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Monday, July 24, 2006

Why are we attracted to violence and tragedy?

Last night I decided I would really really get back to serious work on that young-adult history, after a weekend of fun. Instead I spent much of the evening riveted to the TV screen, as did many in North Texas. We were following a police chase--not a high-speed one, but a long slow painful one. A man had taken a woman truck driver hostage and forced her to drive her 18-wheeler from north of Dallas south through the city and then west past Fort Worth--the whole thing from start to finish lasted about five hours. Police had shot out the front tires, so the woman was driving that rig on rims--and she was a darn good driver--but she couldn't go more than five or ten miles an hour. It all ended well--when the truck got to a remote spot (without bystanders, etc.) police shot out the radiator and the back tires and the truck simply could go no farther. After a long standoff, the woman ran out of the cab to safety, police shot in tear gas, and the kidnapping suspect jumped out and fell to the ground so officers could arrest him without shooting him.
But what was almost mesmerizing about the incident was the crowds who lined the highways and overpass to watch the slow procession, truck followed by police cars, go by. In spite of repeated pleas on TV that it was a dangerous situation and please stay away, they came out in throng. Did they not know they were endangering themselves and hindering police efforts to stop the truck? Could they think only of the thrill of the moment? They waved, arms uplifted, and I wondered if they were sending courage to the kidnapped driver or encouragement to the kidnapper, sort of saying, "You stuck it to the man!" I hope it was the former but I'm not optimistic. The assailant later said he did it as a protest to the treatment of black men in America, and I wonder if some weren't sensing that and cheering his protest. They didn't care, as I desperately did, about the safety of that woman. She is one tough lady and I cheer her. Oddly enough, it didn't even make the national morning news shows.

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