Emotions never get a second chance to make a first impression (tf)

We like to judge. We like to pick and choose the evidence, and convict or acquit accordingly.

One day the evidence seems clear. Cut and dried.

The next day, new information comes out. Now things are a bit muddled. What really happened? Stories are flying around like weather balloons. The press is breathless about one story. Then they’re breathless about another story that contradicts the former.

Yea, it’s shoddy journalism. But we expect it. And we accept it.

We should back off maybe a little….temper our enthusiasm for a day or a week until we know exactly what happened. But we usually don’t. If the evidence supports our theory, we use it. If it doesn’t, its discarded…..its’ source discredited. Nobody likes to admit they’re wrong, especially when the political stakes are so high.

We argue. We march. We counter-march. Preachers and politicians enter the fray, anxious for air time and votes. Pundits pontificate. Op-Ed pages devour things like this. Like leeches sucking blood. Commerce kicks in. T-shirts. Hats. Bumper stickers. Always somebody willing to make a few dollars. The free market must be served, after all. It stops for no one.

As usual, the loudest voices are usually saying the dumbest things. There are rational people who don’t treat such events as partisan rally points…but reasonable people usually don’t shout or say outlandish things. So nobody hears them. Making sense doesn’t generate headlines in the world of talking heads….so it must be avoided. It’s boring. Getting the story is no longer enough. You’ve got to embed yourself in it as well.

It’s visceral. Things like this dig way down….into places that are uncomfortable. And suddenly anybody who ever experienced 15 minutes of fame is being asked what they think. Like it matters. It doesn’t. We know it doesn’t. But we pretend it does.

Emotion is the enemy of reason. And emotions never get a second chance to make a first impression.

Be wary when you start to think you know someone you don’t know. When you think you’ve got some sort of connection to a name in the paper or a picture on a sign. You think you know what goodness and evil lurks within. All based on what you’ve read in the papers and heard on TV. Imagine somebody you’ve never met crunching your life into 60 second soundbites and 800 word essays. They’re saying they know what it’s like to be you. They’re saying they understand why you walked down one road instead of another, or why you dress the way you do. They’re knocking on doors asking people you don’t know what you’re like. If you stop and consider this type of 24 hour news-cycle biography, you know it’s absurd. But it doesn’t stop you from forming an opinion. From taking sides. From saying…”he’s a bad guy” or “now he rests with the angels”. Saints and Sinners. Black and White. No grey. And Martyrs for all.

And so it goes. Soon something new will come along that takes over the front pages. Only some will remember that this happened at all. The names involved will be trivia questions/answers. Maybe a quickie book or a bad TV movie will limp things onward. And then….CNN oblivion. A dormant Wikipedia entry.

We can move on. That’s the convenient truth when the nation adopts a tragedy. We pack up our lights and cameras and remote controls and leave, leaving only loved ones behind to deal with something that won’t go away by changing the channel. The dead don’t bury the dead. The living do.

There’s nothing good here. There’s no heroes. If there’s a lesson to be learned I don’t know what it is. Shouldn’t we already know this shit by now?

Our nation will never be colorblind. It’s a noble goal but making distinctions based on color is part of this nation’s original sin. You can’t go down to the river and wash it away.

These sort of things will happen again. The same outrage will be generated. It’s not fake. It’s real. But, sadly, it’s temporary.

We’re scared. We’re all scared. Most of what we’re scared of is not real. But we’ve convinced ourselves….even if only for breathless moment or two, that it might be.

I don’t have the answer. I don’t pretend to have the answer.

I just wish some of the questions we’ve been asking were different.

And not so loud.

–Tom Flannery

 

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~ by admin on March 28, 2012.

One Response to “Emotions never get a second chance to make a first impression (tf)”

  1. Beautiful!

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