What about Donovan McKee?

What about Donovan McKee? February 15, 2012

Journalists today are not doing their jobs.

That’s not a criticism made by a GOP candidate, although, if Mitt Romney, Newt Gingrich, Ron Paul or Rick Santorum made that statement, not even Rachel Maddow could find fault with it. The statement was made in Media & Culture class at Central Washington University by a very attentive young man. Kudos to Ishmael for being able to critically evaluate what is wrong with today’s media culture.

Here’s the disclaimer — many  journalists take their jobs very seriously. They work long hours for very little pay to write stories about the fighting in Syria or the corruption in Congress only to have those stories bumped to page 5A so that the reading public — that’s you — can devour the news over Whitney Houston’s last meal. A hamburger, a beer, and later, a turkey sandwich and jalapenos that she took to the bathroom with her.

And that people is where fame will get you.

The lede story, photos of that room service meal included, on the front page of the London Daily Telgraph and hundreds of other newspapers and thousands of blogs across the world. (Including, now, ironically this one.)

We know what Whitney Houston ate before she died yet hundreds of people have been murdered by Syrian’s government in the past few weeks and we don’t even know their names, much less their ages, or what, if anything, they had to eat.

Oh, I know, we love Whitney. She could tear the sky open with her voice and rip our souls apart with her self-destructive ways.

But what about Donovan McKee?

We will never know the multitude of ways in which Donovan could have touched our lives, could have shown us all the grace of God.

He might have had the soulful spirit of Ray Charles.

He might have had the keen eye of Bo Bartlett.

He might have had the moves of Jeremy Lin.

He might have had the intellect of Wangari Maathai.

But we will never know what Donovan was capable of, what gift he had. Most of the world will never even know Donovan’s name.

Or the horrible way in which he died.

You see Donovan reportedly failed to vacuum the Pittsburgh apartment on Saturday and for that his mother’s 29-year old boyfriend beat Donovan

For nine hours, Anthony Bush repeatedly tortured the 11-year old.

When the stick he was using broke, he ordered Donovan to get another one, and he beat the boy with that. When the boy got a gash in his knee from the beating, Bush took a needle and thread and tried to sew it up. Then he beat him some more.

Until Donovan became unresponsive.

Then Anthony left him in a heap on the floor like a pile of dirty laundry.

Just left him there for his mama to find him.

We don’t know what Donovan ate during his last meal.

Donovan never got the chance to tear up the sky with a voice that could make angels weep.

The only sound Donovan made was a cry for help.

But none of us could hear him.

We were too busy listening to Whitney Houston sing  “I will always love you” and feeling sorry for ourselves over our loss.

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  • And whose fault is it that the lead story is about Whitney’s meal vs. something more important? Haven’t we, the people, trained the news shows (and newspapers, and news sites) what to make the lead story? Aren’t they simply meeting the demands of the consumers so they can have the ratings/pageviews they need to stay in business?
    The old phrase “we get the government we deserve” could be altered to “we get the news coverage we demand”, could it not?

    • Ours. It’s our fault. I can get 39,000 Facebook shares for saying I didn’t find Go the F*** to Sleep Funny (I still don’t), and I can get death threats for saying it, but let me write about Donovan and where is the outcry then? Oh. That’s right. There isn’t one.

  • Marian

    Again, you have spoken the truth clearly and so very beautifully, Karen. Thank you.

  • John in PDX

    You wonder why I send you weird articles sometimes. I found out about Houston on Sunday morning about 1:am listening to BBC. I refused to watch any news on Sunday because I hate that type of coverage. I don’t know what she ate.

    But I did read about Donavan. I picked it up on a British Newspaper than went to a Pitt local website to learn more. The human race can be so great at times and so devastating at others.

    I’ll read what Ishmael has to write.

    By the way – the higher read article of PA was about the Mayor of Philadelphia particpating in a Soul Train for the Guiness World Book of Records.

    • John: I love getting your quirky stories & weird articles. They entertain and make me smile. Ishmael says he’s moving off to Brazil as soon as he gets that degree. I think we’ll see him on Survivor Island one day soon. I’m glad you didn’t watch the Whitney news and that you focused, instead, on Donovan’s story. Soul Train. Sigh.

