Long before the advent of social media, we relied upon newspapers, letters, and eventually television news anchors to deliver news to our homes. People crowded outside stores to hear of John F. Kennedy’s assassination on TV. They gathered in living rooms to watch the Apollo land on the moon. Americans are obsessed with news. So much so that there are now full networks solely dedicated to delivering news of all sorts to our homes, our places of business, our phones, our computers, our everything every second of every day. We fear we will miss something.
Today, a verdict in a high-profile case sped across fiber-optic networks, flung itself through the air and landed in our laps. Casey Anthony. Not guilty of first degree murder. Reaction to the verdict was swift. Filled with shock as we often are when a child’s murder hangs in the balance. As parents, it is hard to understand how another parent could possibly do the unthinkable and murder the very being which sprung from their bodies. In fear, in anger, we judge those who commit these horrific acts long before any court hears the evidence, long before any jury is given time to deliberate the delivered evidence.
Our court system is no longer allowed to do its job before we jump to conclusions about the innocence of the accused. Instead, we assign their fate in our mind long before any motion is even filed to bring charges. We discuss our opinions at length with those available to us via social media. Our hands fly across the keyboard in desperate attempts to make sense of tragedy without all the facts at hand, spilling our judgments forth to those who will listen and respond in kind. In doing so, we create a society filled with hatred and judgment. In doing so, we create a society now steeped in anxiety and fear. In doing so, we fail to allow our society to function in a just and proper manner. In doing so, we gossip.
So many mothers have come to me to express struggles with the Casey Anthony case. They can’t turn off the live coverage. It seeps into their life. Through Twitter. Through Facebook. Through the news networks. Through the frenzied need we all have to discuss how a mother could possibly murder her own child. IF she murdered her own child, a truth we will probably never be privy to now. More than anything, I am grateful this case is over for the time being. My heart breaks for Casey. For Caylee. For the mothers who are struggling with a Postpartum Mood Disorder and have been horrifically triggered by this case as they themselves struggle through the darkness. The anxiety and fear caused by media sensationalism of the Anthony case has been mind-blowing for so many.
I do not know if Casey Anthony murdered Caylee. The death of any child is senseless. We fail to understand the heartbreaking loss unless we have, ourselves, been through such senseless loss. We fail to understand the motives of a parent who murders a child unless we, ourselves, have done so. As a parent who has, in the past, been dangerously close to committing such a crime, I understand the desperation. I understand the fear, the irrational thoughts which grab you by the hand and lead you down the dark deep path of filicide and infanticide. I almost reached the end of my path. Thankfully, I did not. A detour presented itself – a road called Help. Along this road were family, friends, understanding doctors. Not all mothers encounter this detour. Many mothers find themselves wandering down this dark lane, alone, without a shred of hope to light the way. There is literally no other way out for them.
Again, I do not know why or if Casey Anthony murdered poor little Caylee. But if she did, I know her heart is struggling. I know her parents are mourning the loss of their granddaughter. There is a lot of hurt within the Anthony family. I pray they are able to move forward with their lives.
It saddens me to see many of the comments on Twitter in judgment of Casey. It’s not our place. It’s not our responsibility. She has been tried by her peers in a court of law. They made the decision they thought best with information provided to them by the prosecution. Yes, we should absolutely protect our children at all costs. Yes, we should do all we can, in our power, as parents, to ensure our children thrive. It’s also our responsibility to raise them to be fair. To be just. To be loving, responsible, respectful. Are we doing that when we sit in judgment of Casey instead of loving her as a very hurt mother and person? Are we doing that when we allow ourselves to be flooded with anger about her verdict? Are we doing that when we lie down and allow the media to create a circus out of a very tragic situation? No. We’re feeding into the frenzy. We are granting the media permission to continue to judge us, to try us in a public court without the facts – just opinions. We are blurring the very lines of right and wrong. We are blurring the line of just and unjust. We are feeding the anxiety filled beast which keeps so many of us up at night.
Years ago, I turned off the news after watching a live car chase. At the end of the car chase, a man jumped out of the vehicle, clutching an infant in one arm, a hand gun in the other. My just born son was in my own arms when this happened. I shrieked, scaring my son. My husband made me turn off the TV right then and there. I don’t know what happened. I don’t want to know what happened. My son was safe. I was safe. Nothing more mattered. I read my news online. I only click if I feel I can handle the information awaiting me behind my click. When you struggle with a Postpartum Mood Disorder, you have to control the information which comes into your life. This means cancelling newspaper subscriptions. Turning off the evening news. When was the last time you saw a positive news story on the 6 o’clock news? Walk away. Break the information addiction. Teach your children life is not just about death and dying. Don’t overprotect them to the point that they don’t understand death and dying, but don’t allow it to become their life. Find a balance. For yourself. For your children. Refuse to lie down and let the media control your emotions. Stand up. Take charge. Fight back. Reclaim your peace. You owe it to yourself. And to your children.
