Violence, racism, death, looting, ambushes.
We have all these things in the USA.
Worse, we have a press that monetizes tragedy endlessly, on television, social media, cable, in newspapers and on radio.
We talk of instantly revolving news cycles, of events occurring so fast we seem hardly to have time enough to assimilate the news and try to begin to think what it means.
As the press pushes and pushes the latest every-tiny-detail-of-event, background, personality, weaponry, planning, targets selected and unintended targets, our “leaders” go into their “happy dance” and one by one appear before cameras wherever THEY are to intone grave warnings, even darker sympathies, “reaching outs,” moments of silence and flags flown at half-staff, heavy hearts.
The press will give a minimum of five continuous days of coverage to any racial incident, to any police defense, to the sense of the nation breaking apart. Details and commentary continue 24/7 after each outrage, and then, for lack of another immediate set-to, to a review or an anniversary of bloody mindedness somewhere in our recent past.
Average citizens, after five days, have had it, and begin to sound racist and violent themselves. “Jesus! Enough!”
But it isn’t enough because the networks and cable shows and news outlets of all kinds, as well as newspapers and radio stations, are MAKING MONEY by endlessly repeating this “breaking news” on the off-chance, we assume, that one person out there was weeding a garden somewhere and missed it all.
Network airplanes shuttle their anchors from scene of tragedy to the scene of next tragedy, from shootings to wildfires to shooting.
We meet – at five, six, seven and eleven – many honorable and impressive citizens. Articulate police chiefs, well-spoken families, friends of perpetrators and victims alike. (We hesitate here because we also think some of these people are monetizing their now dead relatives and friends…there are interviews in the future, books, perhaps a civil or criminal law suit. There are journeys to be made to speak before sympathetic crowds, limousine rides, food, and even perhaps financial aid.)
And all of this, ALL OF IT, is covered round-the-clock, adding little to our knowledge and less to our understanding of what happened.
One other tiny little thing this 24/7 press coverage and social media commentary provides is incendiary rhetoric that guarantees whatever incident has just erupted will continue and grow into silent protests, all-night vigils, to impatient crowds glowering, rocks thrown, Molotov cocktails hurled, police stand-offs, looting, and an endless stream of coverage of burials for victims of all kinds, from four year old children caught in cross-fires to fathers off four who served well and bravely for twenty years on their local police forces.
One optimistic thing we’ve witnessed in THESE past five days has been the comparative reduction of anger and looting. People seem to understand finally that to burn down their own neighborhoods is foolish and pointless. The movement towards actually discussing race and violence in this country is now out in the open and growing. Adults are addressing issues, from the Police Chief in Dallas to the Governor of Minnesota.
There seems a diminution in circular “suicide,” in vain calls against guns and ammunition. Few mention the 2nd Amendment. That the country is pulling apart seems finally to have brought leaders of government and NGO’s to the realization that sometime soon these patterns must be changed.
The big question, after what to do to make our nation whole and aware that we are one nation together united in tragedy and in triumph, is WILL THE PRESS stand down and realize its responsibility for so much of our current chaos and rage and confusion?
We can only watch, listen, read, and hope.