Tuesday, August 16, 2005


Grief and those who use the grieving

Victor Davis Hansen makes some excellent points:

The liberal media is delighted with Cindy Sheehan. This is the woman who lost a son in Iraq and has camped outside President Bush's Crawford Ranch, intending to stay until the President speaks with her or returns to Washington.

No one should trivialize Ms. Sheehan's grief, nor fail to understand why she is angry and wants to hold someone accountable. Yet the media's eagerness to publicize and exploit a grieving mother's anger and sorrow can be criticized, for it points to a larger pathology in our culture — the privileging of the suffering victim as someone who possesses superior insight and so must be heeded and catered to.

This elevation of the victim into a combination sage and secular martyr reflects conditions peculiar to the modern world. Most important is the simple fact that compared to the vast majority of humans who've ever lived, we in the West today have been freed from the everyday suffering and misery that earlier generations accepted as part of human existence.

We still want to achieve our various noble aims and good intentions –– peace, freedom, security, and prosperity for all –– but only if we can do so without making anybody suffer or even feel bad, including our enemies. We want utopia, a world in which everyone is well fed, secure, and happy, but we want it on the cheap.

If a drunk driver is on trial, only incompetence allows on the jury someone who has lost a loved one to a drunk driver. Yet when it comes to war, we think just the opposite. As much as we respect and sympathize with Ms. Sheehan's grief, then, we are under no obligation to respect her opinion about the necessity or justice of this war, or give it any more of a hearing than anybody else's.

Those reasons should be debated and discussed through the political process, and they should reflect as much as possible fact and rational argument. Presenting those facts and arguments is the job of a responsible media. Unfortunately, exploiting suffering and indulging their political prejudices are often more important to the media than providing their fellow citizens with the resources needed to make the best decision.

Emphasis added.


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