Thursday, December 20, 2012

Political people all ‘talk’ these days about Connecticut. But will they learn?

One of many at half-staff
I’m having a hard time getting all worked up over the tragedy that occurred last week in Newtown, Conn.

Honestly. I hear all the political people at every conceivable level of government going out of their way to make statements about how horrific it is to have in excess of two dozen people (most of them young children) dead, and my initial reaction in every case is to think that the political people are being shameless in their efforts to gain themselves some favorable attention.

SOME MAY TAKE comfort in the idea that a government official who lives nowhere near Connecticut and has no votes to gain from the locals whose lives are directly impacted by the actions at Sandy Hook Elementary School.

But I see it as tacky, if not overkill.

A part of me wants to tell every politician who feels the need to build up their good will by drawing attention to the suffering of others to “stifle” themselves. Who said the “Archie Bunker” character didn’t have some redeeming value?

I’ve seen so many flags flown at half-staff, sat through several “moments of silence” prior to government board meetings, and heard several of the candidates wishing to replace Jesse Jackson, Jr., in Congress make their own appeals to remember the deceased in Connecticut.

I EVEN HEARD a clergy member start off a Cook County Board meeting this week with a reference to the Dec. 14 tragedy. “Today, we pray that we never see a day like last Friday,” said Monsignor Dan Mayall of Chicago’s Holy Name Cathedral.

I fully agree. I hope we never see such a day again, as well. Then again, I’m honest enough to realize we probably will.

To the point where the name “Sandy Hook” is going to recede in our collective memories as a label that we know bears some significance – something “bad” happened there.

But we’ll probably have to look it up to retain the specifics. Just like “Aurora, Colo.,” “Columbine High School,” and “Hubbard Woods Elementary School.”

I THREW THAT last label in on purpose.
DANN: Too many similarities

Because it was at the school in suburban Winnetka that my mind initially revisited when I first heard last week of what happened in Connecticut.

For back in 1988, that was the school entered by Laurie Dann, a nice, sweet Jewish girl from the North Shore suburbs who – it turns out – was mentally unstable.

Her problems, however, were overlooked, and her actions rose to the point of entering that school building, walking into a second grade classroom and firing her weapons.

LATER IN THE day, she shot at another man she encountered, before she ultimately shot herself to death. Although her “reign” continued for days as packages started arriving at various places, loaded with edibles that had been laced with arsenic or other poisons – all put in the mail by Dann.

Laurie’s mindset on that fateful day (I was a reporter-type for the now-defunct City News Bureau of Chicago that day) was bent on a killing spree on so many fronts. Perhaps we should feel fortunately that she failed so badly.

I know some people are going to try to claim that these incidents have nothing in common.

Laurie only killed one student (while wounding about a half-dozen others), while in Connecticut, the body count of children is 20!

BUT THE SPIRIT is the same – a person with alleged mental instabilities walking into a school with firearms and deciding that children whom s/he had no personal tie to were somehow worthy targets.

The fact that Adam Lanza appears to have had access to a larger arsenal of weapons than Laurie Dann did doesn’t really make it any different. That is just quibbling over details.

Listening to political people try to speak about the issue in recent days has caused me to hear many officials talk about the need for greater restrictions on people with potential mental problems.

Particularly when it comes to their ability to obtain a firearm legally.

YET I RECALL the exact same talk occurring in the months following Dann.

Maybe I’m getting old. But it seems like all the handwringing we went through 24 years ago is resurrecting itself these days. The cynic wonders if we learned nothing from what happened in suburban Winnetka – assuming, that is, there is anything we could learn that could prevent such tragic incidents from occurring.

Which makes it seem like all the political posturing might be well-meaning rhetoric, but ultimately all for naught. More evidence that "talk is cheap" when it comes from a government official.


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