Target Practice Revisited

For many years, the traditional target used by the military for practice has been a series of concentric circles. In the center a “bull’s eye”. For police training, the typical target used at indoor and outdoor gun ranges has been a full body form. Sometimes a head, and /or a torso.

In an attempt to lessen the deadly results of police shootings, I would suggest that the police adopt a target that contains just arms and legs. Specifically, the arms would begin just at the shoulder and extend to the fingertips of both arms. As for the legs, the targets would begin at the top of the thigh and extend to the tips of the toes. After sufficient practice, a trained police officer would automatically shoot not to kill, but to maim- wound in the extremities.

The culprit would certainly be hurt, perhaps not fall, but several other bullets on the arms and legs should disable any person. The revised targets would allow relatives on both sides of the gun to sleep more comfortably, knowing that the ‘perb’ is not dead, and the police officer is not a murderer.

Outrage on the Express Line

When the woman removed the can of Draino from her shopping cart my blood boiled. She had purchased 11 items. The sign above the register clearly stated, “Express Lane Eight Items Only.” Even if I accepted the three cans of corn niblets as one item, she was two items over the limit.

I stared at the nape of her neck, her left ear, and her left cheek. I stared at the store clerk. I couldn’t stare hard enough to satisfy my rage. My eyes were shouting, but no one was listening to them.

I wanted to call everything to a halt. I thought of pulling the plug on the store computer cash register. Didn’t the clerk see the injustice of it? The letters on the sign were printed in bold, bright red paint. The message was unmistakable: “Express Lane Eight Items Only.”

In my desperation I sought some explanation for her callousness. I needed a way to excuse her behavior. She was not aged, nor did she seem crazed. Perhaps she was on her way to the hospital, or perhaps she left several unattended infants at home in front of a defective kerosene heater. There had to be a reason for her utter disregard of the social order.

Why was I so helpless? I couldn’t speak. My tongue curled in my mouth, and my clenched jaw muscles ached. The screams were just behind my lips. The curses recirculated from my mouth to my brain and back again.

I turned to look at the woman behind me. She smiled politely, but she couldn’t , or worse, she wouldn’t help. Maybe she didn’t notice the felony,. I tried to convey my torment with my face, but words were needed and I couldn’t produce any. I thought of mumbling to myself, just loud enough to be heard but not enough to be seen as hostile or rude. I think I did say, damn, or darn it, or some derivative. Whatever I did say, was the most feeble expression I could muster.

The woman was finished. She paid her bill, grabbed her bags and left the store.

I put my quart of milk on the counter and said, “boy, oh boy.” Another enfeebled exclamation. The clerk looked right through me. She asked for my ninety-eight cents, and proceeded to package my milk. I left the store and headed for my car with my feelings were still under siege.

Suddenly, I turned and ran back to the store. I needed revenge. I rushed to the managers booth. I told him that I had just been on the Express Lane and that I needed to report a…a what??? What was I to report? An outrage? A lewd act? A stupidity – a what? The culprit was gone. Only the clerk could be faulted. Did I want to turn the clerk in? I told the manager that in addition to the sign he now had over the Express Lane, he ought to list the punishments for violating the Express Lane rule. He looked at me as if I was crazy. He asked me what I meant. The moment of truth. I couldn’t tell him – I just couldn’t.

I told him that I would call with some suggestions. I felt so awkward – so childish. Why didn’t I go to the 7-11 in the first place.

 

Signs of Danger Missed – Again

 

Monday, February 27, 2012 , T.J. Lane, 17, admitted taking a .22 caliber Ruger semiautomatic pistol to Chardon High School in Chardon, Ohio. He killed three students and wounded two other students.  Why? What motive? Who knew something that day, or days before, or months and years before that deadly day? What were the signs of danger? Perhaps an abusive home life, a psychopath, a loner, friendless, bullied and dozens of other possibilities. The events of that Monday remind one of the Red Lake Massacre in March, 2005. Jeffrey Weise, age 16, killed 10, and wounded 7.

