On nearly successive nights, two groups of nearly identical numbers of people were tragically killed while scores of others were injured; but the flags are flying at half-mast for one group of victims and La Migra is rounding up the survivors of the other. Citizen Journalist John Konopak poses the rhetorical question: What's the difference?
The capriciousness of fate is the mainspring of an endless number of novels and other imagined dramas. Think of Wilder's (1927) The Bridge at San Luis Rey, which (spoil alert) collapses with a a number of diverse people on it who are there almost by accident. Or the far more pedestrian, but more familiar saga of the Titanic.
Life doesn't imitate art; life reifies art.
For example: In Colorado, the other night, a bunch of people went to a certain movie-house to watch a certain show.
In a flash, many of them were injured and some killed by an accident.
Because it apparently was just an accident that a homicidal, probably psychotic mad-man chose THAT movie, at THAT theater, at THAT hour to act out his psychopathic fantasies, or answer the voices in his head, or some-other-how go right off the fucking rails.
Nothing that ANY of them had EVER done made them candidates to die that way that night. They were victims of the caprices of fate. None was COMPELLED to be there by external constraints. It just happened.
But the CorpoRat/SCUM "press" is, of course obsessed. This is a lead story even three or four days later. Both Stewart and Colbert will lead with it (if they're not on vacation...)
There were the usual, somber pronouncements from all concerned quarters. The normal outcries of pain, loss and suffering in the community and among the family members. Much was said about the armory the killer had amassed, but it was QUICKLY revealed he'd gotten it all legally. Nothing to see here...
The quest to name an ideological scapegoat was fierce and immediate, but ultimately unsatisfied, so far. The man in custody seems to have the affect and/or the convictions of Beavis or Butthead. The setting (A Batman midnight showing) and the outlandish, stagey way the attack was carried out, plus later clues linking the alleged shooter to the "Batman" oeuvre, plus the amount and extent of the carnage make GREAT AS HELL TV. This is PRECISELY the kind of stuff TV is designed to purvey. Hell, the President even came to town to lend moral support--and if there were foto-ops to be had, well that's just the way things are, innit? (The whole tone of the proceedings was captured VERY funnily in an extremely well-written piece in the Onion, on Sunday, which I've linked here on my blog.)
The shootings occurred Saturday night. By Sunday Obomber--relentless and resourceful ravager of the "heathen Pash-too" in the wilds of central Asia, besetting them with drone and hum-vee and probably depleted uranium--had decided THIS Colorado slaughter was worthy of NATIONAL acknowledgment, and ordered the US flag to be lowered to half-mast, and flown there until July 25. There was universal, orchestrated grief, sympathy and compassion, and astonished outrage. The gunman killed or injured nearly 80 people.
There things stood until last night or early this morning when, down near Goliad, Tx (a name fraught with Texan symbolism already), a Ford F-250 pick-up carrying perhaps 25 passengers in the cab and in the bed, left the highway at speed and crashed, killing 13 people--two of whom, it turns out, were infants.
But there hasn't been an out-pouring of humane concern for the victims in the truck. No days of mourning, no lowered flags. Indeed, La Migra has been called, and you know what that means.
Yet, he fates of the dead and injured in the theater is no different from that of the 20 poor workers hitching a ride to town with an amigo who happened to have wheels, and somehow they wind up wedged between a couple of stout trees, having come suddenly to rest from 60 or 70 mph. Dead and injured.
What makes one more due the nation's "respect" that you were unlucky enough to be in one place but not in the other?
Why should the flags be flying at half staff for the victims in Colorado, while in Texas, the locals are complaining about having to care for the survivors?
What IS the difference?
If you'll forgive a rhetorical question...
And that's another thing:
In my humblest of opinions, ordering the flag flown at half-mast for the Denver victims is a case of sheer, opportunistic, political grandstanding, and an affront to what the gesture has always been meant to convey: NATIONAL mourning at the death of a figure of national significance.
When did the Flag start to be lowered on whim? Or on the deaths of "ordinary folks?"
It wasn't all that long ago that that gesture was reserved to domestic political and/or military leaders. Ted Kennedy. Ronald Reagan. Robert Byrd. Jesse Helms. People of stature and consequence.
Now, of course, like everything else, the gesture has been cheapened and trivialized. The Chimperor Bush ordered flags flown at half-mast after the killings on the Virginia Tech campus. Gov. Tub-o'-Guts of New Jersey lowered NJ flags to half-mast for that singer.
But, traditionally, the flag LOWERED to half-staff on the event of the death of ordinary citizens, no matter the gravity of the tragedy, or the number of the victims..
It's an honor reserved for the deaths of ex-presidents and the like. It is a gesture of national respect.
Nothing in the deaths in Denver commands our RESPECT. Sympathy, yes; regret, or course; condolence, naturally. And recognition.
But unless they're willing to lower the flag in honor of ALL shooting victims, everyday, everywhere, it's just a horse-shit gesture, insincere, and highly visible. Election-year politics of the most obvious kind.
You can't BUY a better photo-op.