I totally agree that justice needs to be served and our system did it’s thing. And I’m cool w/ folks having opinions–even strong, visceral, gut-level ones. I have them too. But something else seems to be at work in all the reaction that is bugging me and I can’t seem to figure it out. The only thought that comes to mind: If people knew every thought that came across my brain and everything I’ve ever done (and assuming I was famous enough for folks to care), how would Twitter treat me?
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I mourn for Caylee…
It’s a natural reaction for people to point out the guilt of a person based on what the media chooses to put out there. I admit to being one of those who automatically pointed the finger at the mother in this case.
Our process works, reasonable doubt (in my opinion and that of many others, based upon lies) was secured and she is basically a free woman. BUT to let her off on the charges of child neglect is ludicrous. She never reported her child missing, her MOTHER did. That’s abuse right there. That abuse turned to murder one way or another and because she as the child’s mother is responsible for her well being and didn’t report her missing to the authorities, should be convicted of manslaughter. I would expect nothing less than that.
I have been in a state of awe and tears for this baby ever since yesterday afternoon. Her mother will walk free and have the chance to give birth at some point in her life. This sickens me to my core.
By the way, I live in Florida. It has been a circus here. You all see the story outside of the state, which is completely different. We’ve had to live and breathe Casey Anthony for three years day in and day out. It’s different when you live here.
This post is brilliant, Lauren. I avoided this story intentionally, knowing my limits, and protecting my fragile but happy world. After I was inundated with info via twitter yesterday, my gut reaction was the same as yours, though I couldn’t explain it to my husband as eloquently as you did here.
I don’t know what happened. I wasn’t there when that beautiful little girl lost her life, and I wasn’t there at the trial. I’m tired of the public accepting media “reports” full of nothing more than speculation as the truth. I can’t even begin to judge something about which I have no real facts.
But even if I were to assume that Casey did it, compassion and heartache seem the more appropriate responses. I believe that people don’t commit atrocious acts unless they are sick, desperate, or suffering in some way. I don’t believe people are “evil”. So my heart goes out to the family, community, and mother who are living in hell right now. Because that’s surely what it is.
Thank you for finding a way to say what I couldnt express yesterday.
I have been reluctant to say anything because 1) I didn’t think it worth my energies and 2) I was afraid to make anyone upset with an unpopular opinion, but you’re so sweet you’ll let me brain dump here, right?
1) I didn’t follow the trial at all. That was my choice, for all the reasons you said here. I believe and I know that awful things happen to children in the world, but I choose what I let into my home.
2) I felt assaulted by the social media response yesterday. I felt like i couldn’t turn it off, as you said.
3) I believe in the courts. I believe in innocent until proven guilty. If there wasn’t enough evidence, she goes free. That’s a good thing, really. If sometimes they get it wrong, that’s the price we pay for that freedom.
4) I don’t know what happened because I wasn’t there. I don’t know what’s in her heart because I’m not God.
5) No verdict would have brought back that little girl. How many children died of hunger, preventable disease, and war during that trial? How many children without rich mothers and grandfathers in law enforcement died of abuse and neglect? Let’s move forward, not back.
Thank you. I feel better now. And thank you for writing this.
Thank you for this.
I have been appalled by the comments people I had taken as loving, proclaimed Christians wish this woman to come to “justice”. The implication being that she deserved death. I think they forget in those thoughts and words, we’re committing the very murder we would abhor. Admittedly, it’s a hard line to walk. But the media controls the information just enough so that we make the same decision they did without ever knowing what that jury knew.
I am praying for Casey and the jury. There are so many angry, bitter and bloodthirsty people over this public execution that didn’t come to fruition, and people know their names and faces. I worry for their safety and their lives. If I were in Casey’s shoes, after the poor decision the judge made to televise this, I would beg to be left in prison. She won’t be safe on the outside, I fear. And worse yet, should harm come to her, people will rejoice (then lie and say they don’t do that).
My biggest heartbreak is that they refuse to hear or understand. I haven’t even been in the position of having the same feelings, and I can’t even imagine how painful this all has to be for any mother who has been there. To know that her very thoughts have been vilified by the court of public opinion… which is a poor opinion at best.
I have many friends who are angry with me. But I’d rather they be angry than for me to go against what I profess and believe. If that means I’ll be alone… that’s fine. I was warned that might happen. It’s pretty plain.
Awesome post. I couldn’t agree more.
Agreed also. I actually didn’t know anything about this story until the last week or so – I either managed to avoid it in the news or it wasn’t as big here in Canada. There was a part of me that wanted to follow along because some aspects of the story sound intriguing, but when it comes down to it I don’t really want to know. I don’t need the visuals.
