This morning I was greeted by a status post on my Facebook page that started, “I am so sick of hearing …” and then went on to be enraged about an event that took place in Missouri, which didn’t involve them. BUT it’s been hyped in the media over and over and over sparking widespread attention.
Had I responded with a comment, which I didn’t because that wasn’t the place for it, I would have said this:
“I’m sorry you feel so upset by this situation but the truth is you weren’t there to know the truth of what happened. It seems you somehow feel qualified to pass judgement on the situation based solely off media reports that vary what happened depending on the source of the witnesses. Witnesses, I might add, that only decided to film the parts of the story that made the officer look bad. Witness accounts have been proven time and again to be helpful in solving crimes, but they have also been proven completely false just as many times.
People are human. They “see” what they want to see more often than not. Not because they are evil or trying to cause problems. Most of them honestly believe that what they are saying is the “truth”. But humans are fallible creatures. We experience the world based on our own experiences and therefore we color what we see to fit with what we know. It causes communication problems the world over.
The Media, on the other hand, are not human. They are important in relaying events of the world to their readers. But, they are first and foremost trying to sell a story. They make money off of it. They earn their living by hyping the most sensational stories they can find and have been known to even create stories out of nothing. They fill our heads with the information they want us to have, information that is sometimes based on little more than a single testimony. And information that leaves out as much as it shares.
The problem is the world is not that simple. The problems we encounter in our daily lives, the interactions we experience, are not one sided, flat, single dimension points in space that we can put quotes around and then judge as a whole. Everything that happens in this world is multi-faceted. Rather than a point drawn on a number-line in second grade math class, it’s more like a cancerous tumor with tendrils feeding off in all directions. It’s BIG, in other words. And making sense of it all can take a lifetime or more.
I realize fully that this story involves the killing of an 18 year old boy. As the mother of a 20 year old son, I feel sympathy for his mom. It makes me sad that any 18 year old has lost their life. But as a mother and someone who spent six years as a foster parent for troubled kids, I also know that 18 year old boys do stupid things every single day without thinking about the consequences of their actions. They are not much different in that respect than people who have witnessed a violent act or are grieving the loss of a loved one.
The whole truth of the situation is that no one besides the police officer and the kid really know what happened or why it happened the way it did, so no one else has the right to pass judgement on the choices that were made.
So where does that leave us who listen to the media and become worked into a frenzy by it?
Well, my advice is this:
1) Stop listening. It’s not that hard. Old men have been doing it for generations. Teenagers are great at it. Televisions actually come with an “off” switch. So do computers and phones and tablets and … And there is that thing called a remote control so you can change the channel to one of the other hundreds that are out there NOT discussing the issue.
2) Respond. Feel sad. Allow yourself to grieve. Then change what you can in your own world in response to what you are feeling. If you relate to the mother losing their child, go hug your kids a little more. If you feel outraged because of some media sponsored injustice, realize that life isn’t fair and never will be unless you help make it better in your own little corner of it.
3) Get involved. Locally. Find a youth center to volunteer at. Become a grief counselor. Say a prayer. Lord knows we can all use more of that in our lives.”