At Red Lake Minnesota,  2005 , a 16 year old kills five students, a security guard, a teacher, his grandfather, the grandfather’s companion, wounded seven others, and then he commits suicide. We all are stunned by the violence of his actions, and once again we ask how come we missed the danger signs. In fact, the danger signs were not missed at all, but rather many foreboding events were clearly noted by various persons, including peers, authorities, educators, and family members. The following are some of the danger signs reported after the horror.

The child’s stepaunt stated that the school or authorities could see the event coming in that,”the clues were all there….but did they not put two and two together? This kid was crying out, and those guys chose to ignore it…”

The high school principal, “…felt like this was a troubled young man, and someone whose problems we felt like we were addressing.”

Internet pen pals reported that they missed warning signs including a gory zombie, Columbine references, a killer who committed suicide, and his statement that he might disappear unexpectedly. On various internet postings, the child used German words translated to mean: forsaken, abandoned, death’s head, and skull. He reported taking anti-depressants, seeing a therapist, and he had new cuts on his wrists. He stated, “The law of existence requires uninterrupted killing…So that the better may live.”

During the prior school year the child claimed to have been accused of threatening to “shoot up” the school. The school principal declined to confirm such an event.

An internet administrator reported that the child wrote that his mother physically and verbally abused him. He wrote an internet story depicting a character dressed all in black, a teacher with a Hitleresque moustache, and references to the Columbine shootings.

Another adult resident of the community, and cousin of one of the victims stated, “There were a lot of signs of real trouble…and he had said last year that he was to kill himself. But somehow I was never scared of him. I don’t know why not. He never really showed that it could be directed this way.”

Fellow students saw his drawings of people with bullet holes in their heads, half-living people with blank stares and skeletons. “He was different, you could say, out of place around here.”

The likelihood is that as the investigation unfolds there will be other ‘signs’ of danger that will be revealed.  Other recollections by friends, family and information retrieved from his computer will torment us as to the possibility that the killings could have been avoided. Dr. Katherine S. Newman of Princeton University suggests that, “it is exceedingly difficult to see these kids coming, to put it together and see the pattern.”

Putting it together from such disparate, non-communicative sources is not only difficult, but often impossible. Only after the fact are we sometimes able to comprehend the behavior of a child so pathetically disturbed. How and when would the various reporters encounter one another, and share their information? What is the likelihood of informed collaboration between a website administrator, internet pen pals, a school principal, a stepaunt, community residents, and therapist? How much, if any, information could have been gleaned from the Grandfather and his companion? Why were they killed? What was happening in his Grandfather’s home?

Everyday we read of killings, by children, adults, men and women.  We are often left to wonder why the deaths couldn’t be predicted and hence avoided. Observations of children’s behavior are often disturbing, yet frequently ignored by peers, and adults alike. Reports of aberrant behavior are often kept privileged by educators, therapists, and other authorities. Acting-out and delinquent acts are seen as typical of a certain age, or sub-culture. Earnest reports are too frequently seen as over-reactions by the reporter. Peers are usually very indulgent of their mate’s bizarre actions, and they will keep the information from their parents, or other authority figures. Keeping secrets is a seen as a virtue amongst many youths.

Jeff Weise, the 16 years old, and T.J. Lane, the 17 year old knew all the facts. Jeff, and T.J.  bore all the tormented feelings. Only Jeff and T.J. lived with all the signs of danger. We owe them and their victims the resolve to speak out, to insist upon being heard, to resist our fears of retribution, to trust and to share our insights and best guesses, to act with a sense of urgency, to require responses to our queries, and to even violate the privileges of privacy when we believe that our actions will protect another’s well being. We can no longer view our children as personal property. We must as a society appreciate the communal responsibility for our children. The signs of danger must be seen, not as troublesome signals, but rather as clear evidence of crisis, peril and vulnerability.

Beat the Clock

Five, four, three, two, one…We have a winner, oh, one moment, we don’t have a winner, we have a loser! I am so sorry, but you missed the deadline by one/half second. What a shame.

Shirley had so hoped that she would win the Samsung Washer/Dryer. She knew the capitol of Jamaica. Of course she knew the capital – she was born in Kingston. How could she possible lose? No way that she could lose. Oh well, the consolation prize was 6 months of free diaper service. Fortunately, Shirley still had an infant little girl.

