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Death, Grief, and Hate

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I have been thinking about death and grief in recent weeks. It was sparked by the news that a favorite uncle has a brain tumor. I've been considering writing about that period one has — or at least I have — when you are close to tears but not actually able to cry. You feel – well, the word I’ve use to describe it is “fragile” or “jagged.” You know one big upset could take you into a crying jag.

I'm trying not to read about the deaths at Virginia Tech. I just clip articles to read later. The news of that shooting might be the step that brings me to those late tears for my father and those worries about my uncle. While I do want to be able to cry, I like to be able to control when I cry, if that makes any sense.

It could be precisely that kind of control or macho thinking that used to make it hard for me to express my emotions in the first place, or at least it used to be. Now I sometimes worry I’m too emotional, and yet I’d rather be too emotional than not emotional at all.

Somehow, while thinking about these topics today, I went searching for an article I wrote about a proposed nuclear waste dump. Instead I came across some journaling I did about my prior life as a cop reporter. I don't know what it is about those stories and memories, but it brought some clarity. 

Death puts things in perspective. Losing my dad made me learn not to sweat the stuff that really doesn't matter, be it a slow car in the fast lane, or that Alanis Morissette couldn't spot an irony if it landed in her damn Chardonnay.

Hearing about the shooting spree made me think about all the articles and posts and time spent on Don Imus and wondering whether we (society, writers, the people) are really worrying and debating about the right things. 

It's hard for me to get interested in American Idol, Madonna’s latest adoption, Larry King getting honored by CNN despite being a terrible journalist, or whatever bit of so-called news people are going gaga about when people are dying – be it the deaths of soldiers, the deaths of Iraqi civilians, or those killed by the jerk at Virginia Tech.

What disgusts me the most is that cold-hearted psycho Fred Phelps who thinks God told him to not only hate gays but to go to military funerals to disrupt proceedings with his messages of venom. I thought Phelps had hit a new low when he planned to disrupt the proceedings of the funeral for the Amish people killed not too far from where I live.

The news that Phelps planned to disrupt the services for the Virginia Tech students made me want to vomit. I try to avoid allowing any hate in my life. I try to live by example, especially when working with students and teenagers. I try not to hate anyone, but if there was one person I hate it is Phelps.

I think sometimes about whether we are inherently evil or inherently good. Is it genetics or learned behavior that makes some of us good and some of us bad? I sometimes refer to myself as a cynical idealist, meaning I really hope for the best, but dread that I'll ultimately be disappointed.

Today, thinking about Phelps and the Virginia Tech shooter, I'm leaning toward the inherently evil argument. Here's hoping that some good news tomorrow will make me return to what I was thinking Monday as I started a great new job, that the world is a good place and we are not, by nature, evil people.

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About Scott Butki

Scott Butki was a newspaper reporter for more than 10 years before making a career change into education... then into special education. He has been doing special education work for about five years He lives in Austin. He reads at least 50 books a year and has about 15 author interviews each year and, yes, unlike tv hosts he actually reads each one. He is an in-house media critic, a recovering Tetris addict and a proud uncle. He has written articles on practically all topics from zoos to apples and almost everything in between.