Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Of self-standards

There comes a time when every writer must own up to or explain some sort of inconsistency. Consider this mine.

In last week's column, I wrote that it'd be nice for our community to be given at least a week before Oakland police Sgt. Mark Dunakin's death — and the deaths of his three fellow officers — was turned into a prop for a gun control debate.

But family members of a Tracy Marine killed in Afghanistan this year didn't receive such a time delay from me.

I penned a February column about the death of U.S. Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel Hansen not six days after he was killed on duty. At least one letter-writer at the time called out the decision as gauche, to say the least.

It wasn't my intent to politicize the sacrifice of the elite Marine and West High graduate as an argument for or against continuing involvement in America's two overseas wars — I actually did not intend to use him as a political football, as servicemen and -women have so often been the past six years in columns and blogs.

But the death of the highly decorated Marine did make me realize that the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were still ongoing but had not appeared in our newspaper — in opinion form or otherwise — for quite some time. I thought the column would be a poignant reminder that men and women were still fighting and, sadly, dying, and that the situation overseas is still tenuous and dangerous in many ways despite the declining news coverage of the issue.

I wanted to make the point that Hansen's death, while tragic for our community, was part of a bigger picture that many seem to have forgotten.

I still see it that way.

However, that is no doubt cold comfort — or just cold — to those closest to Staff Sgt. Hansen, who no doubt thought my analysis violated my own standards of decency.

UPDATE (4:20 p.m. Wednesday): It occurs to me there's a more concise way to say what's written above.

I wholeheartedly think that the days following a tragedy is not the time to moralize about said tragedy.

I realized that in writing a column about Staff Sgt. Daniel Hansen I stood the chance of being perceived as heartless and unfeeling toward those who knew him best. I'm sorry that some people were hurt — had their "hearts bruised," as one letter-writer put it — by that column. I really am.

But the intent of the column was not to use Sgt. Hansen as a prop for a specific political argument. That's the only reason I went ahead and wrote it.

So in short, I did think about the ethical standards expressed in the Sgt. Mark Dunakin column before I wrote the column mentioning Staff Sgt. Hansen. That's all I really wanted to say, because readers have a right to know.

1 comment:

Caren or Danielle said...

Thank you for displaying integrity, Jon. I respect you.