Tuesday, February 20, 2018

Parkland - From The Captain's Log

Parkland is a word.  Parkland isn't a depraved, unspeakably violent act.  It is a word.  A word we've used to name towns, golf courses, Baptist Churches, shopping centers, and the hospital where John Kennedy, the 35th President of the United States, was declared dead. 

For a moment, in our current grief and dismay, we've forgotten that there is nothing bad or good about the word Parkland.  We create names, and we supply the meaning to go with them. 

For example, Parkland is also the name of an elementary school in Coquitlam, British Columbia, Canada.  I used the school's logo to illustrate this post because, it depicts life and knowledge, two resources we must use if we are to move beyond the Parkland of Feb 14th.

Gun control isn't the solution because guns aren't the problem.  Singling out an agency, in this case, the FBI, to shoulder the blame for a senseless shooting is as senseless as the crime itself.  Blaming Donald Trump because of his mindless tweets and remarks makes no more sense than tearing down the school, which has been suggested by more than one person.

The issue is much more complex than an individual's "mental condition," or the failure of a law enforcement agency to handle reports of suspicious behavior, or the lack of security at a school, or even the instigators unwillingness to ask for help. 

We have not identified the core problem and until we do, we're wasting time and energy proposing solutions that are as senseless as the act they are addressing.  To find the real issue, let's step further away from the horror of the manifestation, take a deep breath and think about things for a moment.  It's amazing what a breath of cool clean air wafting around the brain can do.  

The second paragraph of The Declaration of Independence begins, "We hold these these truths to be self-evident..."  And therein lies the issue.  A large portion of us no longer understand the truths the document describes.  If we don't understand them, how can we uphold and defend them?  We can't.  Taking away assault weapons won't make the truths of the Declaration of Independence any more self-evident than firing a law enforcement officer who made a mistake.  

If you've ever read the work of the novelist John D. MacDonald, you know that he was a sage, a man whose wisdom is more applicable today than ever.  In his book, The End of the Night, he tells the story of four young people who go on a mindless killing rampage.  Early in the book, the lawyer for the defendants writes, in a memorandum, his thoughts following his initial interview with the parents of one of the defendants:

"I have experienced a partial failure of communication with Kirby's parents.  I understand why this must be, as I have seen it before.  Everyone who works with criminals in any capacity is familiar with this phenomenon.  It is, I suspect a classification error.  All their lives, they have been conscious of a great gulf between the mass of decent folk and  the sick, savage, dangerous minority  known as criminals.  Thus they cannot comprehend that their son, their decent young heir, has leaped the unbridgeable gulf.  They believe such a feat impossible, and thus the accusation of society must be an error.  A boyish prank has been misunderstood.  People have lied about him.  Or he has fallen under the temporary influence of evil companions.

Their error lies in their inability to see how easy it is to step across the gulf.  Perhaps, in maturity, when ethical patterns are firmly established, one cannot cross that gulf.  But in youth, in the traditional years of rebellion, it is not a gulf.  It is an almost imperceptible scratch in the dust.  To the youth it is arbitrary and meaningless.  To society it is a life and death division."

My less than eloquent take on John D.'s statement is, when truth is no longer self-evident, it is our task to insure that it is once again self-evident.  To do that, we might have to go further back and redefine those truths: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.  Sobeit.  The task is before us.  Let's get on with it.


  1. I found this informed yet objective. There is never one thing to cause an affect.. Good read Bert...

  2. Your choice of words is responsible for initiating a calm space to pause and think. All the hoopla out there is merely a filtered reaction to support pre existing agendas. Protecting our children requires many facets of change, some returning to lost elements of societal decency and common sense. We've lost our values, our respect for others; all because we don't address them at home, at school and fail to listen or go to church. Our hero's are no longer virtuous God fearing human beings. Steve (Santa Rosa)

  3. What I know is that all people, and kids especially, need to be SEEN. Not just clothed, fed, and schooled, but seen for who they are. When adults raising kids can't see past their own personal concerns, we create frustrated, angry, depressed, hopeless young people with no connection to other humans, because no one has ever connected with them. When you share a real moment with another human being, you SEE them truly. How could a kid know compassion if s/he has never experienced it through an adult who already knows? We want to argue about guns and prayer, but we, as adults in our own society, have raised a generation of kids who kill other kids. If we can't figure it out, it's not going to get better! The answer is within each one of us, but we've got to look.

    1. It seems, at a cultural level, easier to fight than to look inside. There are no easy answers, but until we get the questions right, there are no answers at all. Thanks for the well thought out and eloquent comment.

  4. A Canadian Point of View

    My friend, Florence Miller, of Edmonton, BC, Canada, sent this email:

    Hello Bert, wrote a comment to your latest Blog but I did something wrong and it erased.
    Parkland tragedy- Classic Murphy's Law. - everyone from FBI to shaking in his boots
    Deputy was asleep at the wheel!! All systems were in place in name only. Don't
    (from my point of view) need to seek any elusive truth. All that was needed from
    beginning to end was for people to do their jobs! Love :-) Florence

  5. This is a very thought provoking piece of work, which clearly reflects the deep thought behind it. I agree everybody in society has to do their job. The principle one of which is not to disdain or reject the one who doesn't fit in. Maybe to some extent older generations have stepped back from this because technological changes in our society have created superficial behavioural differences between generations. The basic animal is no different. The unloved are dangerous and whilst love in itself may not be the cure, it is not a bad place to start. The unloved magnify their isolation into a self-hatred which leaves them with nothing to lose. The guy who believes he's nothing to lose is the most dangerous guy you will ever meet. It's up to people to recognise the isolated sociopathic individual. We all need to talk about Kevin well before he's old enough to buy a machine gun.

    1. You and Adrienne are on the mark. People are still coming out who knew who claim to have known that Cruz was about to explode. It's time to listen to, love, and help each other. An old memory just flashed through my mind and I'm going to share it - During basic training we went on our first 10 mile march. As we staggered into the barracks, I happened to glance at Cooper, my bunkmate. He was carrying three packs. His and two others. Its time to do something when we meet someone who is having a problem carrying their load.