At first glance, I felt a wave of sadness. Then I just grew confused. Now I don’t know what I am.
I glanced at a photo of taken during Bill O’Reilly’s recent telecast in the morning newspaper today. It was one of those split-screen things, and O’Reilly was on half the screen and on the other were the sad faces of Jim Steinle and Liz Sullivan. I’d show it you, but it would probably get me sued by Fox News because I don’t the rights to it and my hunch is they aren’t going to love what I’m about to write.
Steinle and Sullivan are the parents of Kathryn Steinle who was walking down Pier 14 in San Francisco with her father’s arm around her, enjoying a beautiful day when a random bullet killed her.
That was two weeks ago and now they are on Bill O’Reilly’s diatribe-based TV show. The show’s host, backed by Fox News, wants the government to enact “Kate’s Law,” a ridiculous mandatory sentencing measure that criminalizes being Hispanic and little else (let’s face it, O’Reilly wouldn’t be on this story of the shooter had hailed from Canada or been an undocumented tech worker from Bombay).
When it comes to pain, I imagine the list is 1) 16th Century Inquisition torture 2) the death of a child. If it’s not the worst, it’s right up there.
But something about a TV camera in your face chronicling the expression of a crumpled heart seems … simply, put, inhumane. As I considered this I grew from sad to confused. What in the hell were they doing on a TV show at a time like this, I wondered?
In a world where everyone is the star of their own social media reality show, I guess it’s acceptable to stand in front of a television camera at times like these. Maybe it’s not as awful as if seems to me. Maybe, I’m the one who hasn’t kept up with the times, and in a world where every sneeze is worthy of a Facebook posting and emotional pain is discussed via hashtag instead of in therapy, going on Fox News when awash in grief makes sense.
Then again, maybe not.
Maybe it is as terrible as it seems that anyone would even ask these parents to come on a TV show during this time of grief.
Maybe common decency still slams a table demanding respect for those in mourning.
Maybe our need to spin every random event in our lives has made us collectively so bat-shit crazy that we continue to hurt ourselves when life has hurt us plenty bad enough.
When I separate the wheat and chaff of my own emotions, I can’t imagine a TV camera offering a single point of redemption for Kathyrn Steinle’s parents. If a TV camera ever finds me at such a time, God forbid, I hope I have the clarity of mind to tell them to go EEF themselves.
I realize Steinle and Sullivan agreed to it, but for chrissakes, give them a break. I can barely make my mind remember my keys each day on a good day, let alone try to make any kind of decision in the aftermath of such shocking grief. They get a pass. It’s like transition in pregnancy. Nothing during this time counts.
To their credit, they asked for two things during an interview yesterday: 1) For the finger-pointing to stop and 2) for something positive to come from this.
It that really too much to ask? That’s sounds like a whole cargo ship of common sense as compared to the political spin machine that has worked overtime since Kate’s death.
From the moment Kate Steinle died, the news spin has lurched with the velocity of a hurtling meteor burning every ounce of common sense in its path. Jim Steinle, who watched his daughter die, was being asked about deportation laws before he had a chance to pick a casket.
That’s insane, even for a reality TV-show, social-media-obsessed culture like ours that has convinced us that such publicity at all times is normal. It may be normal, but it’s also insane.
The politics of this random act of tragedy are terrible. Choosing a random victim of gun violence that plays out every single day in our country–because A) the victim was white and pretty, B) the shooter was an undocumented felon who wasn’t deported, and C) the crime scene was set in the most liberal city of America–may seem like good “politics” because of its political spin, but it’s nauseating. We could turn this conversation to guns, to mental illness, to addiction, to homelessness to any social woe and attach Kate Steinle’s name to it. But that’s just more of the same, more political spin at a time that calls for none of it.
We’ve been spun for so long and so often by our cultural spin doctors we no long realize how important it is to be still. We’ve gone so far down a road of entitlement that suggests every wrong* must be explained and every pain deserves blame, that we no longer just grieve.
I don’t know what to make of all this noise about Kathryn Steinle’s death. I know this: I won’t read a word about it any longer. I hope the camera’s will turn off soon and her parents will get the rest they need to heal. Other than that, I know nothing, save this: Maybe Yahweh knew what He was saying in the Psalms when he said, “Be still and know that I am God.”
I suspect he meant it for times of terrible pain and times of terrific joy when the last thing we need is a camera switched on.
*When I say every wrong, I mean, of course, the politically advantageous politically wrong. The exceptions of the countless wrongs to the underclass, the poor, the non-American, the broken, the disabled, the addicted, the flawed, etc., we can’t ratchet up the energy to political spin all of those, like the thousands sleeping on the streets near Pier 14 every night, for example.