Sunday, August 30, 2015

Mourn the Death and Fight Like Hell for the Living

Earlier this week we were all stunned by the live on TV murder of a local Roanoke Virginia news team while doing a remote report.  The stunning video of the news feed quickly bounced around the internet and news directors had to decide to play it or not.  Then came the video taken by the gunman posted by him showing his point of view as he took the lives of two young people.  It wasn't long until we realized that this man, a highly disturbed individual, did this in a twisted form of revenge.  A former colleague who had been fired for his belligerence and failures as a reporter.  In fact we learned he was known for out bursts and difficulty and had threatened some of his co-workers.  When he was fired he had to be escorted from the building by the police.  In his manifesto he cited his world view that racism played a role in his failure and that the reason church shooting where a young white man wanted to start a race war was the straw that broke his proverbial camel's back.  He was going to further that cause.  

This story struck me hard because in fact the angry man, failing and fired, blaming racism, is the story that 28 years ago changed my life.  When Jamie Morton reached out to the white guy that lived across the hall only to find his soon-to-be fiance.  He killed Linda and later stated because of how the white folks treated him and having just been fired from his job.

I have lived an entire life since then, a generation has passed and still the same story comes out.  Only now, social media and 24 hour news channels make this a far bigger story and a way for these people to promote their own personal struggles and delusional visions.  We will never end this kind of violence because it doesn't make sense.  The way the mind of some of these individuals work is not rational and cannot be reasoned with at all.  We often talk of people snapping, but later we realize that is not the case.  We see signs in many aspects of their life that lead us to think there is something wrong and yet it isn't our business so we move to a safe distance.  In the case of the recent killing the manager of the station were the victims and the killer worked had to have police physically remove him from the building and other workers feared for their lives for months after he left and still, nothing.  But time did not mitigate that threat and two years later he killed two people on live television in what I am sure to him was a crowning glory.

Our country and culture is based on a set of personal freedoms that allow for a wide variety of ways of living one's life as long as other's rights are not violated.  While that is a simplistic statement for sure, we do require a high level of evidence of danger of a person to isolate them from society.  A person who gets angry upon being fired and forced from the building is not guilty of a crime that would require incarceration.  But what is threats were?  What if simply suggesting that you were going to come back and kill people was enough to get you locked up?  Sounds extreme I know.  The last thing I want to see if more people in prison.  But we lock people up for far less and some for their entire lives for far less.  Can we at least have a conversation about it?  I hear Presidential candidates talking about tracking people in the country on Visas, and hunting down those in our country without proper documentation to deport them, even revoking birthright citizenship to applause and cheers.  What if we did a serious effort to find, engage, treat and/or isolate in a humane way, people who have a track record of threatening behavior and are prone to violence outbursts?  What if we developed a culture that instead of ignoring and pushing aside people like this to stew in their delusional world view we tried to help them crush their demons?  What if we didn't laugh about the guy who took offense to a joke and teased him behind his back but asked the questions to understand why he was offended?  There is a lot there to think about.  But when we look at the news the stories are boiled down and dumbed down to a few platitudes about race or guns.

The world has changed a great deal since I lost my Linda, but the way we think really hasn't.  Since that horrific live TV murder we have heard many stories of violence taking lives, including the assassination of a deputy sheriff in Texas.  Each new story washes away the horror of the previous one and replaces it with a new patina of outrage.  But do we ever really get into the cause and more importantly the stem the tide of these events.  All I know is that I will keep the Linda's memory in my heart this week as I think back on the life not lived.  This year carrying that of others who were cut down by a failed culture that cannot seem to find its way to true peace.  But I also know that we should never stop striving for it.

1 comment:

S Penn said...

Thanks for sharing such a personal perspective - it puts a totally different slant on the story and forces me to look at it in another way.

RIP Anthony Bourdain and We Must All Be More Aware

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