We Are All Chefs in Washington

A friend of mine recently stated public disdain for the influx of political stories and posts in the media and social media. I also long for the days that the police beat filled my 10 o’clock news and pictures of my friends’ food overwhelmed my social media feed.  America has been swamped by Trump stories for over two years, and I would love for it to end. However, I find some bit of solace that stories of White House and its Administration still resonate with the public. Never in my lifetime has the public been so engrossed in politics. I have never seen so many amateur lawyers, political scientists, and activists who are taking well-informed positions on American politics. Recently U.S. Press Secretary Sean Spicer resigned, which made the national headlines. Can you name any of President Obama’s press secretaries (OK, I can, but I am a polysci nerd). Spicer’s name was even suggested for ABC’s next season of the hit show Dancing with the Stars.  We live in an age where many Americans can rattle off the names of many U.S. Cabinet positions such as Steve Bannon, Jeff Sessions, Rex Tillerson, Steve Mnuchin, Betsy DeVos, and Ben Carson.

 

Never in recent history has the public placed the President and the U.S. Cabinet under such close watch. It makes sense. Imagine a night at your favorite restaurant to find out that management had changed. Although management had changed many times over the years that you frequented the establishment, it had previously never affected your experience. However, this change was different, because you learned that the new manager was a self-absorbed petty Machiavellian twelve-year-old with a quick temper and no training in cooking or managing restaurants. You then found out that all of the assistant chefs that he hired were equally unqualified, and had a history of stealing food and contaminating food products. If in the restaurant there rested a glass window between your table and the kitchen, would you take a few minutes to keep an eye on and scrutinize the chefs? Especially if you noticed that the owner started to swing around knives above his head and around the restaurant tables just for fun? I sympathize for my friend and for everyone else who tires of the national headlines and social media posts from Washington. My advice to you is to hang on a little longer, because it is for the greater good. We are all learning to be chefs; that is what democracy is about, and we are the ones who need to keep our restaurant accountable for what happens in the kitchen.

The Coverage of the Hernandez and Stephens Suicides

The news picked up on two stories of murderers who took their own lives this week. The first was Steve Stephens, otherwise known as “The Facebook Murderer,” and the second was Aaron Hernandez, the former New England tight end. Each of these stories was framed by the media quite differently, though their crimes were the same.

“This story will Takes your breath away,” states ESPN. “It is a tragedy.” “I have but one word: tragedy.” “From beginning to end, this is a tragedy.” Hernandez was described by many news outsets as “troubled.” His teammates and community shared a sense of “sadness,” “disappointment”, and “shock.” They felt sorry for his family and his daughter who would grow up without a father.”

Stephens, on the other hand, was not even mentioned by his own name in a number of the stories that told his story. He was presented as merely as “The Facebook Murderer,” or “The Murderer.” He was known as “The Suspected Killer.” The New Yorker titled its story, “Facebook and the Murderer.” One headline read, “Is it OK to hope a cold-blooded murderer kills himself?” CNN calls it “Black on Black” crime. “I was horrible.”  In a number of articles they said that they felt “relief,” because he is dead. “I feel comfortable now.”

In retrospect, how is it that one suicide was “tragic,” and yet the other was “horrific?” One of these murderers was described to have committed “black on black” murder, but the other was not described to have committed, “Latino on Black,” or “Latino on Latino” murder.  One man killed a human being, and the other killed a human being (and possibly three.)  In my opinion, both of these men committed murders, yet the reaction of their stories and coverage were not congruent with each other.

I do not necessarily write to sympathize or to justify Stephen’s actions. However, I do believe that terms and labels matter. We should avoid using phrases like “Black on Black” crime. There is just “crime.” Hernandez had a family and people who cared about him. Surely, Stephens did too. We offer as much respect to Stephen’s family as we do Hernandez’s.