Thursday, April 22, 2021

A one-week news cycle

Bakari Sellers said it best last Thursday, when he spoke on CNN: Only in American, in April of the year 2021, could coverage of the Derek Chauvin murder trial be interrupted by news of Daunte Wright’s death, only to have that superseded by the news of Jonathon Pentland’s assault of a 14-year-old Black boy, only to have that upstaged by 13-year-old Adam Toledo’s death, only to have that coverage interrupted by another mass shooting, this one in Indiana that left eight dead.

That was a single week’s newscycle in the U.S.

I asked my students to visit the news source of their choice and consider where these situations intersected and, of course, to write about it all, alone, not for a grade, just to process and then to share as they wished.

The week left me reeling, quite frankly, and wondering about the state of the U.S., hearing from many international people about their perspective on all of it. And, of course, I returned to the place where I usually end up when my mind is ablaze –– at my writing desk.

Has there ever been a time when our genre –– the genre that considers issues such as moral ambiguity, legality vs. justice, race in the criminal justice system, the role of the media in the criminal justice system, the role of money and influence in the criminal justice system –– was needed more?

I remember reading somewhere, on the heels of the Sept. 11 tragedy, a decade ago, that crime fiction continued to sell when other books did not. The explanation I was given was that readers wanted to read of calm stemming from chaos, that readers needed reassurance that the world they lived in, even a fictionalized version of it, could offer truth and justice. Crime writers have always offered readers this. It’s the unspoken contract between author and reader: good will win out; truth will emerge; honor will win the day.

I need that, right now, as a reader, more than ever. I have a couple reads going right now, both mysteries, and, as is the unspoken agreement, justice, regardless of what the real world offers, will win the day, if only on the page.

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