Saturday, June 11, 2011

Tragic Doesn't Mean Gross

As the Casey Anthony trial continues to progress it amazes me at how captivating it is to the public.  Anthropologically humans are an interesting specie.  It seems that violence, bloodletting, and death sing to them an inescapable Siren's song.  The deeper the depravity, the deeper human interest plunges.  In the wild of nature death and decay are the ruthless laws of survival.  But, aren't humans assumed to be further along in the developmental process that that?  The Casey Anthony trial has, sadly, proven humans to be closer to their Serengeti dwelling neighbors than to some higher order of civility.

Don't misunderstand my thought.  I'm not agonizing over news coverage of the trial.  The tragic lose of a precious, young girl deservers attention.  Young Caylee Anthony could have been the poster child for being cute and lovable.  I'm not even agonizing over all the media attention per se.  Since mid-2008 the Anthony family has been the subject and, often times, the guests of talk shows on all major networks.  Casey and her parents, George and Cindy, have been scrutinized intensely by the media over the past three years.  All in the pursuit of justice...right?  Right?

Over the years I have had many close friends in law enforcement.  Through them I know that the fast paced, action packed life of a law enforcement office as portrayed in television doesn't exist.  The reality of investigative police work is that it is often times tedious and not at all  the ratings magnetic network executives pay big bucks for.  The same is true for protracted trials such as Casey Anthony's.  This presents a real challenge for the media.  What do you cover and what do you say when all there is to say has been said, leaving nothing original to say anymore?  Rewind back to our anthropological roots and our thirst for the macabre.

This week the prosecution presented the crime scene photos of Caylee's remains.  If you have ever seen crime scene photos you know the gruesome reality of death and violence.  After being in the elements for five months in the Florida heat and humidity the process of decomposition had long been completed leaving nothing but skeletal remains of what was once a beautiful three year old.  In the minds of most this defines tragedy.  As the prosecution peels back the layers of its case against Casey Anthony, the evidence has become more and more gruesome.  The myriad of details about this trial are very gruesome as is the case with most violent crime.  But, where does that leave us as spectators and lookers on?

As a member of the community of humans living on this planet I am very interested in seeing Casey (assuming she is indeed found guilty) brought to justice.  I'm not so interested in seeing the decayed bones of a three year old.  Death is ugly.  Death is brutal.  Our souls were not created with death in mind.  If you study the human body you'll discover there is no medical reason for our bodies to age, but we do and eventually our life is extinguished.  Despite this we are not creatures of death. We are hard wired for life and living.  Therefore, when we are confronted head on with death our minds are drawn irresistibly to its dark allure yet our souls are repulsed by its stench.

I have watched coverage of the trial.  I have heard the talk shows, digested the comments.  it is very reminiscent of O.J. Simpson's trial minus all the theatrical melodrama that became the norm in Judge Lance Ito's courtroom.  Over the last thirty-six months Cindy and George Anthony have morphed, bending and twisting under the massive weight of grief in losing a granddaughter and the stress of dealing with the incessant media attention.  It is in all this media attention that the real expanse of this tragedy gets lost.

The real tragedy is not only the lose of little Caylee. The real tragedy is the complete destruction of a family.  Regardless of the outcome of this trial the Anthony family that existed will be no longer.  Parents have lost a daughter.  A daughter has lost her parents and all have lost a child.  Perhaps this destruction had its genesis from within the family itself, but that does nothing to lessen the tragedy.   So, does seeing and hearing all the gruesome details of a small child's death somehow heighten the reality of this tragedy?  Does seeing blurred images of a skull hidden in a wooded area overgrown with brush and undergrowth make this death of Caylee more real?  No, it doesn't.  The only thing that can make this more realistic is the memory of holding a precious little girl tightly and hearing her heart beat.  That is a memory only the Anthonys will ever be able to recall and we are the losers for it.

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