Looking Back, Looking Ahead & Just Plain Looking
By MICHAEL SCHENKLER
One reader criticized me, not for the message of last week’s column targeting Sarah Palin’s Political Action Committee webpage, which took down the graphic with rifle crosshairs aimed at Congresswoman Gabby Giffords’ district.
The reader suggested leaving up the names of the other targeted Members of Congress showed poor judgment on my part.
I never gave it a thought.
In the crazy world, I still have not trained myself to think of the potential dangers that the crazies and extremists of the world pose for us all.
I apologize if I added to the danger for anyone. However, I have a hard time making that connect. And for that I do not apologize.
Sure we all should be aware of what is around us.
“See something, say something!”
And yes the horrors of September 11, 2001 should have made us all realize that our small world is not a safe one and each of us is not immune to the horrors of terrorism or violent insanity.
The “cold war” world that my parents gave to me was a lot more peaceful and sane than the world I am handing off to my children.
And isn’t it a shame that mankind’s advances in science, technology, psychology do not equate with advances towards peace and safety?
|From my generation, a pop poster of the the 60’s and an award winner -- “Some Toys Hate War” -- from silversmith/designer Georg Jensen.
We continue to arm ourselves. We have an out-of-control defense budget (when did they decide to call it defense?). The more advanced our weapons, the more advanced the weapons on the other side — be it terrorists or crazies.
This is not a comment to our reader who criticized our column or a comment on the column itself. It is a stark reality that my generation of peace children must live with.
The “Flower Power” generation did not make the world safer. Our protests and left-leaning belief in all of humanity may have made us all feel better. But sadly, when the history books (or the e-book version) are finally written, it will not be a term of love and humanity that will describe the era that replaced the cold war.
And of everything my generation has achieved, for me the biggest disappointment is our failure to provide children a world more peaceful than we found it.
I think that is something to which my critic can relate.
A Lesson To Be Learned
Ford will add more than 7,000 new workers in 2011 and 2012 in the United States. Ford passed Toyota as the No. 2 seller in the United States in 2010 – second behind General Motors.
General Motors reported the first three quarters of 2010 as profitable – to a tune of $4.2 billion – and is back trading on the New York Stock Exchange.
Last April, the auto industry bailout has repaid to the Federal Government.
It appears that the U.S. auto industry is back . . . and successful.
Now, this is far from my area of expertise, but American hard work, belt tightening and ingenuity are not a thing of the past. If the American auto industry can do it, so can the rest of the economy.
The struggling stores on Main St., the small businesses throughout our borough and the big businesses in the city can find their way back to profitability. The American economy – once an example for the world – may not be a thing of the past.
American hard work and ingenuity can, and I believe will prevail.
We as a people grew fat and lazy. And our national industry and economy suffered as our personal bad habits grew during times of abundance.
The past several years have caused us to refocus. Austerity and motivation has replaced abundance and lazy. From Main Street, Queens to each and every Main Street across the nation, people have become aware that it no longer comes easy.
And when it’s not-so-easy, Americans can be damned good.
Tomorrow can be a new beginning – get to work.
Arizona Shooting: People Who We Believe Are Insane
By HENRY STERN
So much has been written about the tragic shootings in Arizona that we are reluctant to add to the paper flow. The terrible event has given people the opportunity to express their views on hatred (a word which is variously defined), guns (including Glocks with extra ammunition clips), the right (near, far and in between) and mental illness (schizophrenia, paranoia, et al.).
We believe that the murders in Tucson were more than 90 percent the consequence of the shooter’s insanity, and less than 10 percent due to the political climate. We know he was crazy, but he did fix on this Congresswoman as the object of his twisted rage. We cannot measure the precise components of his delusions, but those who say the crime was primarily the result of Arizona’s loose gun laws and political climate are less accurate, in our judgment, than those who attribute it mainly to the shooter’s schizophrenia.
The same Founding Fathers who gave us the First, Fourth and Fifth Amendments in the Bill of Rights gave us the Second Amendment, and it is hard to conclude from the text that it refers only to organized militias. Perhaps it should, but that is not the way it reads. This is the full text: “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.”
We believe that the right to bear arms should be subject to reasonable regulation, and we prefer the New York standard to the Arizona standard, which reflects the views of owners of widely separated homes, some near the border with Mexico, and all a few generations from the Wild West. We approve of what over 500 American mayors are doing to promote arms control, and respect but regret the fact that tens of millions of Americans feel differently, based on their culture, their attitude and their perception of danger.
The most important lesson we draw from the Tucson tragedy is relatively simple: There are hundreds of thousands, possibly millions, of mentally ill people in this country who are not institutionalized and not taking proper medication. Occasionally, these people do terrible things.
The first mass killer, and possibly the role model for the others, was Charles Whitman, who killed 16 people, shooting from a tower at the University of Texas in Austin on Aug. 1, 1966. He was shot by the police.
The Virginia Tech murder of 32 students and faculty in April 2007, less than four years ago, was the most deadly instance of this kind. The killer was 23 years old and committed suicide after the shootings.
The slaughter which caused the most intense reaction took place at Columbine High School on April 20 (Hitler’s birthday), 1999, where two high school seniors murdered 12 other students and one teacher before shooting themselves.
Other similar episodes have received lesser attention, but the issue of mental health is a factor in all these killings. The question arises: What do you do with people who are reasonably believed to be mentally ill, but have not yet done any harm to themselves or others? Can they, or should they, be locked up because they present risk factors? Who measures the risk, and what are the standards for any determination?
If we believe that nothing can be done until the ill person acts out his fantasies, we may be condemning innocent strangers or bystanders to death. Should we call those murders the price of living in a free society? These are the questions that should receive the most attention after the tragedy in Arizona. If we are able to find answers, we may save the lives of other people: Congressmembers, judges, children, ordinary Americans who may be doomed by society’s refusal to respond to strong clues that some people are mentally ill.
We believe there are no ready answers, but certainly there are things that can be done that are not being done today.
For example: Are there any standards of conduct that should be applied to non-criminal behavior where the person involved might, or might not, endanger others? Can people be deprived of their liberty because of a mental defect or tendency that either is, or is not, treatable? Who, if anyone, has an obligation to report behavior which indicates mental illness? To what authorities should concerned citizens address their observations of the subject’s words, threats or actions? Would they be subject to lawsuits by a person whose conduct they felt was potentially dangerous?
You can see why the policy in this area is often to do nothing. Perhaps, with insight, we can do something to protect our citizens from the tragedy we have so recently endured, and from others that are likely to occur in the years ahead.StarQuest@NYCivic.org