Colleen's thoughts on writing, directing and coaching, and her unique take on life itself!

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

33 dead - because it started as "just" a domestic case

Several years ago, when I was the ombudsman/Reader Advocate for The Seattle Times (my experience there is another story you'd find fascinating) I wrote one of my weekly columns about the mistaken age-old journalistic philosophy that relationship, psychological and sociological stories are "soft" (read: *not real*) news, while murders, accidents, fires and basically fall in front of your face with photo ops incidents are "hard" (read *real*) news.

The outcome, unfortunately, of all too many of what they believe to be "soft" news becomes unnecessary "hard" news because the issues inherent in those "soft" stories are not explored adequately.

How we interact, treat ourselves and each other, relate and communicate - or fail to - all too often results in significant abuse and even homicide/suicide.

Worse, it spawns future generations of adults who have learned as children dysfunctional relationship reasoning and actions, which is nurtured by unceasing violent media, news and music images.

When adults finally understand their thinking and behavior is unhealthy, dysfunctional and out of whack and they choose to seek help, they've got a couple of footlockers stacked on all the childhood baggage they have to work through first.


Of course, the only way to address this with significant and faster results is to teach children how to treat themselves and others in a smart, healthy, protective and caring way. Most effectively, this is done by example.

Like, if you're telling your kids not to drink alcohol - while the first thing you do when you get home is open a bottle of beer, or consider a celebration barren of meaning unless there's alcohol - from wine to whiskey to scotch to tequila to champagne ... um, they only hear what you do, because what you say obviously isn't the truth.

So two people at Virginia Tech are killed by an unknown assailant at 7:15 a.m. yesterday, but police don't become too excited or consider the situation extremely urgent because, as one of their own police officers said - they believed it was "just" a domestic problem.

As they saw it, given their interpretation of the crime and evidence, their problem was to track down the "domestic" shooter. The armed shooter who had not just killed his innocent former girlfriend but another innocent individual as well - who what trying to mediate their argument.

The rest is another, abhorrent chapter in US gun abuse history by a guy who couldn't have his way, whose "woman" wouldn't do what he wanted her to do. Another coward who planned his revenge because he couldn't handle himself when he believed he lost control over someone who would not do his bidding. Who refuses to be owned by him.

By the way, these monsters don't "snap."

They carefully plan obtaining weapons and ammunition, how to reach their destination without being detected, how to find and access their victim, as well as an escape plan - even if it's suicide.

Recently, a woman was shot and killed at the University of Washington by a former boyfriend-turned-stalker. She did everything right. The UW has a thorough system of addressing such problems - it was just never put into motion.

For whatever reason, her complaints, her notification of all the officials who were supposed to be contacted, the evidence of the "domestic" crimes he had already committed against her along with her clear and present pleas to police and campus authorities that he was out to kill her ...

Yes, for whatever reason, her information was not passed up the chain of command to people who could have properly protected her and her co-workers.

It is believed that if the complaint had been other than a "domestic" dispute, it would have been handled differently. Like all other cowards, including the mass murderer at Virginia Tech, the UW woman's killer killed himself so he would not have to be accountable for his actions.

Domestic violence is not decreasing in the US.

American women are still assassinated in large numbers in domestic disputes, as are men, and the failure of the nation, law enforcement, judicial and government to be outraged and take severe action against perpetrators of domestic violence continues.

I believe in reasonable gun control, especially for automatic weapons.

But if the NRA got smart, they'd invest lots of their lobbying billions in programs to help families, kids and individuals learn how to live without harming and killing each other.

Unfortunately they're hard on selling guns, soft on helping to prevent people from abusing them.

Filmmaker John Waters is producing a reality courtroom program about spouses who kill one another. He notes that juries *never* get tough on the killer because, he says, they understand homicidal rage that occurs in those marriages.

A culture of violence is nurtured by a government that proclaims an unnecessary war is a proper means to solve a non-existent problem (oil) - killing tens of thousands of innocent people ("collateral damage") as well as our own and our allies' soldiers; a country that pushes the death penalty as a legal punishment even though several of those put to death have been found to be innocent; music, films and TV programs that glorify guns and killing as a means to solve problems; people who immaturely decide that the best way to deal with an issue is a straight line between a gun and its living target.

People smarter than me have said it; there is a hole in the soul of our (US) nation. The only way to fill it is to find out what is missing in our individual souls and what created the hole so we can learn to fill it once again. Many outside our nation who once admired and even revered the American promise - which depends on having a national soul - believe we have lost it.

But it all starts with that soft news story still put on the lower shelf of the what's urgent news code: what makes us treat ourselves and others with disrespect or respect; abuse or care; meanness or kindness; and an abiding interest in finding new and other ways to solve problems.

Just a thought.

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