This has been a hell of a week and its only Tuesday. This past Monday should have been focused on OJ returning to the hood. Meme’s should have been flooding our Facebook pages as he moved into his new apartment. Cuba Gooding Junior should have been announcing his role in an upcoming OJ mini-series sequel. The President should have been practicing his free throw skills; preparing to launch paper towels at the people of Puerto Rico, Larry Bird style.
But, on Monday, none of those things stole the headlines. Instead, I awoke to a busted water heater and a flooded basement. I could have gone the route of, “worse day ever” and “poor me.” But instead, I went with a, “cue the hang in there, cat poster,” There was no point in getting frustrated or complaining. It had to be dealt with. Complaining wasn’t going to help.
I took inspiration from Mahshid Mazooji’s recent YouTube video. After being stranded at Charlotte Douglas International Airport, she solicited a dance crew of passengers and employees and put together 2 minutes of pure joy.
As a friend, I began spreading her video everywhere, as did thousands of others. Her lead by example video, of turning a negative into a positive went viral. To date, over 2.3 million hits. Countless TV shows and new agents have shared it. Why? Because as much as we rubberneck to witness the horrors of the world, deep down we want to feel joy.
Taking a play from her book (video) on positivity, I proceeded to investigate how to repair/replace a water heater. As I logged into Home Depot’s website, I was interrupted by a news alert, “Over 50 people killed in Vegas.” I stopped cold. The water pouring into the basement became an instant afterthought.
The Vegas shooting is currently going on record as the worse mass shooting in US history, by an individual or small group. It sounds like a category at the Grammy’s. Why? Partially to differentiate the atrocity against native and African Americans in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s. But, also because, as horrific as it sounds, it makes for great ratings.
News careers are often made on tragedy, rarely on the positive. These stories keep people glued to their TV’s and smart phones. Just watch this season of American Horror Story to see how prophetic their writers were to what is happening. Terror brings people together in a way that positivity can only dream of accomplishing. Coming together for happiness sake, can be seen as frivolous. But, coming together over tragedy is responsible behavior.
Here’s the problem with breaking records; they inspire competition. I moved to Colorado, only a few short years before Columbine happened. It was my first, “remember where you were” moment since 9-11. Today, Columbine does not even make the top list of Mass Shootings recently put out by USA Today. In case you are wondering, fifteen others do, going back to 1986!
Since 2001, my family and I, have lived only a few miles from the Aurora Theater; where James Holmes opened fire on unsuspecting theater goers, killing 12. The same number of people were killed at Columbine High School. It was statistical enough to get Holmes on the list; but, for some reason the academy decided Klebold and Harris, the Columbine killers, would be left out. Relegating them to Kanye and Beyonce status to Holmes’ Taylor Swift, circa 2009’s MTV Video Music Awards.
Only last year, in Florida 49 people were killed in a Florida night club, when Omar Saddiqui Mateen opened fire. At the time, a new record! Not anymore. Just over a year later, most people, not directly impacted by it, have forgotten that it happened. Stephen Paddock, now tops the list. Until when? Records are meant to be broken. It is the nature of competition.
We are living in a real-life Hunger Games, complete with awards. A race to fame in the most horrible of ways. Celebrity comes in all forms and these killers are the most vial. Yes, they too have back stories. They “have their reason” but that does not give them the right to kill innocent people. No amount of investigative reporting is going to justify what happened in Vegas, or any other form of mass murder. But, for the next few weeks, Stephen Paddock will be getting his Andy Warhol moment!
In newsroom all around the world, people are picking out just the right font to overlay text on an on-the-scene reporter. They are picking appropriate music to play into and out of the report. Selecting a color scheme to elicit just the right amount of emotion. Choosing attention grabbing, bumper graphics; just enough not to offend, but to ensure that viewers do not change the channel. These people are not bad. It’s their job.
I am not making light of the situation. I am literally crying my eyes out as I write this. I am not crying over Vegas. Vegas, and every act like it, make me angry. Anger dehydrates me. I am crying for hope. It’s something I do. I hide usually hide it. But, there it is . . . “in writing.” I am a man, and I cry. I cry for the hope of a better tomorrow. That, I, and everyone else, can aspire to be their best self.
I also, blame Ellen DeGeneres for my tears. Her and her staff, responded to the Vegas tragedy, by acknowledging it, but then focusing on a positive message. They put together a positive video montage of human beings helping to make the world a better place. I am working on forgiving her for my tears.
Videos, like Mahshid’s can only come around once in a while, lest they seem contrived. Tragedy has no such judgement. Copy cats need not worry about applying. They stop us in our tracks every time! Regardless of how many times we have seen it played out in the past.
I want for a world where we do not live in fear. Where life gets more attention than death. I want to learn to accept others and to accept being accepted. To exchange anger for tears, when necessary. To love and be loved. To sense when people need help and have the strength to reach out to them. To not let evil win! To put an end to lists and “next times.”
I don’t want to give up on hope. I don’t want to be part of a society where dancing videos, and Lionel Richie songs are eclipsed my sad people with sad backstories, that see no way, other than to hurt others. Even if that means learning how to dance and listening to more Lionel Richie songs, I’m willing to do my part!
Photo Credit: Getty Images