Get Over It?
What would it say about us if we could?
There is an article in the Miami Herald newspaper entitled "Nation's grief over bombing will linger." http://www.herald.com/content/today/opinion/columnists/pitts/digdocs/073024.htm
It was published in the Milwaukee Journal under the title: "Not All Pain Benefits From Closure." The article concerns the Oklahoma City bombing.
There are some interesting observations by the author, Leonard Pitts, that I would like to share with those who chant the "get over it" mantra. I think the points and comparisons speak for themselves when applied to our experience in and after The Cult. Especially the last sentence "what would it say about us if we could?" There are plenty of people that tell us that they have no problem just getting on with their lives and putting the cult evil behind them and forgetting all the damage that this church did to so many people. Well, what does that say about them? Hmmmmmm????
Published Thursday, December 9, 1999, in the Miami Herald
Nation's grief over bombing will linger
Her name is Mickey Hill. Here's what she told survivors of the Oklahoma City bombing and their families in a recent interview with a television station in Tampa-St. Pete:
Get over it. Move on. ``It was a big event,'' she said, ``. . . but so was the O.J. Simpson case, so was the bombing in New York City.''
It's galling enough that she said it. But here's the kicker. Mickey Hill's son is Timothy McVeigh, the man who sits on death row for masterminding the explosion that left 168 children, women and men dead.
Your first impulse is to try to figure out what might have possessed her to say something like that. You try to lay it off to a mother's understandable grief or her equally understandable need to stand up for her maligned son. You figure it might even have something to do with her having been, according to a published report, involuntarily committed to mental institutions three times in her life.
Or maybe she's just cold. Maybe she's just a defective person who lacks the basic human ability to care. In which case, she and her son would seem to have much in common.
The impression of coldness is reinforced by a later interview Hill did with The Daily Oklahoman, in which she compared the bombing to a plane crash. As in, Hey, it's tragic, but it happens. Hill told the paper that she has put the whole thing behind her.
``He was found guilty,'' she said of her son. ``I had my cry, I went home and I got on with my life.''
CHANGE OF HEART
Let me tell you the truth. I came here all set to rip this woman from stem to stern. But halfway through, I seem to have lost my taste for that. Halfway through, I find myself feeling less contempt than pity.
I think it's because of this theme she keeps repeating: Getting through it, getting over it, putting it behind you. In a sense, it's hard to blame her. After all, this is the idea we've all bought into in recent years. Grief, we're told, is a neat and predictable process, the purpose of which is to reach ``closure,'' a state where you shut the door on painful things and move forward with life.
Unfortunately, it just doesn't happen that way. You don't close grief away. Rather, you find a way to live with it, to breathe past it. Yes, the passage of time will burnish the grieving, lending the bitterness sweet so that the pain becomes easier to bear. Eventually your crying ends and you find yourself passing days or weeks without thinking of the thing that made you grieve.
But there is no such thing as ``closure'' in the sense of sealing it away in a place where you never have to deal with it again. You don't get on with life so much as accept that this hurt will henceforth be a part of that life.
And that's if someone you love died of cancer or was hit by a bus. How much more painful is it when that loved one simply went to work one day and was destroyed by a madman with a bomb?
I don't know if Mickey Hill has ever been to the site of the federal building her son blew up. I was there this past spring. All that was left was a gaping wound in the dirt surrounded by a chain-link fence strewn with mementos and tributes. People filed past, speaking in the muted whispers of the tomb.
Elemental evil happened there. And the challenge we face is not to forget that, but to learn the lessons it offers. Lessons as big as the risks of being an open society in a dangerous world. And as small as the need to treasure a toddler's every goodbye morning hug, because you just never know.
I don't think the survivors -- nor any of us -- will ever reach ``closure'' on what happened at that place, ever come to a state where this thing has no power to affect us. And I'm glad. Because what would it say about us if we could?
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