Anthony trial perspective

After three years of the media debacle over the trial of Casey Anthony for the killing of her daughter, what did we learn?

I’ve tried my best to avoid the whole thing. There’s only so much time and so many stories to cover, and when it comes to crimes involving children I have an especially intuitive sense of repulsion that turns me away from the news. It’s usually grossly sensational and excessive. But you can only reach for the remote so fast, and you can’t escape some of the drama and details surrounding the case.

Which is why, in the aftermath of the verdict last week, I found this piece to be thankfully measured and human.

Lots of people have lots of theories about why the Anthony case attracted so much attention while so many other murder cases of the era have not. Whether it’s right or its wrong, my theory is simple. Anthony is a white, middle-class woman — she might even have been a soccer mom if things had turned out differently — who had a darling, photogenic little girl. On many levels, her story connected with the vast swath of Americans who are themselves white, middle-class, and child-rearing.

Casey Anthony wasn’t some freak, as so many venal commentators made her out to be. Until it all fell apart for her, you could argue instead that she was much like the millions of others who ended up following her trial. The fascination with her case — and Caylee’s tragic cause — was most vibrant within a demographic that is particularly attuned to investing in this sort of a story.

This was a dreadful reality show. But the reality wasn’t really reflected in this show trial.

We don’t know exactly how many mothers or fathers have been prosecuted since in murder cases involving their children. And thus we don’t know how many of those cases resulted in convictions or acquittals. But there are some things we do know. We know, for example, that the Anthony case, for all its ratings and its hype, was but a spit into the ocean when it comes to murder in America.

And this is the key point…

The stories of these thousands of “unfamous” victims have never been told on cable television. The narratives of destroyed lives and broken families have never been dissected in magazines, or in books, or in syndication. They never trended on Twitter, the stories of these black victims, or Hispanic victims, or victims whose trials were hidden from the camera’s view. There were no primetime specials about them. Every hour of coverage of the Anthony case, every obsessive update about every little tick in her trial, every bit of lousy analysis detracted from the telling of these other stories about life and death, parent and child, conviction and acquittal, law and justice.

That’s the takeaway. If we want to pay attention to anything here, it is that.

Abortion reality show provokes thought

The idea behind the interactive webcast program ‘Bump’ was to follow three fictitious characters through unplanned pregnancies and invite viewers to debate and try to shape whatever decisions the three women came to about choosing abortion or not. It set out to be provocative, and it did provoke.

Now the web series has come to an end, and producers are encouraging more conversation. What to say…..?

It is certainly a unique cultural moment. From the beginning of the series, I’ve been receiving updates in my inbox regularly as I somehow landed on Yellow Line Studio’s mailing list as no doubt thousands of others have. And to borrow the phrase from Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink, I felt intuitive repulsion before thinking about it more, but have thought about it more. Especially when I saw the comments of a few people whose insights I value.

Matthew Archbold sized it up in his usual creatively pointed way, and I agree with much of what he said.

Here’s the thing. Very real abortions are procured for much more fatuous reasons than viewer votes on a game show. To many progressives, abortion just isn’t that big of a deal. And that’s going on in real life, never mind in a reality game show…

Right now, abortion as a cultural conversation is barely a whisper…When someone holds up a sign of a dismembered fetus in front of an abortion clinic people are outraged at the man holding the sign while ignoring the fact that abortionists are actually pulling apart real babies just inside the building. America is experiencing a silent holocaust. And let’s face it, silence only helps the status quo…

I’ll accept just about anything to stop the cultural blackout we have on all things abortion.

Fr. Frank Pavone says pretty much the same thing. He’s generous and open to this new venue for conversation.

“Bump+’s” target audience is not the pro-life community. It is trying to reach the vast number of citizens whose attitude toward abortion can best be described as conflicted. “Bump+” is not a forum for an abortion debate. The point here is to help viewers hear and feel both sides of the issue through stories. This is simply a conversation, not a condoning of abortion. We need to bring people through the conversation through stories. Jesus was a storyteller. You tell a story and let people connect with that…

The big benefit for people in the middle is that “Bump+” helps people get beyond the slogans. Slogans can contain a lot of truth and grace, but they can also shut down thinking. If you can get people beyond slogans, that is a big benefit.

That’s a good point. Slogans can shut down thinking.

On the pro-life side of the coin, we have to make sure that we’re not just articulating arguments, but that we can feel with those who are facing the decision and the temptations that lead one toward abortion. This doesn’t mean that the decision should be anything other than choosing life, but the more we understand them, the better we will be able to help them.

This is exactly what I’ve tried to say for a long time (but not as well or succinctly as Fr. Pavone). In order to engage, we need to both listen and speak, but for so long now we’ve mostly talked past each other. Conversions from the ‘pro-choice’ side to the pro-life have mostly been through traumatic firsthand experiences, which is why Silent No More Awareness Campaign is so effective at changing hearts and minds.

But that takes listening to people who regret participating in abortions, and the general ‘pro-choice’ population likely pay no attention to those people.

That’s why producers decided to make this series. ‘Bump the Show’s website encourages viewers to click on different characters and episodes and

add your voice to any discussion you choose. We’re looking for personal experiences, honest conversation, and compassionate advice for our characters. We’ve heard all the arguments on both sides of the issue. This is a place to share your stories and talk to each other, not at each other.

It’s a new direction and one the young adult generation is starting to take us in, through their eyes. And they see things differently from generations preceding them.

The Yellow Line Studios notice that showed up in my inbox today was intriguing. Here’s some of it:

During a final episode, set to premiere this Monday, March 15, 2010, members of the production team will address the thousands of viewers in sixty-four countries who have tuned in to watch the series. They will be joined by members of that viewing audience who have been an ongoing part of the accompanying discussion on the website. Guests currently scheduled to appear include Sister Mary Agnes Dombroski, a New Hampshire nun whose order operates a group home for abused children and created www.runningnuns.com; and Jennifer Filipowicz, a pro-choice blogger and mother of two known to other fans by the screen name SuperHappyJen.

It also quoted a statement by Yellow Line’s CEO:

“We’ve been attacked and praised by people on both sides of the debate – but when you read the posts from our audience members, it’s impossible to deny that a respectful, compassionate conversation about abortion has begun. That was our only goal, and we hope it continues on the BUMP+ website and elsewhere.”

As Matthew Archbold said, the more shows like Bump the better. Make people confront the realities of abortion.

And if this was one step too far I’m begging them to take two…

Give ’em their game show. Let’s have it out. In public. Because i know if abortion is talked about, we win.

Hopefully, we all win.