      • John in PDX

        I can read Portugese. Lived in Rio for a year in my younger day. Can’t say much about my verbal skills. Everybody used to make fun of my accent.

  • AFRoger

    At my Operation Nightwatch Bible study this month, we’ve been viewing and discussing Dan Merchant’s 2008 documentary film “Lord, Save Us From Your Followers–Why is the Gospel of Love Dividing America?” Merchant looks at the culture wars and our efforts to find things to blame, such as Hollywood. Local screenwriter Mike Rich (Finding Forrester and others) at one point comments that people ask him frequently “Why doesn’t Hollywood make more (wholesome) movies like____(fill in blank)_______?” His frank reply? “Because people don’t go to see them, that’s why.” Merchant’s work is quite timely because one of the prominently featured Christians on screen is now a serious contender for the GOP nomination… And so far, some of his campaign sound bites seem set to ignite a culture war all over again. http://www.lordsaveusthemovie.com/

    I can’t tell you how many adults and elders I have met–people in positions of leadership in churches and community institutions–who say they no longer read or subscribe to our state’s largest newspaper “because there’s never anything good in it.” Secretly, I wonder if their TV and cable viewing patterns would be consistent with that. Those same folks would have missed this story this week by a local secular journalist (also in the documentary film, BTW) who also cares passionately about people: http://www.oregonlive.com/news/oregonian/steve_duin/index.ssf/2012/02/and_some_christians_believe_in.html

    So, yes, indeed. Lord, please do save us from your followers (ourselves) if we aren’t humbled and inspired by these stories because we have refused to look. Every dollar we spend, every hour we spend, shapes the community and the world we live in, for good or for ill.

  • Gloria

    My heart is broken open. I know the angels are listening to Donovan’s voice and heaven has opened for him.

  • Dale Carroll-Coleman

    Thank You for this post. Our hearts should hurt over this tragedy. This is what matters. I appreciate your writing.

    • Thank you, Dale. And yes, our hearts should heart but more importantly, that pain should propel us into action.

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  • Lamstar62

    Thank you, Karen…for voicing in such a beautiful way what so many of us feel…Donovan’s story has touched us …we only wish those around him would have
    heard his many cries for help over the years…where were the teachers..the so many
    others that thought something odd was going on inside those walls..are we so afraid
    that we can’t reach beyond our own fears and save our children??? Thank you for
    speaking out in such a beautiful way…we can’t get this angel off our minds..what his
    aweful cries may have sounded like…may he rest in peace from a horrid existence..
    may we always hear a cry of a child in need is our prayer… Linda, a mother and
    grandmother..Victoria a mother…Ken a father and grandfather…Paulette an aunt..
    Deb a teacher and mother, Terry a father and grandfather…and many more….

    • Japspan

      Lamstar..you said what many of us feel..but are afraid to say…where was everyone??????

    • Karen

      Yes, I know so many care. I understand that people simply don’t know what to do. How to help. I am hopeful that A SILENCE OF MOCKINGBIRDS will help people overcome their silence. I hope it will give people the tools they need to move beyond just feeling bad and become a voice of advocacy for children like Donovan. We can and we must do better than this.

  • Sherwood8028

    I am reminded of the scripture that reads, …”as you did to the least of these, you did it also to Me.” (The words of Jesus in the Gospel according to Matthew)

    Evil has been around since the beginning of time – remember Cain and Abel?

    Most of the media understand the theory – do you remember, “If it bleeds, it leads.”

    There has to be a special place in the hereafter for the likes of Donovan and those who have had to suffer the same plight.

    So now, do we listen for the screams of terror emanating from the Donovan’s of our world or are we even more content to read what we like to read coming through the words of our favorite columnists – or even, the aspiring authors among us?

    Did you notice that I offered no explanation? That, my friends, comes from within.

  • Cynthia Torres

    I have not been the same ever since I heard this story….we need laws to help our children who did not ask to be born…just ask to be loved…Please if you are a battered woman seek help, if not for you…for your kids…He is in a better place…full of love and peace…God bless you papa….