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30 October, 2014

"I Feel Your Pain," and Similarly Presumptuous, Phony Bullshit

Someone's scorched earth. Avert your eyes.

A week ago, a kid shot his friends, and then himself. I can tell you no more than that, even though I may 'know' more about the situation than you do. This one happened closer to where I live than usual, and when I spoke with family elsewhere, they mentioned it and expressed regret, but did not dwell on it and did not pretend to make sense of it.

On the other hand, another friend who had not been in touch for a while emailed a message fraught with 'concern' for how my own high school daughter dealt with it, seemed to fish for inside info, and mentioned how a mutual acquaintance sorta kinda knew (OK, recognized) the guy who has been arrested in a notorious murder in her part of the world.

How the hell would I know what happened with that kid, even if I knew him? Why would I speculate if I didn't know him? Why would having fewer degrees of separation from the anguish of several families and tribes make me an 'expert'?

Many people in our society play a sick sick game in the aftermath of murders and suicides. News media try to find out why, and adopt variously sensitive approaches to their prying into victims' and relatives' feelings, often as not posting interviews with people the killers and the killed would never have thought would speak for them. People with no real connection concoct one. The unaffected try on trauma to see how it befits them. 'Sensitive' people affect a variety of emotional effects, and in so doing display an appalling insensitivity to what is for someone (but not them) a tragedy.

It disgusts me and pisses me off, for reasons I won't tell you. You don't know how the killers and the killed felt, and if you are not an immediate relative or friend, or maybe a member of the same tribe, you never will. You should shut up and leave them alone until they ask you to say something.

Suicide is the ickiest paragraph of this sick commentary. Like whe Robin Williams killed himself, and every Tom, Dick, and Henry Rollins* needed to express their personal feelings about it. Aside from a handful of humans, nobody had the authority to speak to this, yet we were all besieged by co-workers, family members, reporters, media-friendly psychiatrists, and publicity hungry celebrities telling us why, or angstily telling us they didn't recognize the signs, or some other brand of bullshit. He might not even have seen it coming until it was too late. The people ostensibly bemoaning his loss did nothing productive, saved nobody, and displayed their own self-centeredness by treating tragedy as opportunity.

Mourn the dead if you knew them. Feel sad even if you didn't. But stop acting like death(s) you heard of on TV or the internet or the radio are personal to you. They are not, and it is an insult to the dead and their loved ones to make it personal to you. If some killing moves you to become an activist against guns or whatever, OK, but don't appropriate the souls of the dead to your cause. "He would have wanted..." is one of the all-time most presumptuous, bullshit-infused opening clauses in the English language. If you are just using someone else's tragedy to act sensitive, or publicly wring your hands, then you are full of crap.

Some people go beyond the show of mournfulness and try to figure out why. They won't know, and should cut it out. Killers and self-killers don't necessarily know why, so who is some outsider to waltz in and speculate?

*Former punk rocker and current media whore, who published an essay about how he no longer respected Williams, and was rightly excoriated for saying so.

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