Tag Archives: tragedy

Voyerism and Tragedy

Go back to the worst day in your life.

Maybe it was the day you found out your dad died, or the day you discovered your mom had a car accident, or the time you found a lump. Remember the emotion, the pain, the grief, the fear that came with the news. Sit there for a moment.

Now imagine , in the midst of that pain, someone stuck a camera in your face.

When we hear about tragedies like Boston we typically rush to the television or internet and see the pictures of bloodstained concrete, tearful families hugging one another, and frantic rescue workers doing their duties. You don’t see the (wo)man with the camera, standing in the midst of the fray snapping photographs with all the subtlety of a rat scampering through the walls. Next time you’re on the internet looking at one of these tragedies, find a photo (well available at the time of this writing on any news site)  of someone holding a crying friend and loved one. Notice that, typically, one person has their back to the camera. They’re doing that because they’re putting their back to the camera.

In my experience, photographers on site usually employ pushing and intrusive methods to get those spectacular photographs that they then sell to newspapers. While the blood still stains the scene, they transmit their photographs, usually with dreams of winning a prestigious award for the inevitable photo essay that will go on to publication in a coffee table book, portfolio, or other medium that documents the strength of their work. Worst of all, we unknowingly participate and sanction this kind of work as we stare and devour any and all visual information available.

Admittedly, when I put fingers to keyboard to write this post, I intended to create a scathing indictment of the kind of person who stands with a camera and takes pictures while others around them suffer. I then intended to decry the voyeuristic nature of our consumer society which seems to feed on this kind of information like a tick on a deer. Three sentences in, I recognized both the futility and hypocrisy of those approaches.

I instead appeal to your humanity. The next time you see one of those photos, I urge you to do the following:

  1. Pray for the salvation, safety, and healing of the survivors; for justice; for the salvation of the perpetrators; for the wisdom and insight of the investigators.
  2. Talk to your family, and remind them that you love them.
  3. Reconcile any relationships that have gone astray, insofar as you can.
  4. Live your life as if this might happen to you (which means that you should consider your real priorities).

Let the pictures of these tragedies lead you—not into the distanced observation and curiosity of others’ pain—but into hope and a reminder of the things to come, in light of the things as they are. Let tragedy lead you into a response of faith.

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April 16, 2013 · 9:01 am

The Hidden Victims of Newtown, Connecticut

By now, the events that happened in Newtown, Connecticut, have spread across the news feed. Even now, countless Facebook and Twitter feeds call for prayer for the parents and relatives of the children and teachers killed in the tragedy. Some remind us of God’s presence, in spite of the appearance of this great evil. In this time of tragedy, I want to remind you of a victim of this crime that many will overlook.

Ryan Lanza.

Ryan Lanza and his family, to be more precise. Consider Ryan’s perspective. On the day of the tragedy, the police detained and questioned him. In case you have any naivete about this, please understand that when the police pick someone up as a suspect, they treat them as guilty and assume that they are guilty until the suspect convinces them otherwise. That “innocent until proven guilty” stuff is an idealistic falsehood that doesn’t exist in the real world (consider: why would you put a presumed innocent person in handcuffs).

Eventually, authorities released him, and at some point he found out that both his brother and mother died. Ryan lost two family members in this tragedy, and worse: his brother committed the crime. Ryan now has to reconcile the fact that his own brother killed his mother (and himself). Compounding the issue, Ryan will look for comfort from his friends, but find none since they will subconsciously (and some consciously) blame him for the actions of his brother. He will bury his brother in secret-assuming that the police do not retain the body for several months for investigative purposes-for fear of protestors who will choose to inform him of his brother’s eternal destination. They’ll probably use signs and bullhorns. All in Christian love, of course. He’ll get death threats, angry phone calls in the middle of the night, and accusations of impropriety.

He’ll bury his mother. A few gawkers will come to see the mother of the killer. Few will cry with or for him and his family. Given the size of the town he probably knew some of the parents and/or the kids. People will have memorial services for all those who died, but he will be politely, but firmly, asked to skip attendance. They don’t want his presence interfering with the other mourners, after all. Reporters will come to his house so that “he can tell his brother’s story” and then cherry-pick the parts so that they can create a news report that will generate buzz. Politicians will use his brother’s story and face to score political points. People will make careers out of this tragedy.

Ryan and his family will mourn alone.

Shunned and outcast, the Lanza family will eventually leave Newtown and settle somewhere else. Probably in another state. Probably praying that no one recognizes him. For all intents and purposes, Ryan’s life as he knew it is over.

As you say a prayer for the family members of those who died, I ask you to add one name to that list:

Ryan Lanza.

He too, has suffered a great tragedy. Unfortunately for him, he’s probably going to deal with it in solitude, and with a distinct lack of empathy or understanding from others.

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