Headlines That Bug Me the Most

Reading the morning clutch of media stories from all over the world may sound like a waste of time, but for me, it helps keep things in perspective. If situations are bad in the US, how are they in Asia, the Middle East or South America? One thing that is stirring my hopes for our country is that people all over the world are standing up for their rights, their economy and their countries. Some will die, some will go to prison, but they still persist.  We have had that, too. We called it the American Revolutionary War and the Civil War, in particular.

Headlines of hope is how I suppose I’d label them, but there are headlines that are aimed at just sowing fear, catching the eye by their horror or just plain stupid. Yes, of course, I’m going to hit the ones I find most egregious. Just two today.

Yesterday, a man who was supposedly drunk and had several DUI (driving under the influence) charges in his past, mowed down 30 people in NYC’s Times Square area. Actually it wasn’t exactly Times Square but close enough to it that the media used that term which was sure to catch readers’ eyes. Tourism in New York City is BIG business and the politicians were soon running to the scene.

The area in question is near the intersection of two of the city’s most important and heavily trafficked streets, Seventh Avenue (known as the heart-and-soul of what’s left of the garment industry) and Broadway.  Between noon and 1 pm, this area isn’t just filled with tourists, it’s swamped by the people who work in the area and want to stretch their legs, pick up some street food or just feel the sun on their faces. It’s a time out of the dingy offices, formaldehyde-filled showrooms (children’s wear is big) and cramped elevators.

Nothing much happens outside of having to edge your way across traffic-filled streets, double-parked delivery trucks and people carrying overstuffed bags of who knows what. Hit the intersection and you’re out in the sun that snakes through the old brick caverns of New York’s western side. Free at last for an hour or a bit more, but not yesterday.

The driver of the car, reportedly driving the wrong way and down the sidewalk, hit multiple pedestrians and continued on with people sliding off his hood. When the vehicle was finally stopped by stanchions placed for safety, it left a young tourist (18 years old) dead and over 30 people injured in its wake. None of them knew this would be a day to turn things in their lives dramatically around.

Swiftly, people ran to help and soothe the injured.  One passerby cradled a man’s head as she told him, I’m sure, it would be ok. Of course, this is counter to what people outside hear about heartless and self-absorbed New Yorkers. It is, however, a city where people do help people, albeit not all the time.

Who can forget Kitty Genovese?  But that story had too many twists and turns to outline here. Read about it and the concentration camp survivors who were too afraid to call for help. Then, too, read about the distortions in the articles that ran day after day in the tabloids. Watch the documentary made by her brother http://to.pbs.org/2ryEGoh

But the stories about this horrific accident depicted this as a specific danger to tourists coming to New York City. How stupid is that? Any day of the year, you can walk out of your home in any city in the world and never know whether you’re coming home that evening or how you will manage to get home or in what condition you will be.  Think Paris, London, Brussels, Berlin and New York City is not unique in that respect, nor is it any worse than the other major cities of the world.

Every city has drunk drivers, the angry who want to take revenge on anyone in their path, the disturbed and the ill who will have a heart attack, a stroke, low blood sugar or a seizure. No one knows what will happen once that door closes behind you and all of us hope it’s just another day with few, if any, dire consequences.

Preying on the fears of tourists is a cheap trick to sell media. Now we hear that the driver of the car, a young man in his twenties, may have had some form of mental disturbance such as PTSD. The investigation goes on and, if it is true that he was drunk relative to his PTSD, it may point to inadequate treatment as we know, especially if he’s a veteran. The situation with regard to mental health treatment of our veterans is more than urgent as scandals are uncovered and inept management slithers out from under their cover.

Next time you see something like “Inside the mind of a killer,” sit back and  consider the intent of the article.  I’ve seen too many of them that promise to provide a unique view into mental illness or otherwise disturbed person’s minds. Usually, it provides nothing but more sensationalism.

NO ONE can give you a definitive explanation of “the mind of a killer” no matter what their credentials. I recall a psychiatrist, with a thin research background (one or two limited papers), being brought in to give a detailed explanation of what made a particular serial killer do it. Nonsense. He once wrote the paper in his residency and then quickly hopped on the “expert” in forensics train to millionairedom.

As they always say, caveat emptor.