A real good guy died the other day. I was on vacation and received a call from a neighbor back home. Nowadays when the phone rings we know who is calling before we pick it up so when I saw this neighbor was calling even before he said he had some “bad news” I had braced myself a little for it. He told me that Bill Moynihan had died of a heart attack. I was stunned.
Bill had a heart so big that it seemed impossible that would ever happen to him. He was one of those guys who always looked out to see if everything was all right and ever willing to help with anything and on top of it to do it with a smile. He was the type of neighbor everyone dreams of having: pleasant, enthusiastic, hard-working and discreet. He was there to do anything you needed but kept out of your business. He wanted nothing in return and asked for nothing.
What was so shocking is he was a decade or more younger than me. He was bubbling over with life. He was always outside working hard chopping down trees, snow blowing around the neighbors driveways, and actively doing this and that and going here and there without stop. On Easter, four days before he died, I emailed him wishing him a Happy Easter and thanking him for keeping me abreast of the news from home. I mentioned I’d be home before the end of April because I had some burning to do before the cutoff date of May 1. He replied suggesting I point him to what has to be burned and he’d be glad to do it. My heartfelt condolences to his wife Brenda and his family, he’ll be deeply missed. Éirinn go Brách.
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As you can tell Bill’s death really affected me; I’m sure there were other people who died around the time he passed on who I heard about but did not give it a second thought. Do you think that is something wrong that I was not disturbed over those others as I was about Bill’s? I’m sure those close to those others grieved for their loved ones but less so for Bill who was a stranger to them.
I mention this because of a lengthy article in the New York Times (NYT) by the public editor Margaret Sullivan. She, in an extended mea culpa-type column tried to placate those who complain the NYT has given more coverage to the victims of terrorist bombing in Paris than in Lebanon or Nigeria; or those in Brussels rather than the many in Ankara or Istanbul, or, I would add Kandahar. .
She asks the question: “So why the persistent inequality that readers rightly observe?“ She offers justifications such as limited access, staffing problems, or lack of newsworthiness (just another bombing in that locale) for covering the European attacks more than others. She concludes: “with a little soul-searching, editors may find that they can come up with a new, more evenhanded approach. . . . I’m glad that Times journalists recognize the need to reflect the importance of all human life lost to terrorism . . . Because, in fact, they surely are. And it’s part of The Times’s journalistic mission to help its readers not only know that intellectually, but feel it in their hearts.”
Such pap. Ms Sullivan should have simply answered those bleeding hearts searching for unfairness who complain that the NYT doesn’t cover all terrorist attack alike that though all lives are equally important the loss of lives of those closer to us causes us greater suffering and are of much more interest. Was it natural that we were more concerned with the beheading of James Foley than the 30 Christians in Libya? Of course because it hits us at home. An American in Israel murdered by a Palestinian gets greater coverage than an Indian Hindu murdering an Indian Muslim.
We more closely identify with those who were murdered in the European attacks as I did with Bill; the value of the lives of all involved are the same but some deaths are more personal. The absurdity of Ms Sullivan’s and the NYT “evenhanded approach” would demand that the coverage of the 29 people murdered at a Chinese railroad station by Muslims in March 2014 get the same coverage, if not more, as the murder of three people by Muslims in the 2013 Boston marathon attack.
It escapes me that so much agony was spent by the NYT over allegations of not caring and so much time was spent justifying the obvious. Sometimes it is best to be square with people and not smother them with nonsense. All lives are equal; but some lives are more equal.