Archive for June, 2019


Accountability

In the past week, former school resource office Scot Peterson arrested. We the citizens, we the country, former officers, legislators and parents of the victims willing vilify Peterson. For taking cover rather than confronting the killer, Peterson has been branded a coward, nationally heckled and vilified.

We vilify Peterson for failing to confront the Parkland school shooter, his retirement, his pension, and his life. As such, Broward County prosecutors charged Peterson with seven counts of child neglect with great bodily harm, three counts of culpable negligence, exposure to harm, and one count of perjury.

Damn it. Peterson’s responsible.

“He should rot, that’s how I feel,” said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was on the third floor when she died. “My daughter was one of the last to be shot. My daughter absolutely could have been saved by him and she wasn’t.”

“If Scot Peterson had done his job my son would be alive today,” said Linda Schulman, Beigel’s mother. “One hundred percent had he done something, the active shooter would not have made it to the third floor, had he done his job, instead of standing outside like a coward.”

How many are so positive their child would be alive today if Peterson acted remains unclear. But they’re positive.

“My heart is just beating because we’re over a year here and this is just now happening,” said Gena Hoyer, mother of 14-year-old Luke, who died in the shooting. “This is long overdue.”

“He needs to go to jail and he needs to serve a lifetime in prison for not going in that day and taking down the threat that led to the death of our loved ones,” said Lori Alhadeff, whose daughter, Alyssa, 14, also died that day. “It was his duty to go into that building and to engage the threat, and he froze and he did nothing.”

 “It’s been a long time coming,” said Andrew Pollack, whose daughter Meadow, 18, was killed, also on the third floor. “Accountability is all I wanted, and now it looks like it’s happening.”

Accountability?

I am not a supporter of Peterson. If he failed, he failed. If he perjured himself, he should face the consequences. However, after we’re done staking this man to a cross, we need to take that same passion and convict ourselves – each and every one of us. We are just as responsible for every dead person, from Columbine to current. We can’t stake decades of pain upon one man.

If we convict him, we have to convict ourselves. Allow me to explain.

Since the Parkland shooting in February 2018, over forty school shootings have occurred. In the minutes and hours after Parkland, Florida shooting, politicians began what has become something of a grim ritual: offered “thoughts and prayers” to the victims and deflect.

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics estimated that during the 2016 election, the NRA and affiliates spent a record $54 million to secure Republican control of the White House and Congress, including $30.3 million to help elect Donald Trump.

The NRA funneled more than $1 million to re-elect Senator Marco Rubio. John McCain garnered $7,000,000. Burr received $6.9 million. Blunt hauled in $4.6 million. Garner got $3.8 million. And so on, and so on and so on.

However, Americans elected Rubio, McCain, Burr, Blunt, Garner and so on, and so on and so. We accepted prayers from the masses, said it sucks and moved on.

NBC estimates Americans own an estimated 15 million AR-15s. Of the 340 mass shootings between 1966 and 2016, at least one handgun was used in 76 percent of events, compared to less than 30 percent of events that involved any rifle, not just those categorized as assault-style. Assault-style rifles in particular were present in 67 of the 340 shootings (20%).

In fact, since 2007, at least 173 people have been killed in mass shootings in the United States involving AR-15s, according to a New York Times analysis. The grim list includes crimes in Newtown, Conn.; Las Vegas; San Bernardino, Calif.; and now Parkland, Fla.

When we’re done vilifying Peterson, I hope God holds a mirror to our faces and publicly states:

“How about it? How many would be alive had YOU acted?”

I once heard a nurse refer to the cancer clinic waiting room as “cell block death.” She refused any notoriety as the originator, but its description stuck.

Cancer can be the ultimate waiting room. We wait for a diagnosis and then to learn more about our diagnosis. We wait for test results. Then we are in the ultimate waiting room after treatment, waiting to find out if our cancer will return and if we will ultimately survive our cancer. We wait for years wondering if we are safe, if we have beaten cancer.

The woman sat across from me, emotionally lost, either as a result of a broken romance, life changes from a serious illness, or maybe a demanding employer. In my time, I’ve seen a lot. Even though my shinning armor had rusted, I reached back into my days of dreamlike knighthood and reached out.

Huh? I’m sorry?

I asked if you were ok? You seem concerned.

