that we are suffering when we are not,rnthat we are compassionate when we arernnot, leaving us proud participants in virtualrnmorality.rnChildren are also subject to the vagariesrnof these philosophical inconsistencies.rnAfter horrifying our children byrnshowing them gruesome pictures ofrnbleeding toddlers and babies on television,rnthe community and the nationrnthen proceeded to “comfort” them. Inrnan effort to ensure that all of the childrenrnin our schools knew that someone “feltrntheir pain” over the bombing, a numberrnof things were done. School officialsrnplanted trees in front of schools and heldrnribbon-tying ceremonies in honor of thernvictims. Teddy bears, donated by a wellintentionedrnsomeone in another part ofrnthe country, were distributed. Compassionaterngestures like this, truly kindhearted,rnwere scattered like grapeshot intornthis community. As with all suchrnindirect, impersonal gifts, however,rnmany missed their mark. At the elementaryrnschool my children attended lastrnyear, for some reason the third-grade studentsrnreceived teddy bears after thernbombing. A year later, when all but thernmost directly affected schoolchildrenrnhad gotten over it, we reminded them byrnholding a moment of silence in thernschools at 9:02 A.M. and discussing it allrnover again.rnOne of the sad results of the generalrninstitutionalization of American childrenrnfrom the age of six weeks up is thatrnadults seem to have lost sight of the realitiesrnof childhood. Children are notrncomforted by planting trees and tyingrnribbons and receiving teddy bears fromrnstrangers and feeling guilty because littlernsister did not get one. A child is comfortedrnby the presence of an adult whornknows him and is truthful and compassionaternand who, quite simply, is there.rnThere is also the matter of family honorrnand privacy. Since when should peoplernhalfway across the nation (or aroundrnthe globe, for that matter) be silent staringrnparties to an individual’s or a community’srngrief? Journalists who prey onrngrieving women around the world to getrntheir scoop should be sent back to deliverrnpapers, not write for them. Likewiserndemoted should be journalists who believernthat their audience is too ignorantrnto notice when the grief they are reportingrnis a result not of the political or militaryrncrisis at hand, but of the woman’srnown internal contradictions. During thernGulf War, tor example, nearly half otrnwhat was reported on the television newsrnin the early days of the war concernedrnthe plight of American military familiesrncontaining two military members, ratherrnthan one, who were now both being mobilizedrnand deployed to the front. Weepingrnwomen whined on television, “Whatrnwill I do with my children?” Indeed.rnThe news media’s attention to the distressrnof individuals tends also to obscurernthe larger issues that those who are bravernenough to keep abreast of current eventsrnshould be pondering. Why, for example,rndid the bombing take place on the anniversaryrnof Waco? What kind ofrnseething cultural and political forcesrndoes this point to under the surface ofrnAmerican society—or is it simply a randomrnact of pathological violence withoutrnsignificance? What will be the implicationsrnfor our society of raising anrnentire generation to believe that mass violencern(whether a domestic terrorist act,rna Bosnian war, or a Chechen rebellion)rninvolves a crazed, evil, nasty party wreakingrnrandom, senseless destruction on lilywhiterninnocent victims? And instead ofrn”Why here?” and “Oh no, it can’t be!”rnwhy aren’t at least a few voices going beyondrnthe arrogance of those responsesrnand stating what we all know to be true:rneither there were specific, possibly preventable,rnreasons for this bombing or itrnwas truly random and crazed, in whichrncase Oklahoma City and Middle Americarnare in no way insulated from such arnroll of the dice.rnOklahoma City, for all its portrayal asrna “town of the Heartland,” is, like anyrnother metropolitan area of a million people,rna conglomerate of small local communitiesrnorganized around neighborhoods,rnchurches, schools, and places ofrnwork. Everyone who died at the MurrahrnFederal Building was a member of somerncommunity that cared for him, and thernconsolation expressed by that communityrnwould greatly comfort his survivingrnfamily and friends. Yet the media blitz,rnthe mass memorials, and the nationwidernsympathy campaigns had the ironic effectrnof making the experiences of thesernsmaller, more intimate communities appearrnpaltry and meaningless by comparison.rnThe superficial and insignificantrnupstaged the profound and meaningful,rnsimply because the former was largescalernand centralized and the latter wasrnsmall-scale and local.rnThere have also been responses of thernpolitical and economic “gather ye rosesrnwhile ye may” variety. Politicians havernmade appearances to show their compassion.rnPresident Clinton and Vice PresidentrnGore have come on separate occasionsrnto demonstrate concern. Thernname of our Governor Frank Keating isrnnow known nationwide, not because ofrnhis skills as a governor, but because tragedyrnhappened on his watch. A coffeetablernbook was published within monthsrnof the bombing, and a relentless streamrnof books, events, songs, and televisionrnprograms have filled the last year. Thernanniversary of the bombing saw a resurgencernof economic interest in the event.rnBumper stickers were duly produced forrnsale. Ribbon sales across town skyrocketedrnas merchants made or purchasedrnready-made memorial ribbons for theirrnemployees to wear on the anniversary.rnOf course, the trees planted in front ofrnthe schools needed fresh ribbons as well.rnAs the city for weeks prepared for thernmassive one-year anniversary memorialrnservice, one could not help but be suspiciousrnthat bomb-mourning was threateningrnto degenerate into a state industryrn—a macabre, sentimental, yearlyrnApril Mardi Gras. Thankfully, it seemsrnunlikely that the media, economic, andrnpolitical interests will continue to dominaternthe public grief process in Oklahomarnin the coming years. Since thernone-year anniversary, talk of the bombingrnseems to have subsided. PerhapsrnOklahomans have been honorablyrnobserving a one-year period of publicrnmourning, much as a widow wears blackrnfor a year though she remembers herrnhusband forever.rnThe personal responses to the OklahomarnCity bombing are, of course, variedrnand endless. For those who lost lovedrnones, the grief will continue to take thernform that fits their religious and philosophicalrnoutlook on life. No amount ofrnmemorial services and news reports willrnaffect or alter this. As individual residentsrnof Oklahoma City continue to livernin the wake of this tragedy in our midst,rnthe best things to be done are to comfortrnthe ones we know personally who lost arnloved one and to go on with the necessitiesrnof our own daily life and inner convictions.rnNo man knows the hour of hisrnown death.rnSusan Lanier Anderson writes fromrnEdmond, Oklahoma.rnDECEMBER 1996/41rnrnrn