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Fame for them? Or fortune for us?

photo (6)By Alyssa Duetsch

Staff Writer

Why I think the media giving attention to the people/person behind the death of MLK, school shootings, or the Boston Marathon bombings is beneficial and important to our society.

I stood there. So did he. I stood there with my camera. He stood there with a gun. I aimed my camera through a window at room 306. He aimed his gun at Martin Luther King Jr standing in front of that room. I snapped a picture. He pulled the trigger.

On May 4, 1968, Martin Luther King Jr. was shot and killed standing in front of room 306 at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee. 46 years later I stood looking through the window that he was shot through. I didn’t think it should be so calm while I stood where an assassin once stood the day he killed an amazing man.

I felt itchy and disgusted, I couldn’t describe it. Anger bubbled in my veins towards a man I never met.

James Earl Ray: a name I had never heard until my spring break of 2014. I learned every single thing about this man. I saw every item he had in his room before he shot MLK, even his mint green mouthwash. I learned every step he had taken and all his false identities he had used to successfully pull off the murder of MLK.

I hated it. Yet I couldn’t look away. I wanted to know. I wanted to get inside his head. I longed to know why one person would go through so much trouble to shoot Martin Luther King Jr. I kept thinking that there had to be something wrong with him.

Walking out of the museum, I almost didn’t notice the protester across the street. She sat on the corner of Mulberry Street behind a table with a poster on it. The poster read, “Welcome to the $27 million James Earl Ray Memorial.”

At first I was confused: what was she talking about?

Then it hit me. More than half the time I was at the museum I was focused on James Earl Ray, not MLK. In my head I presumed that this meant the protester thinks the museum is focused on Ray, not on all the work MLK did. Maybe she was on to something, and she was not the only one, but I do not agree.

Roger Ebert, a movie critic, was once asked if he thought killings like these were influenced by violent movies. This was his response:

“Events like this (shootings), if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it….The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous.”

Sorry Mr. Ebert, but I disagree with you.

Being famous means you are being celebrated and I am pretty sure we did not throw up confetti and streamers for the Tsarnaev brothers as the anniversary of the Boston bombings rolled around.

Yet, there is truth to the fact that after an event like a school shooting occurs, the media becomes obsessed with it.

When students my age are getting stabbed before the bell on Wednesday, April 9, 2014, at a school in Pittsburgh , I want to know. I want the media to share every single thing they can about the person behind it because I want to be able to reassure myself that the same thing will not happen to me.

The only way I can do that is by knowing that the killer/assassin does not have the same mind-set as my neighbor, friend or family member. That is why I think everyone, including myself, wants to get inside the head of the killer even if they won’t say so.

Yes, of course we want the victims and their families to understand why the person did this, but we also want to know for ourselves.

So how does the media deal with this? They barrage us with every little fact about the killer/assassin. The media is just giving us what we want and what we need, whether we will admit it or we even realize it.

One thing that we do know is that we want to be safe. If we get the information saying the killer was mentally ill or had a bad history, it gives us a sense of security. Even though we know the world can be dangerous, this information helps us clear our minds and not worry that could happen to us. We crave that sense of security, no matter how unrealistic it truly is.

Other than the realization of our clinginess to safety, patterns emerge when these tragedies occur.

Denial. When these horrific events occur, people tell themselves that it will not happen to them. They push it under the table and ignore it. Kids, like the boy who caused the stabbing in Pittsburgh, are often kids who are bullied and/or become depressed.

Society does not want to think about depressed kids. They dismiss those children because they don’t ever think they will have an outburst similar to anything like stabbing students in their school. Nobody thinks it can happen to them.

We can not ignore them and we can not presume that we live in a bubble of safety. When the media bombards the news stations with stories of these kids, it makes it more difficult to push them out of the mind of society. People become aware and can act on it.

Depressed and/or bullied kids have adults around to get them help. However, adults do not have that advantage. Alcohol is something that influences a lot of adults in horrific ways. Adults like James Earl Ray. Ray was an active drinker and while in jail went to psychological counseling.

Just because adults are older does not mean that they make better decisions. In cases like these, age is only a number. Informing people on the motives behind the assassin of MLK truly shows us that we can not ignore alcohol addictions and psychological problems among adults.

Most people already know that those issues are relevant today, but reminding them that those things took the life of an amazing inspiration or a loved one might just get them to act. If people act, it can cause change that will benefit all of society.

Dear media, don’t stop. Keep up the good work. Ignore people like Roger Ebert (sorry Mr. Ebert) because if you continue to educate us on these people, we can become much closer to a world where assassins and murderers can get help before their emotions turn into the deaths of our loved ones.

Dear James Earl Ray, it was nice to get to know you. You’ve helped me to realize that there are issues out there that need to be acted on, and faster than people think. And I hope that someday, people who stand behind the same window you and I both did, do not know what it is like to live in a world where they have to be afraid of people like you

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    SaraAug 8, 2014 at 6:45 am

    Visiting the Lorraine Motel a few years back was also a very moving exneriepce for me. I agree there’s nothing like visiting historical sites and feeling their vibe firsthand. It can be someplace monumental, like the scene of MLK’s assassination, or a location with a softer sense of meaning, like the cramped Sun Studio just a few miles from the motel, where Elvis, Howlin’ Wolf, U2 and other musical giants committed their magic to tape. It’s nice to read about these destinations, but so much more enriching to actually see them and touch them. Great blog by the way. All the best.