ID (Investigative Discovery) sort of sucked me in yesterday. I find those forensic/true crime shows fascinating. I sometimes think I'd like to go into forensics, only I'm not sure I'd want to make a career out of it. I just think that getting to learn all of the science and play with dead bodies/pigs would be fun and interesting. Same thing for being a medical examiner. Playing with the bodies and such would be interesting. The rest, not so much. Meh.
Anyway. One of the shows I saw was about a girl who was taken back to her dorm from a party and later found raped, beaten and badly burned. She died in the hospital from her wounds and the police picked up one guy who admitted to having been in her dorm and having sex with her. His story kept changing and he accused this other guy he knew of having come in after him and raping the girl. So the police pick this other guy up, who has two incidents of domestic violence on his record and arrest him and eventually take it to trial. Even though all they have on this second guy is the firsts accusation - and the first guy eventually admits to raping the girl and setting her on fire, rigging her dorm room door so it wouldn't open quickly to delay people being able to get in and put the fire out. Real charmer, that. So all they have on this second guy is accusation - no fingerprints, no DNA, no video. They try to fool him into thinking that they have some of that and the guy is very certain that they don't have *his*. He tells them to take his DNA, take whatever they want. They won't find a trace of him in the dorm or on the girl because he wasn't there and he didn't do anything. Which turns out to be true.
But the one cop that was investigating the case, when they were interviewing him for this show kept talking about the second guy, saying: 'He had no sympathy for this girl. He wasn't horrified, nothing.' Well, okay. But here's the thing: it's hard to be horrified by terrible things that happen to people you don't know. It takes something massive like the shootings in Arizona or September 11th or the Oklahoma City bomb. Those are massive and terrifying and make us afraid and sympathetic by sheer force.
Do terrible things happen to individuals? All the time. But unless we're right there or we know them or we've survived something similar it is very hard to work up a show of horror and sympathy. Are we supposed to break down weeping every time we hear about a murder? Do you have any idea how many people die every day by one form of violence or another? Society would be unable to function if we felt things that didn't involve us too deeply. I watch these shows and know that the deaths there are real - these aren't made-up people getting killed in painful ways, but real people. These represent real lives. And I'm sorry that they died, really. It's unfortunate. But I'm not sitting there sobbing in sympathy. I'm fascinated - both by the science and the detective work that goes into catching the killers and by the things that drive people to kill.
So what should people do? If we don't feel sympathy should we fake it? I can do that. We do it all the time to one degree or another. But if you're being questioned by the police should your first thought be, 'oh, I should look sad now'. Or should you, if you're not actually prostrate with grief, try to keep level and answer their questions? How much of a show of sympathy does society require before it's acceptable and doesn't make people think you're up to something evil?