are aware of human misery in its many manifestations. The world is filled with hunger, illness, affliction, abandoned children, and lonely old people. How can we go about our lives if we carry with us the many misfortunes of others?

My heart goes out to the Newtown families. But I don’t want to hear about the sorrow any more. I don’t want to carry their burden any more. I want them to bury their dead and move on. I hope they will come to terms with their losses, and even though I’ll try not worry about them any more, I’ll grieve for them from time to time. And I don’t need the television to do that.

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