But Michael, poor Michael, his tale of woe was much more tragic. Michael rarely played the lotto, but last week he decided to take a chance. The total power ball jackpot was 130,000,000 dollars. Unbelievable. Why not try. Michael decided to choose his numbers from the days and years of the birthdates of his wife and four children. He chose 7, 14, 32, 44, 56 and 64. For the power ball number he chose the date of his mother’s death, 16.

After work on Monday evening he went to the grocery store near his home. Unfamiliar with the deadline for buying the ticket, the grocery store lotto machine had closed just 5 minutes prior to Mike’s arrival. Somewhat dismayed, but one dollar richer, Michael went home. Later that evening while watching the late news, the winner numbers were announced. The spunky announcer shouted: 7, 14, 32, 44, 56, 64 and power ball number 16.

For a millisecond, Michael’s entire system went on off. Michael did not believe the numbers, but the numbers were in bold print on the t.v. screen. He immediately told himself that his numbers were different. He wished with all his heart that his numbers were not the same. Michael looked for the piece of paper that he had written his numbers. He couldn’t find the paper. Perhaps he was wrong. No he knew he was not wrong. He lost, but what a terrible loss.

For need of several more seconds, Shirley would be washing diapers in brand new machines. A few more minutes and Michael would be consulting with financial advisors, bankers, and long lost relatives. Deadline! Time’s UP! Pencils Down! And plain old STOP!!!

In Vienna, in the year our Lord, November, 2015, an international clock was ticking. For the first time, the Russians, Americans, Saudis, and Iranians were meeting to solve the Syrian devastation. The deadline came and went and bombs away.

THE MARTIANS

The meeting was called for “time”. Unlike on Earth, time and date are not concepts that control Martian behavior. The Elders and the Youngers were gathered at the “place”. Similarly, to time and date, location is a notion that needs no specificity. All Elders and Youngers are aware of all that matters.

Elder 1: We are faced with a situation that no longer allows for delay. There is no room for unnecessary deliberation or frankly any discussion.

Younger 1: I understand completely.

Elder 1: You do?

Younger 2: Yes. The situation has been a long time in coming.

Elder 2: We are all in total agreement.

Elder 1: The specifics are not yet formulated.

Younger 3: What specifics?

Elder 1: We must determine the nature of our commitment.

Younger 3: Do we have any choice?

Elder 4: Yes, consideration of the potential harm, we must be absolutely clear as to what we are to do.

Elder 1: I for one request a unanimous agreement among all of you.

Younger 4: You certainly have my vote.

Elder 2: Me too.

Younger 3: I am also in total agreement, but I have one question.

Elder 1: Speak.

Younger 3: If we go ahead with the complete plan, do we have a fallback position.

Elder: 3: What are you talking about. What fallback position?

Younger 3: If we are not successful in the mission. What do we do?

Elder 1: There will only be success if we act now. Right now!
All the Elders and Youngers shout agreement.

Elder 1: Now we will have Elder 2 read out plan.

Elder 2: Yes sir! Proclamation of the Elders and Youngers: On this day and at this time and location, We The Elders and The Youngers have authorized the total invasion of the Planet Earth. The invasion will involve the complete array of our interplanetary forces. We are obliged to take this extraordinary action as we can no longer delay the total conquest of the Planet Earth. Our latest intelligence has confirmed that activity on the Planet Earth has reached such intolerable conditions, and the threat of such activity to our wellbeing is undeniable. The Earthlings interplanetary capacity is advanced as evidenced by their popular, though somewhat unrealistic film, The Martian.

For many years we have witnessed the total dissolution of peace and tranquility on Planet Earth. There is no area on that planet that is not in constant warfare, pestilence, poverty, and total disregard for life. They have destroyed their land, sea, and air. We are not absolutely certain of their plans for planetary exploration, but we will not allow our planet to be infested by their ethics, morals, scientific ignorance, economic systems, and most of all their dangerous religious proclivities.

We have evolved to a level of sophistication that we will not allow to be jeopardized by a species that has not evolved in thousands of years. In fact, their planet has regressed to a point of no return. For many eons we have tried to communicate to the Planet Earth, but they have steadfastly refused to believe in life beyond their simplistic universe. All attempts at contact with Planet Earth are terminated. This proclamation is made in good fellowship and good will. We will prevail!