Friday, April 27, 2007

Public Information?

I was talking with a co-worker last week. Her brother had told her he wanted to boycott the media for releasing the video of the Virginia Tech killer. She agreed although she knew it wasn't realistic to expect them NOT to show it. Still, there should be some semblance of decency here where we don't show these things. She talked of Saddam's hanging being publicized. Sensationalism? Probably. She admits she was drawn to her computer to seek this out too. But upon seeing it, she wished she hadn't. I understood her view and I could agree and yet not agree. After all, though the world is full of people with a morbid need to see these things, there are folk like me who truly wanted to hear the voice of this person for themselves to maybe pull some speck of sense out of this senseless tragedy.

Maybe something would be shown that would make me go, "Oh! I think I see where he got off on Insanity Trail and things went horribly wrong." But I can't say that. I heard he was picked on and I assume life was not as good to him as he would have liked. Having gone to college in rural Virginia on the coast opposite Va. Tech, I suspect I've been around the snobby types he dealt with and I can even imagine how he may have felt a little out of place. The school's own 2006/2007 Enrollment Profile showed that out of 21,937 students, over 15,000 of them were white. A little over 1,500 were Asian. There were even fewer African-Americans and Native Anericans. This is the norm at places like this. But this is not to say he had an excuse. This is simply me saying that as big as these numbers look, I know they really don't translate like this face to face. Again, I've been there.

Still, he was clearly troubled by more than the average college student who is at the height of their identity crisis only, ironically, they won't know that until they get OUT of college. People must be curious about what it would take to turn into this person. People are wondering what to look for in the people around them to hopefully protect themselves and maybe even prevent such a thing from happening again. I'm sure it wasn't pleasant to hear this lunatic's rants but it could have been worse. He could have taped the incident somehow and mailed that off. That would surely force me to send my kids to another room but I still don't take away the media's right to have shown this. Somehow it felt necessary. Eight years in a newsroom, and four years before that on my college newspaper, probably embedded that whole free speech and right to know thing.

But then, in the same week, here comes Alec Baldwin and his rant against his 11 or 12-year-old daughter. He called her names I won't repeat because despite the inhumanity of how he spoke to her, this is one time when I think something should not have been made public. This was NOT necessary to disclose. This was not in the interest of public safety but truly was sensationalism, though I think some would disguise their curiosity as being concerned abut the welfare of this child they don't even know the name of. I am hearing him on the news at this very moment as I write this. Whatever is going on between him and Kim Basinger, we did not need to hear this and his daughter? Well apparently she stood him up yet again for a phone call they are supposed to have. From the sounds of it, she's already an angry kid or else mommy is whispering toxic nothings in her ear. Can't say. I don't live in their home. Still, I feel for her. I really doubt she will ever get over her father's words. Not on her own, anyway. If Alec thinks he can apologize the crushed feelings away, I'm here to tell him he is delusional.

But I recognize I don't know this girl and being a parent, I know some kids can truly drive you beyond the brink. Not mine, of course! Still, it just seems unnecessary. And even more unecessary was us having to be let in on that private moment. I'm embarrased for both of them. And I'm embarrased for all of us who had to hear that. It would be great to turn back time and stop that tape from being released. It's hard enough being a parent without worrying about someone exposing us at our worst and then villifying us as if this is how we always are. People without children, please don't tell me how evil he is because I just don't think you know as much as you think you do about the rough waters of parenting.

I can't defend Alec's tirade but I am defending his right to screw up as a parent without public scrutiny. My prayers go out for that girl that this is not the norm for her and that she won't carry on this hurt that has now been planted in her. I just hope that she too won't be the subject of ridicule among her peers and maybe even internalize things to such an extent that she turns into, what? A socially ostracized young adult with homicidal and self-destructive tendencies? Going too far? Naw.

Words are powerful and they can wound a person forever. Just ask Seung-Hui Cho. Oh wait. You can't. He's dead. And he took 32 lives with him.

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