The politics of personal tragedy

To say you don’t follow politics is tantamount to saying you don’t keep up with the news at all, because in this era of the 24 hour news cycle, everything is politicized.

By now, you’re probably aware that Kansas City Chiefs linebacker Jovan Belcher shot and killed his girlfriend Kasandra Perkins then drove to Arrowhead Stadium where he died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head, an act witnessed by his coach and the team’s general manager.

You also may have heard various media pundits rushing to make sense of such a senseless act. So far, I’ve heard

  • the gun culture is to blame
  • domestic violence is to blame
  • head injuries sustained by football players are to blame
  • having children out of wedlock is to blame
  • drug and/or alcohol abuse is to blame
  • instantaneous celebrity status and wealth without coping mechanisms are to blame

And on and on…

I’m hardly the first to make the observation that ultimately, Jovan Belcher is to blame for the events of last Saturday. While you might make the argument that any or all of the aforementioned scenarios may have contributed to his mental state and his acts of violence, a reasonable person simply cannot dismiss the need for personal responsibility.

Everyone can agree what happened last Saturday morning was a horrible tragedy, yet I suppose it’s human nature–this desire to hold someone or something accountable, to assign blame to some tangible entity–someone or something which can be made the object of our wrath. Since Belcher is no longer here, our vitriol must find a new home.

Reactions to these deaths are so sadly predictable. As Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins’s families struggled to grasp the reality that they were dead, within hours people were already lining up their agendas and crafting their arguments to support why more needs to be done about the gun culture, domestic violence, head injuries, having children out of wedlock, drug and alcohol abuse, the price of fame, (insert your cause here). I watched as a news anchor became visibly angry upon hearing Bob Costas “gun culture” commentary, because there was no mention of domestic violence in his editorial. Another talking head was incensed that no one was talking about how football players are four times more likely to suffer from mental illness due to head injuries and that nothing was being done about it. Lots of talk about why this happened, very little time given to mourn the loss of these two young people, who they were when they were alive or who they left behind.

What becomes lost in our attempts to demonize our preferred objects of wrath is this:

A baby girl will grow up without a mother or a father, and will eventually learn why both are gone. She will instead be raised by her grandmother, a woman who may be forever haunted by the memory of witnessing her beloved son murdering the mother of her granddaughter.

Coach Romeo Crennel and  General Manager Scott Pioli will mostly likely replay a scenario countless times in their minds where, despite their desperate pleas and attempts to prevent it, they stand in helpless horror as one of their own ends his life by putting a bullet into his head.

This story has horrified us, but as with most tragedies we see on the news, it will soon be relegated to the recesses of our minds. We’re not apt to forget it completely, but it won’t be something we struggle with every day for the rest of our lives. Such is not the case for those closest to Jovan Belcher and Kasandra Perkins, all of whom have access to the same media outlets as the rest of us.

In our collective effort to dissect and explain humanity, let’s not lose sight of our own.

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4 Responses to “The politics of personal tragedy”

  1. Louise Gallagher December 8, 2012 at 7:48 am #

    Kat — what a powerful and compassionate post. Thank you for writing it — I agree!!!!

    Would you be willing to let me post it as my guest blog tomorrow?

    • katdish December 8, 2012 at 8:22 am #

      Absolutely, Louise. I’d be honored.

  2. Louise Gallagher December 9, 2012 at 9:27 am #

    Thank you! It’s posted and linked back to you. 🙂

  3. SimplyDarlene December 10, 2012 at 11:43 am #

    Oh my.

    May the Lord comfort all those involved.

    Blessings.

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