This post might end up making me seem like a bit of an ass but bare with me and I’ll try to explain what’s got me a bit fired up.
There are two very big news stories being discussed tonight (three if you count the fact that we seem to be bombing Iraq again but I can’t even think about that) and I think the wrong one is getting all the attention.
My Facebook stream is loaded with post after post after post about the death of Robin Williams. Everyone from neighbors, to my employer, and of course, other celebrities have something to say about it. In fact I’m kind of shocked by how much attention it’s getting.
Don’t get me wrong it’s a horrible and sad turn of events, but what it has not struck me as is surprising. His talent, while genius, has always danced on the edge of insanity. To describe his standup act as “manic” would be an understatement. I’ve always thought that it must be a tremendous burden to live inside his head with a brain that could do all the amazing things his brain could do at the speed at which it did them. And while he was certainly a comedic giant, he was also able to tap into some pretty dark stuff, he never struck as a particularly happy person. This almost seems like an inevitable ending.
Given the above it’s not surprising he battled addictions and depression. But he was also a very wealthy man with every advantage and had clear access to all the help he could possibly ask for. He sought help but it wasn’t enough. In the end he made a choice, a tragic one for sure, but a choice none the less. This is the ending he apparently wanted. We can only pray that that choice has brought him the peace he desired and he most assuredly deserved.
But in St Louis tonight there is a family of a teenage boy who did not make that choice.
But who is also dead none the less, and at the hands of the police.
A boy who was killed on Saturday – and whose death is surrounded in questions. Racial tensions appeared to push peaceful protests beyond peace and looting and rioting ensued. A tragic response to a terrible problem, undermining the intent of those who would be like their voices of protests to heard and acknowledged in a meaningful way.
Later, resumed peaceful protests appear to have been met by amped up police actions ready for more trouble, whether trouble arrived or not – almost willing it to. According to live on the ground twitter reports unarmed people carrying nothing but cell phones have been attacked with wooden and rubber bullets as well as attacked with tear gas. Residents are being denied access to their homes. Police are attempting to quarantine the press and refusing to allow up close coverage of what is happening. Not in the middle east, not in North Korea, but right here in the United States. A no fly zone has been established to help aid in the press blackout. Property owners are being gassed on their own property, video tape shows them in their own yard with the police coming down the street, they stand with their hands in the air behind their fence and property line – and the police shoot at them.
Even seasoned veterns are starting to question the amount of armor that is being displayed by the SWAT teams.
But not one person in my Facebook news feed has mentioned it at all. No one is upset by any of that.
Maybe it’s just me but I’m far more concerned about racial divides in this country and police misconduct and censorship, than I am over whether or not there will be another Ms Doubtfire movie. Since when does a celebrity death become more newsworthy, up worthy, or sharable than the police killing an unarmed boy or peaceful protesters being bullied by police?
Mr. Williams led a troubled life but left behind a brilliant body of work that will carry on his legacy for years. Michael Brown never even got to start his freshman year of college, and regardless of the events that lead to the shooting, was unarmed and died at the hands of someone he should have been able to trust with his life. Which of these deserves our attention or outrage more?
Maybe neither is more deserving then the other but certainly they should at least carry equal weight in our consciences and social media streams.