The story of the missing Alabama teenage in Aruba has been so pervasive and overblown, it rivals the Michael Jackson case and the tsunami for overpromotion. One of my friends sees it as a diversion from real national problems. A new Downing Street memo? Quick, interview Natalee Haolloway's mom! I don't know how much of that is true, although certainly the administration must appreciate reduced attention on the failing war in Iraq. My wife, who couldn't tell you where Downing Street is, much less tell you why they're issuing memos, could tell you every detail of the Aruba case and scans the web nightly for more news on her investigation. This whole overdone story bugs the crap out of me though. It's tragic, sure, but how is it that that the nation is wrapped up in this one pretty, blond girl and not the thousands of other missing people in the United States.
For example, in 2000, 6,324 people were reported missing and of those, 323 were never found, in the city of Jacksonville, FL alone! In the US, 2,000 people go missing every single day! Most of those (85%-90%) are innocent children. Natalee Holloway is neither a child nor innocent, nor was she in the United States. At the time of her abduction, she left her friends and the relative safety of a nightclub to get a ride to the beach with local men she did not know. My gut tells me that she was involved in illegal drugs and sex on the island. Not that that should condemn her to any fate which may have befallen her. Her case is truly tragic. But no more so than children who are snatched from their own neighborhoods and whose names and faces have never passed before our eyes. For every Natalee Holloway and Jennifer Wilbanks you weep over, how closely do you look at the "Have You Seen Me?" flyers you get in the mail or see in the post office? How much do you pay attention to the people you actually have a chance of helping? (My apologies to the people actually in Aruba combing the beach for traces of Natalee)
I could accept this orgy of press coverage for what it is - an attempt to fill four 24-hour news channels plus hundreds of local newscasts with tabloid information to sell ad time. No harm, no foul, right? Except that yesterday, emboldened by the nationwide panic over her daughter's disappearance, Natalee's mother issues a press statement criticizing Aruba's response, suggesting that they're not doing everything in their power to find Natalee. Ignore the fact that the small island has completely mobilized to find the girl, that the Netherlands has sent its air force jets to Aruba to search, that hotels and citizens have donated over $20,000 to aid the search. Forget that Aruban tourism, which makes up the major part of the Aruban economy has been hurting since Natalee went missing, although that was probably mostly from parents reconsidering their unwise decisions to send their underage teenagers someplace to get drunk and have sex with strangers for a week. Can't this woman see, even through all her grief, how much Aruba has sacrified for her and her daughter's bad choices? To the media: stop feeding us this junk and let the search for her body go in peace. To those glued to their TV sets: how much will you care about the people in your own community who are weeping over their missing children right this minute, but can't even get the local TV station to show their pictures on the news? It makes me sick.