Thursday, February 22, 2018


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Not long after Nancy and I watched the initial news reports about awful events at Parkland High School, I took our dogs, Ranger and Katt, for their evening walk. I went a bit earlier than I normally do, hoping to inject a bit of sunshine into what had become another day of senseless American mayhem. It worked for a while, until we passed by Walnut School. The building was empty. As I made my way past the dumpster in the parking lot, a surge of grief and rage swept over me. I turned and leaned over the dumpster, sobbing in despair as I did. It was my silent plea for the madness to end.

Before I took Ranger and Katt for their walk the next morning, I read that the death toll seems to be capped at 17. Seventeen! That’s the same number of combat deaths our military suffered in Afghanistan during all of 2017. Now, one should reasonably expect  casualties in a war, but it’s absolutely insane to think that an American school would become, in essence, a war zone where the body count is worse than a “real” war. Yet, since the 1990’s it’s happened over and over and over.  It’s almost impossible to grasp.

We took the same route we did the night before  By the time we got to Walnut School, children were beginning to arrive.  Ranger, our Sheltie, was, as he always is, in his element. He absolutely adores children. He’ll sit in front of them and whimper a bit, a signal that he wants to shower them with affection. Sometimes he fidgets, then holds up one of his front paws. It’s his way of asking, “Can we be friends; I’d really like that.? Let’s shake on it.” The kids love it. Katt just stands quietly, allowing Ranger to take center stage. It’s not that she doesn’t like kids. She’s a bit shy and it takes time for her to warm up to them.

As Ranger and Katt went through their paces, I just observed. One thing I always find amusing is the backpacks the kids tote. They’re bigger than the kids, so big in fact that it sometimes appears to me that the backpacks are toting the kids, not the other way around. The more I think about, the more I sense that those backpacks aren’t so amusing. They just may be symbols for the enormous burdens being placed on kids these days. Not only do they have to worry about their school work, they’ve now got to worry about their safety and whether or not one of their classmates is hatching another diabolical scheme. I’m sure their parents are also worrying as they send them off to school with a hug or kiss.

There’s so much that’s frightening about these senseless acts of terror. The perpetrators always seem able to marshal powerful weapons. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, who were about 18 when they went on their rampage in Columbine in 1999, used a 9MM carbine, a 12 gauge pump shotgun, and a 9MM pistol with high capacity magazines. Adam Lanza used a high powered Bushmaster when he killed 26 people at Sandy Hook in 2012. In 1997, Luke Woodham was only 16 when he bludgeoned and stabbed his mother to death in the morning, then took a rifle and 45 caliber pistol to his high school in Pearl, Mississippi where he killed 2 of his fellow students and wounded 7 others. Yesterday, 19 year old Nikolas Cruz used an AR-15 to kill 17 at Parkland High School. While the weapons used in the attacks were frightening, it was far more blood curdling to realize that, in each of these cases,  it was kids, not deranged adults,  who were killing classmates, teachers, administrators, and even their parents

I thought about that as I was leaving Walnut School that morning. I saw a couple of older boys walking toward the school. They looked like normal kids, but in the light of all that’s happened in America since the 1990’s, I found myself wondering, “Is one of these boys the coiled spring of anger and despair, ready to snap over some perceived grievance?” I offered a silent prayer for them as I made my way back home.

As I said, I have no solutions to offer. More vigorous background checks and restrictions on high powered weapons, consistent with the Second Amendment, seem reasonable to me. I don’t find that difficult because I don’t own a weapon, unless you consider my “flame tempered” Louisville Slugger (Kirby Puckett model) a weapon.  I have friends who I’m sure would strongly disagree with me.

So, I’m left with the same old solutions, which aren’t being accepted. All I’m left with in the end is my plea for the madness to end!

Thursday, February 08, 2018


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There’s a once in a lifetime event that has many euphemisms attached to it. It’s been described as popping your clogs, pushing up daisies, being promoted to glory, biting the dust, buying the farm, kicking the bucket, or riding the pale horse. We even have euphemisms for our furry friends. We put them to sleep or put them down.

I’m sure you’ve figured it out. I’m writing about death, that once in a lifetime event that the Bible calls, also euphemistically, the last enemy.

I read a recent obituary in the Gazette about a 103 old person whose friends reported that the deceased’s passing was “unexpected.” Unexpected? The deceased must have been a wonderful person and will undoubtedly be missed, but the idea that death at 103 would be unexpected is hard for me to fathom.

It’s been like this for ages. In the Old Testament, subjects of some kings had to address them with the phrase, “Oh king, live forever.” (Daniel 3:9) I’ll bet the satraps and seers must have rolled their eyes when they said it.

I remember attending a meeting years ago in a corporate setting. The young turks were  puffing out their chests, desperately scrambling up the ladder of success, It was pathetic. I sat silently for a while until someone  asked me, “What do you think, Dillon?” I couldn’t help myself. “Do you realize that every person in this room is going to die?” Granted, it was a career limiting move, but it did end a pointless meeting.

Of course, we don’t want to die, but most of us accept death’s reality. That, however, is not always the case. I recently read that a few Silicon Valley bigwigs are spending a lot of money trying to solve the death problem. Larry Ellison, the founder of Oracle, is  pouring hundreds of thousands of dollars into “life-extension therapies.” PayPal’s Peter Thiel, who has described death as “a terrible, terrible thing,” is spending millions in his effort to put death out to pasture.

My youngest son and I have talked about Ellison, Thiel, and others involved in this search. He seems to like their ideas. Me? The idea of a cure for death begs a couple of very important questions. First, how much would it cost  the rest of us if they ever did manage to figure it out? I don’t think they’d give it to us out of the goodness of their hearts. It would probably cost a pretty penny, which would make the haunting lyrics of the old Bahamian lullaby a sad reality: “If life was a thing that money could buy, then the rich would live and the poor would die.”

The second question is also very important. Would we want to live in this fallen world with an eternally alive Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton? Not me! No way! I’d be looking for the exit, screaming “Stop the world, I want to get off.”

The dream of staving of death isn’t new. One of my all-time favorite movies is “On Borrowed Time,” a 1939 film about a grandfather who has an appointment with death in the person of a man named Mr. Brink. Gramps is worried about his orphaned grandson, Pud, and wants to protect him at all costs. One event leads to another until he discovers that by sending Mr. Brink up into an apple tree outside his house, Mr. Brink cannot come down to ply his deadly trade. No one can die. Next, Pud is tricked into trying to climb the tree and falls. He’s paralyzed, doomed to spend an earthly eternity in a wheelchair. Gramps then realizes his error and comes to the conclusion that death is the only humane avenue of escape for Pud. He relents and allows Mr. Brink to come down. The movie ends with Pud shedding the wheelchair and walking into a far better  eternity with Gramps.

I once had the opportunity to speak to a group of workers who had a contractual right to “stay on the clock” on any given payday if their checks weren’t being made available to them. I asked them if they would make that same demand for another wage they’d earned. “How many of you guys are prepared to storm the gates of heaven to demand the wages of the sins you worked so hard in life to earn?”

I got no takers.

I’m seventy-five. I have no illusions. Mr. Brink is waiting in the wings for me. That’s alright. There’s also an eternity beyond and I’m told that the rewards that await me are wonderful and they’re free.  So,  when that day comes, I’m going the old fashioned way. I’m just going to listen to the advice of my Counsel and lean on the mercy of the High Court.