Whatever really happened, that family is hurting. She’s so young, and I can’t imagine how this will affect the rest of her life. Not in a good way, I’ll bet.
Since I know next to nothing, I can’t judge. But I wouldn’t anyway. I know too many people who have been at the end of the line when it comes to coping with motherhood and you’re right, we just can’t know what it was like for her.
I’m not in the US, so most of the snippets I’ve heard/read about this case have come from my facebook or twitter feeds, and usually in cryptic messages that apparently make more sense to Americans reading them (especially the verdict in real time – that had me confused when I read the first friend’s reaction). I did a quick search once to try to figure out what everybody was talking about, but didn’t delve too deeply. I’m still not in a strong enough place to get too emotionally invested in every news story, although I’m still not very good at filtering everything.
So I don’t really know much either. But I’m so glad I read your post, and the comments above me. I am painfully aware . of how imperfect I am, and while I often find myself feeling judgmental, I know how unqualified I am to judge anybody. It’s not my place. And it’s not good for me either. Thank you for the reminder to refocus, and to rebalance.
Everyone at my office was aghast at the verdict. I didn’t react much because I don’t know enough about the case to have a fair opinion. But then I was in my car listening to k-love, the religious music channel, and a listener called in to talk about the verdict.
She said, “We are not the judge. God is.” Now, I don’t know if you’re a believer but I am. And that was enough for me. She reminded me that we do not need to pray for justice. We need to pray for everyone involved including the media. It was so simple but so complicated at the same time.
I’m just glad I heard it. I think I was meant to hear it. And I think we all need to remember this when we pass judgment.
I am absolutely a believer. I hold that to be one of my core truths – that we are not the judge, God is. That said however, there are systems put in place by the Bible by which we are to rule ourselves. But we are to love all around us above everything else. Above all else, we are to love, not judge. I live by this.
Lauren, I understand to an extent that God is the judge ultimately but if we solely rely on that, the world would be in much further turmoil than it already is.
Thanks, Lauren. This is such a great reminder to us all. I’m one of those women who can no longer watch the news and have to avoid stories like this one, ever since the birth of my son and maybe partly due to my struggle with PPD. I didn’t watch any of this trial, but it was everywhere and impossible to ignore. It broke my heart.
I completely agree with you Lauren. Thank you for posting this. It’s not our place to judge others, just to take care of ourselves and our own families so no other child needs to senselessly die. Find help of you are struggling with motherhood. You are definitely not alone.
But it IS our place to judge. What if you were chosen to sit on that jury? You would be judging. I see your point, we cannot judge as individuals as to the outcome on a case such as this but we’re human and we will judge. Are you going to say that have never judged another? I’m not trying to lash out at you but this case makes me so angry because a little girl’s life is lost. Based on reasonable doubt, her mother (and in my opinion, her murderer) is being set free. I’ve struggled with PPD for over two years now. The loss of any child hits me deeply but in a case where our system could have taken care of business, they did not. I see that as a great defeat.
I hear you and I understand where you are coming from, I do. And yes, if I HAD been on the jury, I would have been forced to judge. But I was not. Neither was most of Twitter. Sure, we all have our right to our own opinions about this trial. I’m not going to say that I have never judged another. I’m human. I do it. I struggle every day not to judge those around me and instead strive to understand them and help them empower themselves through whatever situation in which they find themselves. I’m far from perfect. FAR from perfect. I wrote this from the perspective of a mother who, at one point, suffered a near psychotic break which included a strong desire to harm her own children. I am beyond grateful I had the wherewithal to stop myself and those around me were willing to recognize just how far I had slipped.
I disagree with you that our system did not take care of business in this situation, however. A defendant is innocent until proven guilty regardless of the crime. Yes, the loss of a child is brutal, hard to understand, and there is a very basic animalistic desire for retribution to be served. In this case, however, the system failed to prove Casey’s guilt. Yes, there are things which were offensive. Yes, she screwed up. But the prosecution, in the end, failed to prove to a jury of Casey’s peers her guilt in Caylee’s death. I don’t see this as a defeat. I see this as the system working the way it was meant to work. We cannot claim failure when a system does not work the way WE believe it should. If the justice system bent to the desires of the people instead of the evidence, it would not be fair, it would become prejudiced. Perhaps Casey did commit this crime. I don’t know. You don’t know. No one knows except Casey and clearly she’s not admitting anything. It’s time to let go and let ourselves heal. Even a guilty verdict would not have brought Caylee back. The entire situation is tragic and should be mourned. But unless we were on the jury, it truly IS NOT our place to judge Casey Anthony.
Just so you know, I’m golf-clapping at this response.
It encompasses my thoughts on this entire situation so completely I can’t even find anything else to say.
Here’s my point of view, just saying: http://www.spermiestyle.com/2011/07/not-just-another-casey-anthony-post.html