28 August 2015

Roanoke and my endless anger

The words this week are the same.
How are you?
The inflection this week is different.
How are you?
The meaning this week is clear.
How are you feeling?
How are you dealing?
This is the week Roanoke happened. 

It is a new age for television news, changed by the Internet in a way that no reasonable person could have imagined. I am sad. I am confused. I am worried. Now, after two days of processing, I realize more than anything, I am angry.

I'm not talking hostile or vengeful anger. I'm talking about that place after helpless and after exasperated. I'm in that space where you know there is no answer, but you keep trying to work the problem anyway - because it very much needs solving. I've spent two days looking for the lessons learned, trying to find any silver lining at all. But as far as I can figure, Roanoke changes nothing. That's infuriating.

I hate that this happened.

I believe there is something inherently altruistic about wanting to be a journalist. In the very beginning, I really think we all wanted to help people through storytelling. Yes, priorities change. The industry changes. And we all have to evaluate our individual roles as a result. But when we start - when we take that first job like Alison Parker and Adam Ward - we are hungry to learn. We want to be better and do good. Just like any newbies, we see opportunities, not obstacles. We have so much potential. They had so much potential. All gone.

I'm not so naive to think this won't happen again. Roanoke set a new level. I'm all over the Internet and I had never considered murder on live TV with accompanying social media posts from the murderer's point of view. On Monday, that was beyond the pale for us as a country. Now I feel like we're giving ISIL a run for its money. Roanoke is the epitome of "next level." At the same time, it's now already been done.

I hate that outsiders don't get it.

The TV news community is smaller than people think. My dad asked if I knew Alison Parker, because he knows - despite our age and location differences - it's possible. TV people swap markets and swap coworkers. We connect and reconnect along the way. We work the same shifts. We have the same raunchy humor. We breathe the same sigh when a loved one schedules a wedding in February, May or November. It's more than working in the same industry. The people on your shift become your family. Other crews at other shops are those cousins you only see at major events. You don't know them well, but your shared background is enough.

For two days I've been imagining witnessing the murder of a family member. I imagine it from where I used to sit - from where Adam Ward's fiancée was sitting. It makes me sick to my stomach.

I hate that it has to be political.

This will be debate fodder. I don't think it should be. It speaks to the vulnerability of crews that there doesn't appear to be anything that could have been done differently. The shooter would have passed a background check. He was fired from their station more than two years ago. Businesses aren't in the habit of keeping track of former employees' mental health. There is no realistic "if only" scenario that could have saved them from an industry insider who knew the perfect time to strike. So back off presidential wanna-bees.

I hate that he was black.

I do. I wish race didn't matter. But I have Twitter and therefore know better. I think dialogues regarding race relations are good, but held begrudgingly. The onus is always on the party with the perceived grievance to make the other party truly hear its issues. Basically black people have to say "we're pretty sure there's an issue with law enforcement killing us and lying about it" in terms that resonate with white people (read: less CVS burning, more police recording themselves killing people and lying about it) in order to get their buy-in. That's happening slowly but surely. Roanoke retards that progress. We might not want to admit that. But again, I use Twitter. I can see it.

I hate that there is no recourse.

There is nothing to be done. I can't donate money to a relief fund. I can't round up and donate supplies. I can't have my reporter and photog friends in house in perpetuity. There are no steps to take or petitions to sign. There are no politicians who can be trusted to make a difference. Not only is there no "silver lining," there is no way for me or people like me to assuage our feelings. We're just as helpless as we were Wednesday morning. We're meant to go on as if Roanoke didn't happen.

But Roanoke happened.

To go on as scheduled - to not change a single way of thinking or propose a single new practice - seems exceedingly disrespectful to the victims. I need an action item. I need a thing that I can do that can go toward making a difference. I have no idea what that thing could be.

I hate that this is what it takes to get me to write.

When I'm dead and gone and my family has to decide what of mine to donate to the researchers studying my life, my journals will paint a morose picture. I began writing as a way to forget. I would write about what I didn't like - the things that were wrong. Writing helped me come to terms with the things I felt I could not change. It took potential conflicts and prompted me to consider other points of view. My words brought me closure, allowing me to leave the wrong behind and be fully open to what came next. So to read my handwritten writings is to read all the sadness of my life and very little of the joy.

My blog helped me change that. Sharing experiences meant I could share the good along with the bad. But I got caught up in the mistress that is social media. I began instantly sharing the good and holding on to the not so good. I reverted and turned to my journals only when I was troubled. There are awe inspiring people in my life. There are laughs every day and genuine smiles. There is so much love, it's staggering. And I hoard it. I bring you my mental congestion. I scribble my angst. But when it comes to sharing what's most special, I basically pay public lip service. I'm not proud of that. Every day I hope to find a reason to change.

In the interim, I'm here.

And I am so, very angry.