Thursday, May 21, 2009

The light bulb and the moths

I knew when I saw the call-out box on the front page of the Courant this morning that Helen Ubinas turned over a big rock, and the ugly bugs were going to scatter.

And so, it's come to pass. The online commenters are rabid.

What's so appalling about the truth, that these ignoramuses have to hurl what little remains of their tiny minds against it in hopes that the futile noise the collision makes will somehow bring them a moment of fleeting glory. Like moths, they are suicide bombers hurling themselves against the light bulb in defense of darkness.

I know Helen's a big girl, and she can take it. It just makes me weary thinking about humanity, thinking about America.

Helen Ubinas wrote the truth. The murder of Johanna Justin-Jinich is a travesty. That she died at the hands of an unbalanced man with easy access to a gun who somehow hallucinated control over her is worse. But the coverage her murder attracted was way out of proportion to the coverage of other similar murders whose victims happened to be African-American.

That we are xenophobic as a culture, as an American culture, is an ugly truth. Did you hear about the Indonesian plane crash yesterday where 110 people died? Oh. How about the one that crashed in Guatemala last week killing six? Hmmm. How about the 95 children killed in a US-led strike in Afghanistan? Ninety-five kids. No, huh? Did you hear who one American Idol? Thought so.

It says something about you and me. It says something about what we care about. It says something about our press.

Ubinas is right. The murder of a young, educated, well-off white woman has, and will receive more coverage than the murder of a woman of color under similar circumstances. It doesn't make the murder of the white woman any less horrible. It just makes us moreso.

Life is precious and fragile. Murder is ugly and despicable. We need to worry about each murder, whether it's done on a sidestreet in a section of town that scares us, or its done on a street in a foreign country in our name, or its done in a bookstore three blocks from my house.

And I'm afraid the level of discourse evident in the comments section which follows Ubinas online column, is unhealthy in the extreme. It's gets us nowhere. It gets the Courant many visits to its web pages. It makes us uglier. It degrades the discourse. And while it reveals something about the people we live among, it hides them behind a screen of anonymity that is as frightening as it is sickening.

These commenters are sad, deluded people whose rage bubbles like bile between their teeth. Not a one of them brave enough to open their mouths and say such things to anyone's face.

It's not a free speech issue. It's a commercial issue. And it's time for the Courant to stop.

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