55 – again & again

Given the death of my Dad in 1997, (jireh, abba, virilis) for a long time afterwards I was subconsciously or consciously looking for a father figure – a mentor. I found one in Herb Stuart. He brought what I needed to the table: wisdom, truth, love, and just enough sarcasm and irreverence to make the other stuff tolerable.

We had lunches and we talked about God and politics and parenting and marriage. I helped him with a few legal issues and he helped me with a few life issues. He usually paid for lunch. He was like the friend a dad becomes when the son is finally an adult. Then he died. People do that, and I am usually opposed to it. All the wrong people do it. But he died with family and friends gathered round, and when we assembled around his bed to pray for him in his last hours, he insisted on praying for us, as we needed it more – according to him and his wisdom. He lived well and he died well.

The only other person I’ve ever known who died as well was Dr. Jack Logan. He was on a boat that sank in a huge lake in South America. When the boat went down, Dr. Logan and two young men were left grasping one floating ice chest that wasn’t big enough to support all three until help came. Dr. Logan knew that if he let go the other two could make make it, so he did just that: said his goodbyes and let go. I have always had a profound respect for that act, and for him. The other two were rescued but they stayed alive until rescue only because of the bouyancy of that ice chest. He lived well, and he died well.

I guess I’m thinking about this because Herb’s passing is what shows up in my journal as I’m still reading through it, and because a friend’s husband recently passed, and because 17 kids recently passed on in Florida. But they weren’t ready for it like Herb or even Jack. Their parents weren’t ready, and their friends weren’t ready. They were shot by a fellow student who had recently been expelled from school. The FBI had been warned, but failed to take action, and he had posted threats on social media, but no one paid attention. His parents were out of the picture and he lived with his grandmother. Sometimes, when this kind of thing happens, people are surprised, but no one seemed surprised by this one. And still it happened. AGAIN.

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He was armed with an assault rifle, several magazines of ammunition, and smoke bombs. The several magazines were the trick. He could just as well have been armed with a semi-automatic pistol. As long as he could rapidly squeeze off rounds and re-load, he could do his intended damage. So would a ban on AR’s fix this? I honestly don’t think so, because he could have accomplished the same objective without it. Would a regulation on who can have a weapon have preempted this? Maybe. It would be a difficult task to draw that line effectively without running afoul of the Constitution, but it’s worth a try to see what some legal minds could work out.

But what if his parents had stuck with him, or people had made the effort to include him rather than exclude him when things became difficult? What if when he had been picked on and rejected enough that he gave up on the people around him, someone had refused to give up on him? Before it was too late. Because when people feel rejected and hurt, they start closing down and shutting other people out more, to protect themselves from further injury. Once you start shutting people out, and you realize nobody even gives a crap, the hurt becomes anger. If no one reaches that person before the hurt becomes anger, the anger grows like a fast cancer, killing anything it can.

So what if people gave a crap at the top of this slope, rather than at the bottom when it’s too late? Whether “the people” is schoolmates, school leadership, legislators or law enforcement, it all comes down to “We the People,” and whether we give a crap.

As long as We the People elect representatives who are on the extreme of one side or the other, rather than representatives who understand both sides and are skilled at diplomatic negotiation and problem solving, we will continue to deteriorate.

If We the People could find it our hearts to prioritize legislative problem solving over congressional bullying, buffaloing and filibustering, and vote accordingly, we just might save some lives. But first, we’ve got to give a crap when it’s not yet an emergency.

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