Sunday, November 3, 2019

Your vote counts

Tomorrow (by noon) is the end of early voting here in St. Joseph County and Election Day is Tuesday. I urge, no, I beg you to get out and vote!

I have not missed voting in an election since 1976, I even voted long distance from Afghanistan in the 2008 election. I used to view presidential elections as the only ones that really count, but I have come to view that as an incredibly misguided notion, and I think we Democrats are slowly wising up to that idea as well.

Through the past few decades, the Republican Party has made inroads taking over small towns and school boards across this nation. Think about this, a recent poll said people who call themselves Republicans view public education with growing disdain. Republicans call colleges a 'breeding ground for liberalism,' and a threat to traditional American values.

But I digress. In St. Joseph County, and many other locales here in Indiana, battleground elections for a number of mayoral and community will be decided.

I have been a voting poll worker since 2010, and I have noted one fact that deeply disturbs me. Election turnout is pitiful. In our primary election earlier this year, not even 30% of the eligible voters could be bothered to show up.

One of my coworkers at Barnes & Noble told me a few weeks back she has not voted since Bush v. Kerry in the 2004 election. First off, my jaw was fractured when it hit the floor. After I pushed her for a why, she said, "I don't care. They're all the same." At that point, I banged my head against the wall. If anyone truly thinks the Democrats and the Republicans are just alike, they are clearly NOT paying attention. And if one accepts that thought, it is clear the Democrats are not getting their message out.

I feel a great deal is riding on this election, and doubly so next year! I think it imperative that as many people show up this Tuesday and again, especially next year. If you think the two parties are exactly alike, you must educate yourself. Look for some non-partisan websites discussing where the two parties stand.

As a St. Joseph County voting judge, I cannot steer you in one political party's direction or the other, and I surely need not say one word on which party I believe has the average Joe's best interests to heart.

So... instead of telling you who to vote for, I merely say get out there and VOTE!

Sunday, September 29, 2019

Honoring our fallen

I have run, maybe, a dozen 5 and 10k races (two mini-marathons and one marathon) in my life, and I can honestly say today’s 5k had me all choked up on numerous occasions. The Tunnel 2 Tower 5k is run in memory of the firemen and first responders who died in the line of duty on September 11, 2001.

Hundreds, if not thousands of the runners/walkers represented the five branches of the Armed Services and veterans, police, firefighters and first responders. Thousands more were corporate, special interest organizations, and non profits such as the Sheep Dog Impact Assistance, the group for whom I represented today. And still thousands more, all were there to honor fallen heroes.

At the start of the race we stood near one of the Fire Engines Firehouse) that sent their teams to the World Trade Center that morning.

Near the end of the race, for at least a mile, on both sides of the street stood firemen and firemen in full dress uniforms holding banners with a photo and name of a fallen policeman or firefighter. I shook the hands of what seemed like nearly all of them as we passed them by.

A number of times we stopped to let some of our older members catch up with us. At one of those points I noticed a woman holding an obviously handmade placard with the photo of a fireman lost on 9/11. I asked her if he was a family member. She said he was her son.

There was no way I was moving forward without giving her a hug and a “I’m sorry for your loss.” (I am all teary-eyed recounting this poignant moment)

As we neared the finish, there were thousands of JROTC members, junior and high school kids, and countless other people from all walks of life present to cheer us on.

This is a race I wanted to run, but could not. I think I am making it my mission for next year.

Many races are run for the sake of sport. This one comes from the heart and soul of New Yorkers who will never let us forget.

Tuesday, September 17, 2019

Cokie Roberts: A paragon

Do you have heroes? Sure, we all do.

As a kid, my heroes typically was astronauts, my Grandparents, and my uncles, and especially my parents. In later years as I matured, my heroes were writers, especially journalists. How could I not? My generation had David Brinkley, Chet Huntley, David Chancellor, Howard K. Smith, Harry Reasoner. Roger Mudd, Dan Rather, and at the top of the heap, the venerable Walter Cronkite, often called the most trusted man in America.

In the 1980s to the present, the news has been delivered to us by Jane Pauley, Barbara Walters, David Muir, Hugh Downs, Diane Sawyer, Tom Brokaw, Gwen Ifill, Lesley Stahl, Andrea Mitchell, Judy Woodruff, and Peter Jennings.

News reporters were my guiding light. Journalists inspired me. A few years back I ran into Mike Collins, a longtime local news anchor, at our store (Barnes & Noble). I sheepishly walked up to him and told him how much he had inspired me to become a Navy journalist.

In subsequent years, one name I grew to admire and respect was NPR/ABC News' reporter-anchor-commentator Cokie Roberts. I was introduced to her as a member of the team on ABC News This Week with David Brinkley, George Will, and Sam Donaldson. She later co-anchored the program with Sam Donaldson after Brinkley retired.

Years later, I was pleased to learn she also was a commentator on NPR. and delighted any time she contributed.

Cokie died today from breast cancer at the age of 75.

