Posted by: owizblog | August 29, 2015

Alison Parker and Adam Ward: Thought For The Day, BBC Radio Scotland, 28 August 2015

[I agonized more over this than most of my Thoughts For The Day. I felt that dealing with the awful event of the murdr of Alison Parker and Adam Ward on live television in Virginia was inescapable: someone had to say something about this on Thought For The Day, and it would have to be me.

But I was also aware that, beyond the truth that these were two human beings who had their lives taken from them, the circumstances of their deaths, mediated in the paradoxically immediate way that television does, and the inevitable conscription of all of this to the discussion of a huge issue in American society, was somehow in conflict with that fundamental truth. There is no “beyond” to that truth.

Their deaths highlight the issues, and also traumatized a television audience in a way that hadn’t been experienced before, because they were two human beings whose lives were stolen. And it’s always so.

That’s what I was trying to say here. God rest them. ]

TV has changed, from the days of black and white, when starchy presenters tried to coax the odd stilted response out of clearly spooked and uncomfortable people, and the whole grainy, monochrome business seemed impossibly distant from real life. Interviewees know how to relax, and their interlocutors know how to relax them, and we feel as though we’re sitting opposite them on our couches, listening in.

It’s all very intimate, natural and real.

So the trauma of the killing, on-air, of Alison Parker and her cameraman Adam Ward, as they interviewed a local business representative on a small local TV station in Virginia is compounded by the intimacy, the commonplace humanity of the setting. We didn’t know them as did WDBJ7’s audience. The human familiarity of a kent face on television is something we know, as is the tragedy of their loss, though not like this. And it touches us.

There’s a shattering, inescapable sheer humanity to this. You don’t have to be American to grasp that, you simply have to be human. But For now Alison Parker and Adam Ward are the human faces of a deep, agonizing issue in American society, on every television screen.

All the issues of all human societies on earth concern people with names, and faces, and lives, and their own dignity. Without names and faces, we don’t grasp the human impact of our society’s failures. Sometimes, it’s convenient not to know. So we talk of unemployment, poverty, migration, exclusion, disability and what to do about it, and we fall to disputing these things abstractly.

But there are always names, and faces. We don’t always see them, and know them. But the Biblical tradition, especially in the Prophets of the Old Testament, tells us that God does. The vulnerable, the defenceless, the victims… And the New Testament tells of the God who comes and stands with them.

They matter, these people. They aren’t abstract issues. They have names, and faces. It’s when we grasp that, that we understand.

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