Hope
Courage
Determination
Compassion

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Volume V Issue XXXVII

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Erin Brady Worsham: Breathtaking Metamorphosis
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Seattle Washington USA

 

IS OUR COUNTRY IN NEED OF COMPASSION?
by ANNEVOEGTLIN

 

picture2John F.Kennedy, Jr. 1960-1999

I was on vacation, browsing in the tourist shops of Virginia City, Nev., when I first heard John F. Kennedy Jr.'s plane had crashed. A conversation between a mother and son snagged my ear.

"John Kennedy died in a plane crash last night," the mother said. "So?" her teenage son replied sarcastically. "Do I care? Was he someone I knew?"

I didn't hear the mother's reply, but my reaction was quick and uncharitable. "What a jerk," I thought. "If my sons ever talk like that I'll ... I'll ..." The thought remained unfinished.

Since the July 16 plane crash, the media coverage surrounding this tragedy has been overwhelming and unrelenting. I know this column only adds to the deluge of words that have already been written and spoken about the loss of Carolyn Bessette Kennedy, Lauren Bessette and John Kennedy Jr.

News programs had hours to fill and no news to fill it. During the long and painful search, we saw extended footage of the ocean, search-and-rescue ships, black-and-white events from the '60s and distant shots of Kennedy relatives. I lost count of the number of times the image of a 3-year-old John Jr. saluting his father's casket flashed across the screen.

picture2Still, I sat glued to the TV. I criticized the media's callousness in concentrating on JFK Jr. with only passing mention of his wife, Carolyn, and sister-in-law, Lauren. (Not until 48 hours after the crash did I hear an anchorwoman comment on the devastating loss of two daughters from one family.)

I argued with broadcasters who implied the crash was a result of a reckless Kennedy nature. (The crash may have been the result of poor judgment and inexperience, but owning and piloting a private plane is not reckless.)

I criticized the media for its unrelenting coverage while at the same time I lapped it all up, neglecting work and family tasks as I sat mesmerized by the slowly unfolding events.

And I remained haunted by the sarcastic teen-ager's question. Why care?

picture2John and his sister, Caroline

I've never believed the Kennedys were America's "royal family." I didn't spend much time wondering or thinking of John F. Kennedy Jr. Still, his father is the first president I remember. I was 9 years old when JFK was assassinated. I remember a day home from school watching a black-and-white funeral. I remember my mother's tears and that famous salute.

My sons wanted to know why I cared, why I spent so many hours watching the events surrounding the tragedy. I tried to explain to them the bit of history that is a link to my childhood. I heard a radio newswoman refer to JFK Jr. as "a child of our nation," and he truly was. Growing up in the glare of television, his image often was before us.

Still, we didn't know him. No matter how many details we read or pictures we saw, we didn't know him. He seemed to be a good person and the consensus appears to be that his mother raised him to be a fine man. After all this, I have an answer to the question posed by that teen-ager back in Virginia City.

Why care? Because we must. Because compassion is unconditional and universal. I'd like to find that sarcastic teen-ager and explain this to him. I hope his is a minority attitude.

We can criticize the media. We can criticize the Kennedys. We can question whether JFK Jr. warranted the time and attention his death has produced. None of that really matters.

picture2I think it is a good sign that so many mourned the deaths of three people they didn't know. I think if is a good sign that so many prayed and cried. If people can remain unmoved by such sadness and tragedy, then we are a nation in desperate need of compassion.

 

Hope      Courage     Determination      Compassion
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