Saturday, September 23, 2006

Decency Lost: Attacks on Melinda Continue

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There is no end in sight to this indecency.

Police acknowledged on Thursday that Melinda Duckett is the prime suspect in the disappearance of her son. Note, however, that they have NOT stated Melinda is to blame for her missing son, but that's a common misconception you'd get if you were continuing to read up on the story and continuing to discuss this with others.

What began with Nancy Grace's prosecution phone interview of Melinda Duckett has led to an array of baseless accounts of Melinda's guilty involvement.

A lot of folks have been spreading beliefs that a "real mother" would have helped the authorities more, or that losing one's child makes you do X Y and Z, or that Melinda could have hung up on Nancy Grace whenever she wanted to. These folks are acting on gut instincts and perpetuating this media parade that started off with an immoral emphasis on ratings, but continues even today because folks want to make generalizations and fabricate evidence that support their assertions.

This act of using generalizations to support our assertions runs rampant in our society. You'll see it often if you look for it: an inherent fear of Black people at night because "lots" of black people commit crimes, avoiding Middle Easterners because "lots" of Middle Easterners are terrorists, asking gay people about fashion tips because "lots" of gay people are trendy. These are ridiculous notions, both untrue and dehumanizing, but folks continue to use them to support their actions, rather than logically looking at the factual evidence.

Many of the attacks on Melinda have used the same thought process, without any understanding of the situation she was in.

For instance, it may be very easy for some of you to tell Melinda what she “should have done”. After all, "lots" of mothers would have been able to do this or do that. Maybe you yourself are a mother, and know "exactly" what you would do in her position, and of course "lots" of other mothers would do the same. But remember that these are value-based assessments that emanate from your own personal experiences. Remember that you weren’t the one raising a child on your own while working 2 jobs and attending school, you weren’t the one who went through the trauma of losing a son, you weren’t the one being impugned by crass viewers of society with more interest in spouting gossip than thinking logically, and you most certainly weren’t the one being interrogated by a news show host who has no shame. You are not Melinda.

You might assume that there is some “correct” response to the situation she was in, that other “real moms” would have done this and this and this much differently. Again, these are value judgments that you’ve made, that are true for YOU and for those you may associate with, but may not be true for Melinda in the situation that she was in. You, like many others that have contributed to the gossip surrounding this story, are implicating others without actual evidence or actual facts. It’s these gut feeling accusations that Melinda also had to deal with, besides the situation with her son and family that she was already dealing with. You are not Melinda.

On that note, while you may have dealt with some similar issues that Melinda did, have you dealt with all of them at the same time? Have you been implicated in the disappearance of your son from a baseless news show host and value judgments that millions of others may have made about you? Has your story been a topic of national interest, the privacy of your family been torn asunder with intricate details and commentary made public? No, you haven’t, so remind yourself that you really can’t understand what was going on in Melinda’s mind at the time, nor can you understand the stress weighing down on her and how that changed her, and cease with these endless conjectures and attacks on her credibility. You are not Melinda.

Few (if any, though I'd love to actually talk with you if you have) of you know personally how Melinda was faring at the time; the only interaction you’ve had with Melinda is through the media’s perception of her. She may well have been a nervous wreck. Stop assuming she wasn’t. You are not Melinda.

Some of you have even gone so far low as to assert Melinda was a bad mother, because there are pictures of her and friends drinking together, and MySpace comments that say she goes out to parties and, *gasp*, dates other men! After all, partying, drinking, and banging guys 24/7 is the pastime of "lots" of other 21-year-old ladies, especially ones who occasionally post pictures of drinking with friends. Did she really do this “every day”? And were you there with her when she was drinking with people “every day”? And do you know for a fact that the actions she was taking outside of her role as a mother and provider were hindering her ability to be a mother? You’re making an assumption on her character from a few pictures and MySpace comments that you’ve seen. Just stop. You are not Melinda.

With regards to the media involvement, you might assume that Melinda "knew" what she was getting herself into with taking on the Nancy Grace interview, or that "lots" of mothers would be able to hang up the phone and end the interview. But how well aware are you of her emotions and her psyche? Did Melinda really want the media to rip open hers and her family’s lives, to scrutinize everything and anything, to add commentary to every last detail, and to encourage others to make the same value judgments on her innocence and guilt? Melinda was on national TV to help forward the efforts to find her son, NOT to invite a crusading news show host to impugn her in his disappearance. But by the time she was doing the interview, would hanging up really stay the incrimination that Nancy Grace pushed onto her?

Nancy Grace deserves to be reprimanded here for her lack of journalistic integrity. Any other responsible individual, whose respect for the human condition weighed in larger than greed for ratings, would have performed the interview differently. To say that Nancy Grace’s ruthless questioning, implications of Melinda’s guilt, and encouragement of others to make these value judgments, combined with the already existing factors in Melinda’s life, led to her suicide, is a logical assertion to make when all the facts are addressed. And it's very painful to hear.

The fact that Nancy sought to torment this girl with her line of critical questioning, particularly given the situation Melinda was in, is absolutely repulsive.

As a final thought, the story of the Ducketts is not about YOU; it’s about Melinda and Trenton and their family. You are not Melinda Duckett.

Let the factual evidence the authorities find make or break the case against Melinda, and NOT your own value judgments and personal gut reactions. The perpetuation of your assertions is among the ranks of Nancy Grace in revulsion.

Show a little decency for this family.

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