I know this because the story teaser appears today on the front page of ABCNews.com, and the article, not marked as a blog or commentary, even uses the phrase “nothing short of a miracle” to describe the rescue of the title-referenced dog.
Argh. I agonize over stories of soldiers in Iraq and their families. Mainly because I think Iraq was a disaster for the U.S. for soooo many reasons, economic and moral and political and corporate war profiteering reasons, for instance, and I especially hate the fact that more than 4,400 of America’s boys and girls — not to mention deliberately uncounted numbers of civilian non-combatants in Iraq itself — have died as a result. The symbolic finding of Bush and Blair to be war criminals is more than justified, in my opinion.
But … anytime you write about those fallen-soldier stories in detail, you have to take into account that the people in them are real, and they really are dealing, as best they can, with the death of a loved one. You want to be careful, for the sake of those hurting family members, in how you react to the core events of the story.
However! When it comes to reporting those stories, and the reporter steps way over the line and deliberately muddies the news with bombastic, preachy Christian metaphors, the reporting itself is definitely fair game.
The mythology projected at us in this story is that God took time out from his busy schedule of ruling the universe in order to … well, listen:
Sometimes when Rhonda hugged Hero she would softly pet her face and coo, “Justin, are you in there?” It was Rhonda’s gentle way of remembering their son and his last living connection to Hero. At one point, Hero wandered off and took a stroll in the backyard. All of a sudden, the clouds broke and a light began to solidify in a beam directly down on Hero — a kind of vertical halo.
Talk about reaching. ABC’s Kimberly Launier might as well be going door to door handing out religious pamphlets.
As this dramatic ray of light was shining on Hero she turned to look at me, and it was all I could do to hold the camera steady and not drop it in astonishment. It was an unforgettable moment, and made me wonder if in fact Justin was in there. Then the light vanished.
There’s also this bigger picture surrounding the story — that it is aimed at more than the grieving family. It seeks to persuade the larger audience to buy into some sort of faux-Christian mythology, that a young man killed in military action might “return” and somehow inhabit the body of a female dog, and that a mystical superbeing might shine light on the dog while a photographer was present in order to give evidence of that fact.
And that part … well, I have my reservations. As a writer of fiction, I might justify it. As a writer of NEWS, I never could.