UNDER THE MICROSCOPE

NEW SPECIMENS OLD SPECIMENS THE SCIENTIST MY LOG CONTACT ME
05/08/2006 - 9:30 p.m.

THE DARK SIDE NEXT DOOR

I spend a lot of time with the darker side of life. I sit across tables from armed robbers, rapists, and killers. I consort with the merely sordid in the persons of whiny forgers and shoplifters. I chat with those with low impulse control who strike their wives or shoot simply because they have a gun. But, for pure malice, it is hard to beat the gossips of suburbia. They know exactly what they are doing, they know who it can hurt, and they do it anyway.

One of our local PTO moms died recently. Her children are a little younger than mine. Actually, the oldest is just older than Day and the youngest is a bit younger yet. They are hurting and their Dad is hurting and it takes very little thought to realize that. As a family, they had some problems and the rumor mill is going full time. "Let me tell you the REAL story," buzzes the telephone lines and the email, all the time ignoring the effect on the family and, worse, on those kids. Given the choice between finger-wagging and compassion, the finger-wagging is winning. Worse, the REAL story is anything but.

It's not even the buzz so much. People buzz. They seem unable to help themselves. I occasionally buzz myself. Still, I try to remember when and where I buzz—and what I am buzzing about. It's the glee with which they are doing it and the refusal to accept the truth when a rumor is more juicy. Apparently, there is no joy like the joy of feeling superior—even to someone who is dead.

People wonder how I can do my job but I learned long ago that the dark side is not as bad across a table in a prison as it is next door.

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