Thursday, May 5, 2011

What Do People Think I Am?


Emma is just trying to be a good lawyer but she has the distinct feeling she's being watched. Soon after this feeling hits her, someone actually kidnaps her. Stuck in a basement she is tortured but eventually escapes. But her nightmare has only begun because when she leads the police back to the madman's house, they know who it is. It's the local coroner. Now with him getting expert treatment from the cops, she must fight back on her own and hopefully submit him to the same pain he did to her. But just as you don't bullshit a bullshitter, don't play games with a serial killer. This one loves games and he'll checkmate you if you aren't careful.  Written by Pon Juice  -IMDb


When on the job during real death investigations, I am usually treated with respect by all involved- law enforcement, EMS, fire, the families, etc... I am mostly taken seriously and almost everyone appreciate what I do.I even get hugs. Something strange happens at other occasions. I've participated in a couple staged exercises where my office participates as the role of The Coroner. Usually, our office is tacked on the end as an afterthought. Something to be quickly done and taken care of. 


Movies like the one above don't help. There are so many strange stereotypes about my job.
This is not what my office looks like. It looks a bit more like The Office but with scrubs and cargo pants.
Sometimes, this is how I feel I am seen.


In Flight From Death :the Quest for Immortality, Gabriel Byrne beautifully narrates the hypothesis that our death anxiety may be the root for many religions and their inherent problems of conflict between differing beliefs.  

The explicit awareness that you’re a breathing piece of defecating meat, destined to die and ultimately no more significant than, let’s say, a lizard or a potato, is not especially uplifting. -Sheldon Solomon

When I've participated in disaster scenarios used to train first responders or demonstrate what they do, I saw some commonalities. The participants seem really stoked, there is a lot of fanfare in making the scene horrifically realistic. There is a lot of makeup that looks like bad B movie zombie stuff. The actors and their dressers really get into it, to me, they really get way into the fake cheesy gore.


So the strange part is that when my office shows up there is a lot a hustle and bustle setting the stage as you will. The more recent disaster I attended was a fake car wreck, they had an industrial fog/smoke machine I would love to have in my yard come October, smashed cars, even a helicopter.  As all the EMS, Fire, Police, student's parents, the PTA were talking about the timeline and who would do whatever, no one would even acknowledge the presence of my office. I felt that we were the unspeakables that are not to be named. When we were mentioned, we were told we had four minutes to pick up the"body". We were to be front and center, I assume to add impact, and then quickly leave. Whisking away the death.


My thoughts are that death anxiety makes people sort of blank out when death is portrayed and it gets to the actual part where accepting ones one mortality should sink in and be acknowledged. Why do families have the bodies of their dead embalmed and made up? It is an attempt to mask the death-look of the person. Why are so many elderly left to wither in nursing homes? 


From my rotting body, flowers shall grow and I am in them and that is eternity.  ~Edvard Munch

3 comments:

  1. That's actually a beautiful Munch quote. It is interesting how people have fun with the whole idea of staging something spooky but as you said, want to whisk away actual death. I guess people are sometimes in denial of the things that scare them. Not many people have the courage to face the things you face for your job.

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  2. death is a funny business.
    perhaps part of the reason they overdue it so Much is because it makes it "gore" instead of death. making it almost cartoony makes it safe, makes it less like a real death.

    our society has pushed death right past a fear and into a Taboo. anything relating to death is forbidden, and that counts dead bodies and those who handle them. they are not feared as much as separate. not to be seen, note to be talked to, in essence, an untouchable.
    luckily their is no way to tell who these individuals are outside of work. but when working they are tainted by death, part of it.
    fair? not really. but it's part of how the average Joe thinks.

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  3. Many years ago when I was teaching a class in death, dying & bereavement at a community college in Kalamazoo, Mich. I did some ride alongs with a death investigator in preparation for the unit I taught on "professions that deal with death". One of the favorite quotes I learned from her was by George Bernard Shaw who said: "Life does not cease to be serious when people laugh. Neither does it cease to be funny when people die."

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