One Mississippi summer, my buddies and I discovered several abandoned houses in the wooded hills around our homes. We spent our days braving the dangers of snakes and broken floorboards, searching the old ruins for the treasures that appeal to boys; old newspapers, bottles, coins, etc. What adventures we had!
Then Ms. Ruby, one of our older neighbors, saw us going into a house and called our parents. She was upset. We didn’t know but she had grown up in that house and even though no one lived there anymore, it was still a sacred place to her, filled with precious memories. She was offended at our trespass. She even asked us to take back the things we took from the house. Thus ended our escapades into the local ruined yet not quite fully abandoned homes.
For even when unoccupied, houses are not empty. They remain filled with the stuff of the former occupants’ daily lives, not just the tangible, but the intangible; the memories, the dreams, plans, emotions, the remnants of past conversations floating like dust in the air.
Perhaps that explains my visceral reaction to the media’s public display of the interior of the California home of the couple who killed and were killed in San Bernardino.
Because regardless how I feel about them or their actions, it was a home.
It was once filled with love; the result a baby girl who now will grow up an orphan, her parents lost to an ideology of death.
I fault the landlord for inviting the press inside. I fault the press for rushing to accept the invitation and using said invitation as an excuse to forgo any ethical responsibility. Ask the mouse who accepted the hospitality of the asp. Not all invitations should be accepted.
But I also lay the blame squarely at the feet of you and I. Like the ancient crowds of the Roman Colosseum, we of so-called civilized modernity thirst for more blood. We invite the news bringers into our homes every hour of every day and challenge them to keep us satiated. The more violent the story the more greedily we feast.
If I am honest with myself, I spend way too much of my time obsessing over, trolling for, reading and feeding on the news. Being informed is fine, but an overabundance of information in my home leaves me less than present to those I live with. Perhaps it is time that I and maybe all of us begin to limit such home invasions.
Where is the voice of Ms. Ruby when we need her?