Telling Our Own Stories

12.17.12

In blogging it’s sometimes difficult to know which stories are ours to tell. Victoria has been pushed into the unimaginable situation of burying a nephew, a child and you can see here on AC that she’s beautiful and eloquent and protective of the surviving siblings and of her own child. There’s a #LoveForNoah hashtag on twitter that folks might want to follow.

It’s unimaginable that as I write this a family is burying a child so small. We don’t have words for this. We have widows and widowers, we have orphans but we have no words to describe parents who have lost children. Perhaps because there is no single word that could describe the pain. It’s terrifying that a community would have twenty pairs of parents with holes in their hearts and as a nation we feel some of what they feel. It’s a grief so palpable it radiaties coast to coast and beyond.

But it’s not our grief. Our kids are okay and many of them won’t know about this for a dozen years or more because they are too small to comprehend what has happened so recently. Let’s not burden anyone unnecessarily, let’s fight the urge to co-opt the grief of others for pageviews or attention.

We have problems folks. We have big problems with our media. They’re doing a pretty good job of keeping the story to the victims but we’ve been warned by mental health experts that our obscene coverage of this tragedy will bring about more shootings. When I say that the coverage is obscene I’ve chosen my words carefully. If our 24 hour news stations were movies they would be rated R, and sometimes NC 17. I will once again suggest that parents everywhere turn the news off when their children are home. If your kids know the story already there’s no reason to beat them over the head with it. They are children and if this isn’t your hometown or your family it’s fair to let it go.

We have problems with our gun laws. A Bushmaster AR-15 is a weapon that our military uses in Afghanistan. It’s unnecessary for hunting or even home defense. The AR-15 is a weapon meant to spray down the enemy. I like that there are weapons in this house I’m not anti-gun, I’m anti-semi-automatic weaponry. Everyone should be, that’s just reasonable.

We as a nation don’t care for our infirm. We don’t care for folks who have cancer, we don’t care for children who have pneumonia and we don’t care for the mentally ill. We fail in healthcare in every direction and unfortunately the only reason mental health will be addressed in the coming weeks is because it hurt someone besides the mentally ill. You see, had he just killed himself (as people so often do) there would be murmurings and hand wringing but because this particular bout of mental illness collided with evil actions and killed so many people we are forced to deal with the suffering of hundreds, perhaps thousands who will be pained by the loss of their loves. We only pay attention to mental illness when it leaks out into our pristine spaces. This is an unspeakably selfish flaw in our society.

A mother wrote a compelling piece that millions have seen. She wrote about what it’s like to live with a violet and mentally ill teenage boy. It’s well written and had she done anything to disguise her child I’d share it with you now. She compared her son to a host of mass murderers. It’s unimaginable to me that mothers will exploit their own. Some say it’s her Hail Mary and that she’s sharing out of desperation. I know it’s a good discussion but I like it better when we discuss ourselves and not our children’s weaknesses.

I know that there are stigmas to mental illness. Perhaps the duty of breaking those barriers belongs to the mentally ill and not to those they trust.

We deal with the parts of illness we can see. We deal with cancer because we can see bald and frail and we can see death but we don’t deal with depression because that’s a quiet one that slips by us. On my corner is a man who stares into space all day. He’s homeless and there’s no good reason for it. He’s clearly mentally ill but he doesn’t hurt anyone so he doesn’t get help. He reeks of urine and feces and his legs are swollen and red with cuts that don’t heal. We don’t care for him and it’s a crime.

We as a nation have failed to care for our children, our elderly and our infirm. A great society would do these things before all else.

A victims relief fund has been set up for Sandy Hook and a fund to pay for Noah’s funeral and related expenses has also been set up.

Tragiblogging

10.29.12

Last week was a new low for the mommybloggers. There was a tragedy in New York where two children were murdered, the details really don’t matter that much because it could have been any tragedy on any given week. It just needed to be a tragedy of a certain sort. The victim needed to be a rich white family.

Babies die, children are murdered, there are wars happening right now and oh, by the way if you live in a poor part of Los Angeles like Compton there’s a pretty good chance you’ve been affected by violent crime in the last six months.

Compton is twenty miles from my home, in the past six months 16 of it’s residents were murdered. I don’t see bloggers wringing their hands and worrying about their futures when ghetto kids die. I’m not sure who those 16 people were but it’s safe to assume that the majority of them are young black men. That’s who usually dies in Compton.

This morning there’s some coverage of a Halloween party shootout. Complete with a crime map that should make your skin crawl. The red dots represent homicides.

I don’t think a whole lot of bloggers live in these neighborhoods. In fact, in the absence of a broken navigation system I’m pretty sure bloggers wouldn’t drive through these neighborhoods. There are lovely people who live there, and there are children being raised in all areas of Los Angeles so surely there are stories to be told.

When one of these red dots is reported on the news (or more likely as part of a police blotter) I don’t see bloggers writing stories about how they need to love their kids more, keep them safe, talk about the dangers of [fill in the blank with something innocuous]. Instead we focus on a family of privilege facing tragedy because we wrongly believe that they are more like us. We somehow see these oddball slayings, these incomprehensibly tragic slayings as being more likely to affect us than the violence that poverty and a lack of education cultivate like a virus escaping petrie dish.

It’s a vile practice bloggers have taken to. I suppose we emulate the newscasts we see and hope for great search results or some misery page views. It’s easy to talk about the fear of bad things happening to upper class kids because OhMyGawdTheWorldIsDangerous.

Well, the fact of the matter is that crime is dropping in the US every year. I know it’s easier to sell fear than hope. Many folks think a little tragiblogging will build their page views, and it will… it’s a formula we all understand to be true. The problem is that when bloggers get busy tragiblogging someone else’s story that puts them in a parasitic role where they have to continue to find other people’s tragedies and make them their own. There is an audience for this to be sure. The other problem is that you have to keep upping the ante and that means waiting for more white babies to disappear or die. Or you can do some charity traveling, because when black kids need help in other countries we get compassionate quickly.

Twenty miles from my front door are dozens of red dots. Those mothers cried too.