The combination of anger and grief stirred up a lot of interest here recently. It comes up occasionally in my book. Honestly, it could probably be a book all on its own. You’re expected to be sad when a friend dies. But angry, too?
You’re grieving…maybe feeling guilty…and now you realize that the world has a completely distorted view of your friend.
Mike Pfeifer and Cliff Kearney were held at gunpoint by three masked men who broke into their home. While Kearney was beaten, one of the robbers fired his sawed-off shotgun to intimidate Pfeifer. When the weapon was pointed at Kearney, Pfeifer grabbed the barrel, and was shot multiple times. The burglars ran, but by the time paramedics arrived, it was too late.
Eight hours after the shooting, the local sheriff’s office released a statement saying the shooting was drug-related. Kearney insisted no drugs were involved, that it was a straight-up robbery by young men who were grabbing TV’s and demanding money. But, you know: young men with guns stealing from other young men. What else could it be?
We’ve all seen retractions in the papers and on websites. Or maybe we haven’t seen them, because they’re buried in 9-point type below the underwear ads on page 17. We live in a 24-hour news cycle that demands instant information. The problem is that the desire to break that story first doesn’t always square with accuracy. “Corrections” are made days or even weeks after the first misinformation was shared. And since that headline isn’t nearly as titillating as the original one, the truth is lost.
So, what’s left to do? You know the truth, and in the end, that’s what matters. But knowing the world has an impression of your friend that is completely wrong…and knowing you may not be able to change anyone’s mind…that takes a toll.
Maybe all that we can do is rein in our natural tendency to believe those first broadcasts. It’s not just the lawyers who make them say “alleged” or “appeared to be” or even “presumed”. They don’t know for a fact, and that means neither does anyone else. Sometimes the facts take time to make themselves known.
So when you’re watching the news, reading a newspaper, or surfing the internet…and you come upon a story about someone’s death…and you are tempted to rush to judgment about that person…stop. Stop and give them the benefit of a doubt. Stop and consider for a moment how you’d feel if that were your friend.