Wednesday, January 07, 2009

The Travolta Tragedy and an Intrusive Public

A truly sad story came out of the Bahamas a few days ago when word emerged that Jett Travolta, the 16 year old son of actors John Travolta and Kelly Preston, had passed away. Because Jett's parents are celebrities his death has garnered attention that wouldn't have come if he had come from an average American family.

And it is because his parents are famous that the rest of us feel the freedom to comment on a very personal matter for the Travolta family. In reading some of the news reports online about Jett's death I have been troubled by the recklessness exhibited by some of the commenters. Whether it is judgment about Travolta's and Preston's parenting skills or their religious faith (Church of Scientology), people that don't know them feel the freedom to share their two cents as they cope with the death of their son.

I guess it is because of my own family's history of having had to deal with the death of a child that I am so sensitive to this, but why do people feel compelled to publicly post negative comments while others are in a time of grief? As a Christian, I don't agree with the tenets of Scientology. But is this the time to address it while parents cope with the devastation of death? As a Christian I am called to "weep with those who weep" and "mourn with those who mourn."

With the spread of the Internet within our society, we have new avenues of sharing our thoughts and feelings with a worldwide audience. But we need to remember that anyone can read those comments and words. I can't believe the number of knee-jerk, foul and mean comments that get posted millions of times each day online. The anonymity of our computers enables us to hide behind screen names and profiles while leaving comments that would never be made face-to-face to another. Just a word of caution (and a reminder to myself) to think twice before we post something online. We never know who may be reading...

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