Tuesday, November 12, 2013

MacroHorror and MicroHorror

Home is Where the Heart Breaks - Will Hoge (mp3)

Ever notice how gosh-darn thankful people are in November? Sift through your Facebook stream, and you’ll be bombarded with expressions of thankfulness from others. For one month every year, most people turn into Mister Rogers and acknowledge the value and significance of auto repairman, squirrels, and pretty sunsets. And they are thankful, dammit. Very, very thankful!

Bright and cheery Thankful status updates tend to bring out the Scrooge in me, but I have found two stories recently that have left me feeling overwhelmed with thankfulness.

Although estimates are down, the SuperTyphoon that crushed the Philippines last week will ultimately claim some 2,500 casualties, billions of dollars in destruction, and immeasurable impact on an entire country’s way of life for the next decade, possibly longer. In mere hours, with one meteorological “act of God” event, lives are forever altered.

Twelve years ago in Texas, a little girl was rescued from an unimaginable horror after more than six years of captivity and abuse. At 18 months old, she weighed 23 pounds. When they extracted her from her mother and step-father’s mobile home, she was eight and weighed 25 pounds. Over the course of years, through thousands of acts of cruelty and viciousness carried out by two human beings, a single girl’s life was forever altered.

Here are two stories of horror on both ends of the spectrum, one instantaneous and affecting tens of thousands, the other over more than half a decade and affecting one child. One will get thousands of pages of coverage over the coming days and weeks as reporters uncover story after story of tragedy, devastation, and survival. The other got an in-depth 8-part feature in the Dallas Morning News, of a young woman now 20 who will forever bear the weight of her past, who is unsure she will ever know what it is, or what it feels like, to love someone else.

I posted a link to the series on Lauren Kavanaugh’s ordeal on Facebook -- my perverted response to all my Thankful Friends -- and had more than half a dozen friends message me or tell me in person they could not bring themselves to read it. It was too dark, too painful, too horrible.

We love our reality TV, but we don't love our reality.

MicroHorror, it seems, is more difficult for us to stomach. At least in American culture. MacroHorror, like The Tsunami or The SuperTyphoon or The Nuclear Disaster, bigger than a person or a family or even a neighborhood, is so vast and unstoppable we seem to tolerate it. We watch Weather Channel specials and endless camera sweeps of the devastation. “S**t Happens” horror also seems easier to digest than horror at the hands of a sentient human being.

At our emotional core, Buffalo Bill will always scare us worse than Sharknado.

Moved by these news reports, my thankfulness isn’t for the great or the wonderful; it’s for the stuff that could be so much worse.

I’m thankful my dad was a “high-functioning” alcoholic.

I’m thankful for a house with plumbing problems, roofing problems, sewage and drainage concerns, and God only knows what else.

I’m thankful for a healthcare plan that just shot up almost 10% in costs to me even though we have to pay somewhere between $6,000 - $10,000 out of pocket before the plan makes one lick of difference in our lives.

I’m thankful for milk allergies, egg allergies, and grass and pollen allergies.

I’m thankful for the out-of-nowhere incendiary emotional roller coaster ride of early teen and tween daughters.

I’m thankful for a young son who chronically fantasizes of shooting and lightsabering every imaginary thing in his path.

I’m thankful for crisis situations at work that threaten to tarnish the reputation and image of a great and important organization.

I’m thankful none of my life screw-ups have landed me in prison, in the newspaper, or in the crosshairs of mafioso or other nefarious kingpin types.

I’m thankful my darkest thoughts and temptations are the stuff of Richard Russo novels.

I'm thankful for those police officers, therapists, pediatricians, nurses, Red Cross workers and volunteers, all those who must witness unthinkable and unspeakable horrors and focus on their jobs, and get up the next day and do it again.

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