I was watching "The Today Show" this morning, and Meredith Vieira was interviewing a 13-year-old girl named Josie who is being charged as an accessory to attempted murder in the brutal beating of her best friend.
The story itself was horrible. Of course, it was. When we watch the news, we, as humans, are generally most disturbed by those stories that seem like they could happen to us. Watch the local news on any given evening, and you'll see one of my biggest pet peeves: ". . . the local connection to [the latest terrible thing to happen in the world]." I always think, Really? It takes us knowing a fisherman personally to be upset about the oil spill's devastation? It takes us having visited Haiti to be heartbroken over an earthquake? It takes us having children to be sickened by stories of abuse or neglect or text messaging gone wrong? We can't simply care because someone else--someone we don't know, never will know, and with whom we have absolutely nothing in common--because they are hurting?
What struck me in the interview this morning was something little that others might not have paid any attention to at all. Meredith had asked the girl which of the text messages she had read that her friend supposedly sent to this boy. Josie said, "I read the one where she called him a rapist, and the one where he called her a bitch."
I'd say excuse my language, but I don't know which language here disturbs you. But the language that disturbed the censors was "bitch." And it's the wrong word that anyone listening to the story should have been disturbed by.
So here's this news story about a girl who was beaten nearly to death by a 15-year-old boy who stomped on her head repeatedly with steel-toed boots because she might have said something ("might" because the authorities think Josie is the one who sent the message)about his dead brother. She's now brain damaged and is learning everything all over again. The video footage of her in recovery was sad--whether you know a 15-year-old girl or someone with brain damage or ANY other human being besides yourself or not. And beyond the video footage, we're listening to a piece about absolute violence and brutality and kids who are lost and completely destroyed for life.
But the censors said, "Wait. All of that is okay to talk about, but we need to delete that word. And, Meredith, be sure you tell her not to talk like that anymore."
I'm not saying that story shouldn't have been reported. It should have been. I'm saying that when we can listen to a story like that--and be interrupted by a reminder not to use 'the b-word'--we're forgetting our own humanity, aren't we? We're allowing ourselves to be emotionally disconnected from what's going on around us.
Am I the only one that felt that way? And who was sadder because of that one line--"Josie, we have to watch for censors"--than maybe by the story itself?