Wednesday, April 17, 2013

In Tragedy, Taking A Break From Trash Talk and News Cycles

When tragedy strikes, people need time to mourn.  Grief is a powerful antidote to the ills of the world.  Grief allows us to process our pain, to mourn for our losses, and ultimately, to move forward with our new lives.   

Yet our country moves from grief to justice in lighting speed.  Within minutes reporters and people on the street were tossing out lines like, “we will not be cowed by terrorists!” and “they picked the wrong city!”  My favorite reporters deluged me with talk.  Rather than covering events, they seemed to be processing their own feelings aloud and on air.  Nicholas Kristoff rubbernecked for all of his “friends” on Facebook, posting horrifying pictures of injured people and bloody sidewalks; Tom Ashbrook from On Point devoted the next day’s show to the event, even though all he could really talk about was how little we know; ThomasFriedman’s column two days later suggested we defy terrorists by leaving no memories of the attack and that we schedule another Boston Marathon as soon as possible. 

Me?  My head is spinning.  The move from shock to grief to erasing all traces and counting on the resilience of Bostonians to carry on is going much too fast.  September 11th dragged on interminably but Boston is going to be sewn up before the week is out. 

So I’m watching as little of the news cycle as possible.  The weeks after 9/11 taught me that empty-headed news stories make me too numb to grieve.  The imperative, “Never forget!” is going around like it did after 9/11.  I feel insulted every time I hear that expression.  As if any of us would ever forget.  What I’d prefer is more quiet.  Time to reflect and feel bad without watching horrible scenes, like the one that Kristoff and later The New York Times showed of the father finding his dead son.  That scene was terrible, useless, unnecessary.  (I didn’t actually watch it).  That father asked for privacy.  We don’t need to overdose on his grief when we could be focusing on our own. 

For my five-year old, a tragedy is that she can’t wear rain boots on a sunny day.  When she keels over, sobbing about minor events, I usually urge her to move on, but sometimes I let her bawl her eyes out.  I hold her in my arms and let her experience grief.  I want her to learn that crying can help move the sadness out.  I want her to learn how to feel sad without jumping straight into retribution. 

I understand the desire for justice and I agree there is a time for vengeance.  But I don’t want to hurry past my pain just to show those terrorists that they didn’t get me down.  They did.  I’m devastated.  Part of me will always be devastated.  Our nation’s leap into trash-talking-avenger mode makes me worry about the well-being of the American psyche.  I almost wrote, “great” in front of American.  But then I realized I don’t need to say so.  Just as we know we’ll never forget, we know we’re a great people.  We don’t have to broadcast it non-stop in the face of a national tragedy. We’d be even greater if we could sing, pray, or ponder quietly while we all hold hands, one nation, helping each other.

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