In my view, Roberts was brilliant. She was insightful. She was relentless and fearless. She was funny and her wit was sharp yet gentle. Above all, she was a consummate professional. She made it all look easy when questioning the politicians who found themselves on the receiving end of her demands for answers.

She said in a recent interview she would like to be remembered as a mother, a wife and a friend to those for whom she cared. I do not think she will be forgotten by any who cherish unbiased, integrity-based journalism.

I deeply mourned Walter Cronkite's passing in 2009. His death hit me hard. No one lives forever, but I think I will feel as deep a sorrow for Roberts' passing as I did for Cronkite.

Roberts is survived by her husband Steven, her daughter Rebecca, son Lee and their six grandchildren.

Sunday, September 1, 2019

Remembering Sean

Have you ever met someone on Facebook who you felt you knew personally? Sean and I became good friends eight or nine years ago and I loved the connection we made. We often talked and we kept promising to meet someday.

I can imagine you know where this is heading. All too often, there is a bad thing about somedays and the tomorrows that never come.

Sean became ill with cancer and after his valiant effort of fighting it, he passed away January 1, 2014.

I always dread today for it is his birthday and I am thinking of him.

I miss you, my friend.

Sunday, August 4, 2019

An epidemic of violence

In one of my threads on my Facebook page, it was suggested that too many people are pointing fingers about the epidemic of gun violence plaguing America. Alas, I do not see any way but pointing fingers.

The NHS (National Health Services) has wanted to do research on gun violence for decades. Now, maybe we're all sick to death of yet one more study. What's to study? Guns kill people. Okay, okay, people with guns kill people.

A lot of people say mental health is a driving issue of gun violence. It sure is, how can anyone in their right mind wantonly take the life of another?

So if mental health is an issue, let the NHS do their job and study it, BUT the GOP/NRA partnership has for years shut down funding for that. The Democrats have repeatedly attempted to revive the Brady Bill. Again, the GOP/NRA has shut that down. Opponents say there are no needs for more background checks. If the current system of background checks aren't doing the job, this needs to be looked at. Too many people have "legally" slipped through the cracks. You all have surely seen the memes that say it is easier to purchase guns and ammunition than it is to get certain prescription (opiates).

It seems to me, there should be certain controls that raise a flag when someone buys thousands and thousands of rounds of ammunition or large numbers of guns. Seriously, I don't recall the particular case, but I remember the killer of one recent mass killing had just prior to his deed, bought 6,000 rounds of ammunition. 6,000 rounds? Just how many deer did they think going to kill (that's sarcasm, folks)?

And who needs an AK-47 or other assault-style rifles. Don't give me the schtick that some people want it for hunting. Yeah? Hunting humans because no hunter worth their salt hunts with a weapon that is best left in the hands of members of our Armed Forces or police (and don't even get me started on some police over the top actions, which is best left for a totally separate conversation).

I do not think someone "nonchalantly" walking into a gun shop should be walking out. Yes, I know that is not quite how it works, but I do think in some cases, it is far too easy for someone to buy a gun.

I know some people cringe when I suggest this, but I still think gun ownership should entail mandatory gun training (annually?) and ownership insurance. It works for car ownership, why not for guns (and I don't care if auto ownership is not a second amendment issue)?

Today, it is illegal to advertise smoking cigarettes on television. Same goes for the sales of hard liquor. I think the same should be said for gun sales.

Personally, I do not think the Second Amendment is sacrosanct. I also do not think it means what some gun advocates wants it to mean. What part of a "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." means everyone who wants a gun should have one? If gun ownership means "well regulated militia," then go join the Armed Forces.

AND, why oh why, does a second amendment right override my/our right to the pursuit of life and liberty?

It is estimated that there are 393,347,000 guns in America, and that is only an estimate. Again, there are no concrete figures because the GOP/NRA has blocked serious study. Incidentally, the population of the USA is 326,474,000, which means there are more guns here than there are people.

I do not dispute that gun ownership for hunting and home protection is a protected right. I believe "stand your ground" laws make killing too easy. I believe gun laws need to be more consistent from state to state. Personally, I do not think someone should be allowed to buy a gun in a state that they do not reside (one of the recent killers from California purchased his guns in Nevada). I do not see anything wrong with more strict background checks and longer waiting periods.

One can argue that there are plenty of roadblocks in place now. Perhaps. But something is not working. We should not be seeing news reports of daily mass shootings. Why is it that in no country in the world do we read of their citizens performing gun acts of violence as occur here? Are the mass killings that have been happening to us on an increasing frequency the new normal? Are schools, hospitals, workplaces, shopping centers, churches, etc., to now be the accepted sites for target practice?

Whatever the answers are to stop this epidemic, we are clearly not doing it. Thoughts and prayers are not actions, they are nothing more than patting one's self on the back for a polite Christian response. "Business as usual is not a response. It is a moral shirking of our duties to protect the ones we love. I say...

Enough is enough!