Sunday, July 10, 2005

A Call For Restraint, to Those Who Should Know Better

It's supposed to be a fun week ahead in England: they've won the 2012 Olympics, and a certain blonde billionaire is about to let the world in on the further fortunes of her boy wizard.

But instead, there is mourning for what has been and fear of what may yet come. Scotland Yard is calling for help to the general public for any leads that may help to identify the murderers; and there was a partial evacuation of the city of Birmingham over a suspected additional attack.

Americans—and especially those of us here in New York—ought to remember what it feels like to have to keep going with life after a shock like this. And most of us do.

The problem is with the gossip mills like the New York Post, which has already named a suspect and is calling for revenge. Even the tabloids in England are showing some restraint; but the NYP sees an opportunity to sell newspapers (this is the same rag that has made numerous errant calls in the past), and they'll shriek whatever noise is necessary to fatten their bottom line—exactly as Brit Hume decided to buy some futures in response to the news of the tragedy in London. I am reminded of the words of Joseph Welch to Senator Joseph McCarthy: "have you no sense of decency?"

The fact is that we do not know whether we are dealing with Britain's 9/11 or with Britain's Oklahoma City. Scotland Yard—one of the world's most experienced, talented, and deeply-resourced police departments—can so far only say that at least four very sick but demonically efficient people planted the devices that eventually killed 49 people, wounded some 700 others, and cast an entire nation into the same kind of grim, uncomprehending sorrow that we in New York felt nearly four years ago. All else is speculation; and while speculation may sell newspapers or lead to the buying of futures, it assists neither the business of criminal investigation nor the work of healing.

So my message to the New York Post, and to all the rags like it, would be the same as it was for Senator John McCain: please shut up and show some restraint. Shouting out names and theories in shrill ignorance at a time like this does no more good than dropping bombs onto Baghdad helped in uncovering Osama.

On a related note, a good article from The Guardian newspaper in London was sent to me today by a friend. It's a reminder that times and events like these call upon us to consult not our political but rather our human affiliations. I've written about this before: holding to one's center, especially amid crisis, is not about finding some imagined median between far left and far right (or however the extremes may be defined). The center is a personal and organic space that's unique to each individual; it is nothing less crucial than the inner reference point of a life successfully and fully lived. When a person is in his or her center, others around them can feel it, and benefit. But when the center is lost, or buried under the stinking loam of ideology, there is danger. If you want to know how much danger, just consider Bush and bin Laden, or Rumsfeld and al-Zarqawi: these are significant and tragic examples of people who have lost all contact with the center of being.

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