Updated Sep 29, 2012 - 10:03 am
Our need for an ending
By now you've heard about or seen the tragic end to a man's life after he hijacked a car in Phoenix, fled the cops, and wound up in the middle of Nowhere, Arizona.
Too far west to turn around on the I-10 highway, slipping anonymously back into Phoenix, too far east of California that law enforcement wouldn't meet him at the border.
He pulled the stolen vehicle off the highway, turned erratically down a dirt road, stopped, and then began walking into the scrub. Producing a gun, he turned away from the helicopter that had televised his futile and reckless escape, put the barrel to his head and pulled the trigger. His head snapped from the silent blast, his body froze then slumped into the Sonoran dirt as a commercial clipped his image from the screen.
Every second of this macabre and suicidal event was televised on Fox News Channel.
I am not going to condemn Fox News or the anchor who frantically screamed to cut to anything rather than seeing the inevitable, silent jerk of the man's head.
Many people are asking, why would Fox News or any television outlet air such a tragedy, and more personally, why would we be glued to the monitor until the final image? One person in the newsroom even asked, "Why did I just watch that?"
Every book, movie, joke, event, reality show, or news story has a narrative. It doesn't matter whether it's a tragic Greek play, Paula Dean making a bacon sandwich on a cooking show, or a bawdy, raunchy late night joke on Kimmel. And every narrative has a beginning, middle and an end. It's ingrained into our story-telling DNA; it's why we stay until the final second is played out in a game or the curtain drops in the theater. It's why we stay and watch (against our better judgment) a really bad movie until the credits roll. Or no matter how scary, we need to hear the end of the ghost story. It's why as children, we stayed and watched the fight, instead of getting the teacher. We didn't want to miss the best part -- the end.
Not all endings are happy, inspirational and satisfying, wrapping up neatly with a lesson tucked in for edification. But, let me also point out, neither is life.
It's this complex and unavoidable paradox that while watching what unfolded on the I-10, there was a certain rush of the unknown. Will this person pull over and gently surrender to law enforcement, or will this person decide to re-enact something out of a Michael Bay film?
At the time, as the narrative plays itself out, all we know is we DON'T know how it will end. But our innate and hard-wired curiosity keeps us watching even when we know that death could be the outcome.
We need the ending -- we crave resolution. Let's not fool ourselves; this is the way it's been since human beings started speaking. While no one, except people with a perversion for snuff sites and torture porn, wants to see someone kill himself in the middle of the desert after stealing a car and shooting at cops, let's remember that it's not about what we NOW know. It's about the inherent and intrinsic need to know how the story ends.
And it's not a bad thing -- it what makes us human.
Mac Watson, Host, Mac & Gaydos