Lady in Flames
By David Glenn Cox
Sometimes we really have to stop and ask ourselves who we are, divided by class, by race and by gender; subdivided as we are, into straight, gay, leftist, rightist, or even urban or rural demographics. This muffled ragged claim of rugged individuality ties to that Americanism which we see darkly as a noble trait. Only, it is a trait which can untie us from the dock of common humanity and allow us to drift aimlessly and as long as we personally miss the rocks, it’s good enough.
We can get all excited and all worked up by world events or by local media drama. We seek viral videos, titillations, news candy, dark chocolate news, news which appeals to our sweet tooth. But what of true horror, fine for the movies, you say? What about out and out depravity? It seems like it was only a couple of years ago an NFL quarterback went to prison for killing dogs. Killing dogs is a horrible crime and shouldn’t be under appraised, however, during the same time period, our government was responsible for killing innocent civilians and children and no one went to jail.
How strange it is that our society can erupt with volcanic outrage at one crime while ignoring another more outrageous crime. Fox News and many of the mainstream media outlets are obsessed with dead-white-girl syndrome. Any young white woman who disappears or is murdered, is always great news copy. A young woman of any other ethnicity, lost or murdered is, well… not so much. That is the power of media, the gatekeepers of real news, and the directors of the public’s consciousness, ringing the dinner bell for us as Pavlov’s public.
I came across this news story and was struck by the casualness of its tone. Violet Ellen Phillips was 67 years old and she’s homeless. She lived a quiet life on the streets of Van Nuys California. Remembered by Wade Trimmer of the San Fernando Rescue Mission, “She said little about her personal life, but was always grateful,” he said. “She always said ‘thank you’ and ‘God bless you for doing this.’”
We have a picture of a nice, quiet little old lady, living on the very margins of our society, existing on very little. It kind of makes you wonder why someone would douse this little old lady, who wasn’t bothering anybody, with rubbing alcohol and set her on fire as she slept at a bus stop. It is a horrific crime, shocking to anyone with even a modicum of humanity. How can these outrages happen again and again, and yet, nothing is done. Unless you were in Los Angeles, you probably didn’t even hear about the crime. An Indian woman raped in Singapore is news around the world, but a 67 year old woman dosing at a bus stop and being set on fire is only a local affair.