The first inkling that something may be wrong came from my Twitter feed at 3:25 a.m. “Unconfirmed reports of a shooting” was all I read.
‘It’s a story we’ll keep an eye on throughout the morning,’ I thought to myself. Another reporter agreed. Less than 40 minutes later, we knew it was going to be much much different.
Looking at what we know barely 12 hours later, you can see the skeleton begin to take shape of a news cycle. There will be a gathering of information about the shooting, the alleged shooter and a background story will be formed about that alleged shooter. We will mourn the victims lost, taken away from the lives they lived so vigorously and peacefully in what should have been a time of euphoria and communal enthusiasm. We will then wonder what went wrong in the accused young man’s life and a national conversation will begin about whether his parents raised him poorly. Gun regulation, the shameful lack of security at public venues, etc. will all be debated as we wonder what is off limits from the black hand of hatred and violence. But this is just speculation on my part.
What if, instead, we decided to do what we are expected to do by the idealists in the world? What if we decided to inform our communities – local, national and international – about the stories that are unfolding with information? What if we decided to be factual and end it at factual instead of using ‘factual’ as a euphemism for ‘my opinion corroborated with factual’?
In tragic situations, we have a propensity to latch onto what seems rational and what seems secure. We need simple truths to ground us in a time when we have been shaken violently, rattled in our cages of complacency and self-preservation. We choose to believe that we can control things that may be out of our control. But you know something? Sometimes the world is just a messed-up place that you can’t put a saddle on. It will buck you off no matter how much experience you have drawn upon. The worst thing we can do is trying to set a new foundation based off of a perceived reality that we can make rules and regulations and judgments that are unfair to others, thereby giving into the fear that the evil ones hope to instill in us.
We have the power to create our own reality free of that fear.
Fittingly, in The Dark Knight, that reality is something that the villain doesn’t understand. One of the climactic scenes comes when two large groups of people – convicted felons and citizens - are aboard ferries, heading away from the city. The Joker seizes control of the two ferries, rigging them with bombs, places a detonator to the opposite boat aboard each ferry and gives the passengers an ultimatum: give into the fear that the other ferry will press the detonator for their ship first and blow up the other ferry or risk both boats being blown up. Spoiler alert: it doesn’t work. Both sides respect the humanity in the other.
It seems too Hollywood, too much of a ray of sunlight in a dark moment to be a reality. People can’t be that innately good. Being a part of a media organization, I see evidence that contradicts that idyllic concept on a daily basis. But I still choose to believe that the world has more light than shadows. I believe that ‘Hollywood goodness’ can be real.
We have an opportunity, as a nation of media and citizens, to mold a conversation that will respect the humanity in one another, even in these darkest of moments. We can make a conscious choice not to give into the fears that would otherwise belay us, make associations that are false, perpetuate rumors, create elaborate depictions and enforce stereotypes. I work with people who I know share this same idea and breathe it with every fiber of their beings. I am privileged to do so. I would invite you to share it as well.
- Seth Palmer, producer of 13WHAM News This Morning