The voices followed me through the airport yesterday afternoon, their insistent tones blaring as loudly as the glaring screens that have colonized nearly every public place in American life. They chased after me offering insider knowledge: "The autopsy reports on Adam Lanza and his mother are providing some gruesome new details … "
I scurried out of sight and hearing of whatever gruesomeness was about to be unveiled. They quoted press releases from lobbying groups: "… prepared to make meaningful contributions to make sure this never happens again.…" I pondered how many PR professionals had polished that artfully vague phrase—"meaningful contributions"—and whether they truly believed that such a travesty would never happen again, no matter how meaningful their client's contributions.
No, it will happen again.
I did not actually curse in the televisions' direction until I heard them serve up the most heinous possible version of disaster theology—this, offered in all strident sincerity to best explain the fates of the victims to one's own children: "God needed some wonderful new angels. He asked for them, and he got them."
Not a single person in that airport was assisted in any way by these ghastly disclosures, pat press releases, and offensive atheologies. But this is the ironclad logic of continuous broadcasting: Broadcasting must be continuous. Someone must always be saying something even when there is nothing new to say. The most basic lesson for those who would comfort the victims of tragedy is that the first, best response to tragedy is presence, and often the best form of presence is silence. The grieving, the sick, and ...1