Who Killed Laci? What Difference Does it Make?

How’s that for a callous tag line? So here is the disclaimer: the answer to the question, “who killed Laci Peterson?” matters a great deal—to a limited number of people. How many? Maybe a few hundred, frankly. It’s quite obviously a tragedy anytime two lives are snuffed out so callously as were the lives of Laci and her unborn son—a tragedy that rightly ought to be mourned by…a few hundred people. Start with Laci’s family. Add her friends, her co-workers, her former classmates, her neighbors, and her church family, assuming she had one. By those who knew Laci, her tragic death is rightly lamented.

But let’s get gut-level honest here, can we? What difference does it really make to us, those of us who never knew Laci Peterson, what fate befell her? Eight months ago, all of us had lived our entire lives utterly unaware of Laci Peterson’s existence. Had we bumped into her on the street—as none of us ever did—we might have thought to ourselves, “what a lovely young lady!” But we wouldn’t have stopped to inquire as to her name, much less anything else about her life. We lived our lives oblivious to her existence—until this past December, when we learned that she had been brutally murdered.

Her life had absolutely no connection with ours, and her death affects us personally not at all—well, okay, maybe in some John Donne “no man is an island” sort of way—but really, while anytime we hear of such an event as murder, we ought to be saddened, it has no personal bearing on us whatsoever. None. Zilch. Zero.

And frankly, we sadly have to say that there are thousands of people whose lives are taken in senseless acts of violence every year in our country. Few of them, it must be admitted, combine such photogenic looks with such an out-of-the-blue story line; many murder victims are among the more “forgotten” people of our society, dopers and druggies and gangbangers and the like. We don’t hear their stories; Greta Van Susteren never mentions them “On the Record”. As such, we feel little kinship with them; we hear of their passing in media accounts and forget their names by the end of the story. We don’t consider their deaths to really make a difference in our lives; we fail to follow their stories to their ultimate conclusion; we don’t hang on whether justice is served in their situations or not. So I ask again: what difference does it make, in a practical sense to you and me, who killed Laci Peterson?

And the answer is, “none”. What, then, does it say about us that we exercise ourselves to have firm opinions about such things? Why must so many people get their evening “fix” of the latest shenanigans of Mark Geragos as he defends Scott Peterson? The fact of the matter is that we are voyeurs, and we are entertained by this real-life drama playing itself out on our nightly news shows. Make no mistake about it: this is categorically not “news”; the Laci Peterson case is entertainment, pure and simple. We might fancy ourselves a hair more civilized than the Roman citizenry who cheered on the gladiators, or who filled to Colosseum to watch the Christians fed to the lions, but in reality, the buzz we get from this story (and the last one, and the next one) is really quite similar.

I hope that Laci Peterson’s killer—be it Scott, her husband, as seems likely, or instead someone else—is brought to swift justice. I hope that in the same sense that I truly hope that justice is never miscarried in this country (hey, I can dream, can’t I?). If Scott did it, hang him! But is it too much to ask that we all might strive to do some more beneficial things, like minding our own business, attending to matters of real importance, and, somehow, getting a life?

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