Life has evolved into a spectator sport, featuring Team Terrorist and Team Celebrity, and we have only our sick need for information and gratification to blame, and don’t get me started on the actions of the announcer that represents our country. In the tragically accurate words of Don Henley, “get the widow on the set…is the head dead yet…”
This past Sunday, a major news affiliate reported that people have become desensitized to violence and death…ya think??? Social media and an overused state of political correctness now afford everyone the chance to be an armchair quarterback, judge, CSI investigator, televangelist preacher or half naked superstar, posed, poised and polished for success. The result of this voyeuristic saturation has made brutality and suffering on people and animals commonplace, actually the norm, as we check the Internet before facing the day. Where is Walter Cronkite when we need him?
Growing up in a law enforcement environment, there were moments of silence and covertly exchanged looks, which always remained between the walls of our home. However on occasion, my father, who was the Police Chief, did mention when something profoundly affected him, but only to explain his demeanor, or to possibly make his family aware of a potentially serious matter. Regardless of anything he would speak about, it was a given that it was not for public knowledge, and with a deep sadness in his eyes, he would call it a tragedy. This exact scenario continued into my married years, with my own Police Officer spouse, and like before, any knowledge of the personal pain that someone experienced, or caused, remained in confidence.
I am not saying it was ever easy to keep shocking details, stories and events secret, they were no different from what The Enquirer pays big money for today, however, it wasn’t news…it was tragedy. Those things had happened to real people, with real lives and real emotions, and they were the ones left with the aftermath…not me. Luckily, the only social media available was over the phone or across the yard, but even with that, we still expressed compassion and concern, along with the understanding that it could have been our family, and we were always respectful.
Unable to do the work, create the dream or face the struggle, people now find it easier to live life through social media, while watching horror unfold for some, and fame and fortune for others. Daily doses of Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are all that color generic lives, which once had personal goals, family achievements and memories intended to be passed down. Why make a life, or take a chance, when the same results will appear on the news? Imagine the pain, suffer without consequence, and above all resent your failures – all without leaving the house.
When Pandora opened the box, and a fruit stand opened in the Garden of Eden, innocence became lost, and the world has forever paid the price, on knowledge never meant to be shared. Ignorance isn’t always bliss, but there are times when it is still for the best. Likewise, entertainment that was once uplifting, is now uploaded on a grand scale, the majority of which is horrifying, and has nothing to do with laughter…unless you like cat videos, and if so, that is a whole different box of drama.
The earliest days of movies and entertainment featured pratfalls, self-deprecating humor, and a few pies in the face. We laughed, because it exposed our hidden fears of being publicly humiliated, and/or embarrassed. When it progressed to drama, we faced relationship pain on an undesired streetcar, lost dolls in a valley, and saw a simple man, that innocently pulled a Charly Gordon, again facing what we didn’t want in our own life. The difference is, back then we also examined our values, morals and attitude, and made a choice to do better. Now however, we don’t face anything, and what is there, is in full color, hour after hour…someone else’s life, watched vicious and vicariously, in complete abandonment, always demanding they give an emotional reaction… for our satisfaction.
Many years ago, as I recovered from a physical assault, horrific stalking and the loss of my employment as a single parent, I found myself sitting across from a therapist, thinking it would help. The one thing I remember, almost as much as the attack I lived through, was this complete stranger asking me to detail the event, so he could say, how did that make you feel? Seriously…how the fuck do you think it felt? Needless to say, my anger and rejection from that emotional care left me with a hairpin trigger whenever I hear those same, intruding six words.
Verbally rehashing trauma may be beneficial to some, however I am not one of those people, and even if I was, it needs to be done in private, and not in public, on diamond vision or across a bandwidth. That being said, those same damned words are now the prying calling card of social media, entertainment and the news. People facing the darkest moments of their lives, have to also expect a camera focused squarely on their pain…and face, from a reporter writing a lead if it bleeds breaking news spot.
It is long overdue for humanity to rediscover common decency, and the knowledge that nobody has the right to ask such questions. The time has come to again offer a hand, and confirm someone is not alone, and they have a friend if they need it…what a novel concept, just like the books used to prop up a laptop, and not feed a brain.
My grandfather used to say that it always seemed our destination took forever to get to, but coming home was ten times shorter. I still cherish his wisdom, especially since the way our world and commitment to one another has disintegrated, the trip back home is going to take a very long time…if we ever get there at all.