The View From Planet Kerth: A shot at the foxhole spurs another volley

When I wrote in last week’s column that I completely ignored the Casey Anthony case, choosing instead to hunker in a foxhole of my voluntary ignorance, I expected to get letters. What surprised me about the letters, however, is that they were all heartily in agreement with me.

Well, all but one. That one was heartily offended by my words, which were “callous and insensitive” according to the writer, who lashed me with a wet noodle for not paying attention to all “those darling pictures” of the tragic child that the electronic media were so fond of splashing across the screen all day and night.

I am not foolish enough to believe that there is only one reader who disagreed with me, simply because only one letter arrived to say so. I am certain that others feel that ignoring this sensational case is a sign of callous insensitivity on my part.

And since Nancy Grace hasn’t shut up about it yet, I guess I won’t either.

Many who surrendered to their Anthony addiction will argue that they did so out of a civic duty to pay undivided attention to the plight of abused children everywhere.

Yeah, right.

And I’m sure that they slow down to gape at traffic accidents only because they are looking to see what aid they might render. I believe both of those statements equally. Which is to say: Not at all.

There are many kinds of curiosity. Some is admirable. Some is abhorrent. Watching every minute of the Anthony soap-opera melodrama is not like gazing at the curious wonder of a butterfly’s wing to see what makes it fly. It is more like digging through some strangers’ trash just to see what you might learn about what goes on behind their closed doors.

But I will ask you Anthony addicts a question or two: What good did your undivided attention to this spectacle do for you — or for the world? During your three years of angst over the Anthony case, did your concern for this abused child ever inspire you to the movement of foot and hand? Did you ever write a check to a children’s hospital, or volunteer to serve as a crossing guard near your neighborhood grammar school?

During my three years of callously turning the page past any news item about Casey Anthony, I spent hundreds of hours doing volunteer work at Ronald McDonald House near Loyola, just outside of Chicago.

But I never saw you there.

Probably because there isn’t much of a spectacle to see at Ronald McDonald House.

It is a haven for families of kids undergoing treatment at local children’s hospitals. You rarely see any of the kids there, unless they are checking in or checking out. You only see the families in passing on the way to their long, troubled days. When you pass them, you never ask them about their suffering kids, because the last thing they need to spend their time on is satisfying the prying curiosity of some stranger.

No, when you see them in passing you nod and smile and wish them a good day, just as you would with anybody you would meet on the street. And then you go back to doing the work you went there to do — emptying trash bins, changing light bulbs, restocking pantries, preparing and refrigerating meals for families who will eat them in quiet privacy when they come back to the House at the late end of their weary, worrisome day.

It is as unspectacular as any work can be, and as a result it seems to attract volunteers willing to steer clear of spectacle and to work quietly for a cause they believe in. Over the past several years, I can’t recall hearing the volunteers engage in a single conversation about Casey Anthony, or any other sensational case that worked Nancy Grace into a lather.

I guess most of the volunteers felt that they had to make a choice of how they would spend their time. They could shake their heads in disgust at the tragic plight of a child on TV, or they could turn it off and go out to do something that might actually help a kid who needs it.

I hope your concern for Caylee Anthony spurred you to do something similar. If not, maybe you’d like to start.

If you’d like to help at my Ronald McDonald House, they’d love to hear from you. The address is: Ronald McDonald House near Loyola, Tripp Avenue at Air Mail Road, PO Box 7002, Hines, IL 60141. You can send your checks to the attention of the house managers, Andi Wadas or Sue Vadovidky. Any amount would be welcome. Tell them I said “Hi.”

There was nobody around to help Caylee Anthony when she needed help, though there were millions who cared enough to spend hours watching her mother’s trial. Most of those watchers believe that they would have done something that might have helped if they had been a neighbor or a friend.

If you were one of those watchers who believes that about yourself, I challenge you to prove it.

Some of you may already have done so by volunteering or donating to a worthy children’s cause, and if that is the case, then Caylee Anthony’s death may not have been entirely in vain. She may have inspired some watchers to turn away from the spectacle and do something spectacular.

If you watched this case because your heart broke for a kid who needed help, and if your concern for needy kids has prodded you to some real action, let’s talk. I’d love to hear what you’ve been doing while the TV was turned off.

You know where to find me. I’ll be callously hunkered in my foxhole of Grace-less ignorance.

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The author splits his time between Naples and Chicago. Not every day, though. Contact him at trkerth@yahoo.com.

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