Oh,” collecting herself. “My bossed called. Asked if my cancer treatment would impact my brain and thought process.”

God,” I said horrifyingly. “I am so sorry.

I am only on my second treatment. I have breast cancer, not brain cancer. I never experienced anything like this before. Have you?”

Ah,” chuckling nervously. “Ah,” pausing again, “Three weeks ago, a supervisor called the sister of a deceased employee three hours after the funeral and demanded when she would ship the company laptop to Information Technology.

Oh my God,” raising her palm to her lips. “That’s awful.

Yup,” with a pause. “When HR heard, HR sent an email to all managers to never, ever do that again, that any communications with a deceased employee’s family comes from HR.” Rolling my eyes, “Imagine, someone had to tell them this.

Sheesh,” shaking her head in disbelief.

Yeah, idiots are out there. Unfortunately, some are in management. When I was in consulting, I witnessed a CEO ghost-pepper mad that the company hadn’t fired an employee prior to receiving a liver transplant, ‘…it was going to affect our health-care plan,’ he stated.

She chuckled, “What kind of consulting was this?

Healthcare.

She roared in laughter. “Yet, here you are.”

Irony of ironies.” shrugging.

I handed a business card and requested that should she ever need someone, to either write an email or call. She smiled, slipped the business card and mouthed the words ‘thank you.’ In the days following, she has not contacted me.

Contrary to the public perception, the statement “first, do no harm” it isn’t a part of the Hippocratic Oath at all. “First, do no harm” is from “Of the Epidemics.” I’ve met many a ‘professional,’ both in and out of healthcare. Let me say this, helping the sick is ‘optional.’

For all on the road to kingdom come, it’s up to us to take care of the sick, the disabled or those in pain. If we see someone struggling with a heavy load or difficult task, we step in and share their burden – share the pain.

“Cancer is like being stuck in the middle of the road with a bus barreling down on you, but you can’t tell how close it is or when it’s going to hit you.”

~Susanne Kraus-Dahlgren~

I flew into St. Louis Friday to attend a memorial for a coworker who passed about a week prior. I remember the call.

Heart attack,” Ms. J. muttered while listening in stunned silence.

The pause was long.

Heart attack,” she whispered in disbelief.

Bob J. was a year-and-a-half older. At 61, he lived a wonderful life and was appreciated by many. Husband, father, caretaker to many abused pets. He was also a suffering Cubs fan. And if he had watched the ending of yesterday’s Cubs-Cardinals game in St. Louis last night, he be dead. So, maybe he got lucky.

Like many before us, I took it for granted that Bob would be around for years. I never told him of my tumor. I never bothered to figure out how I would broach the subject, I just figured he would always be around and I would ‘get to it.’

Life is strange. I attended the Saturday memorial. Late afternoon, I sit listening to jazz pumped via a Bluetooth headset while sipping ice tea at Barnes and Noble. In a few hours, I will sit at a bar and watch the Boston Bruins-St. Louis Blues hockey game. And all the while, I will look upon the lives before me and realize life goes on. Life always does. The world didn’t stop for Bob. It won’t stop for me either.

Of course old acquaintances gathered and gabbed memoriors from a life unavailable.

Ah, the good ol’ days,” Larry chuckled.

Ah, the ‘good ol’ days.’ It was a life before downsizing, when our business hummed at breakneck speeds. Bob, myself and countless others were part of that life. We remembered a life filled with Bob; a life filled with each other; a life filled with laughter. We told tall stories. We laughed. We shook hands. We promised to LinkedIn. We promised to connect. We promised to stay in touch.

We won’t.

None know my story. So, within the course of the normal ‘getting to know you‘ conversation, there are landmines to navigate . . . like how much to say. Friendships are fragile–come too strong, be written off–wait too long, become insincere. I mean, when is the right time to drop the “I’m going to die” bomb?”

How you doing?

Me?” pointing to myself. “Oh, I am going to die in a couple years. Maybe sooner.

Most haven’t learned what I learned, that the beautiful death portrayed by heroes and heroines in Hollywood film is an exception, not the rule.

Prior to Bob’s memorial, I took a customary shower. Gazing for a moment in the mirror, I realized how thin I’ve become. Clothes don’t longer fit. A belt with extra holes that compensates for a dwindling waste. Skin tinged from small streaks of purple, a byproduct of drugs oozing through my veins. There will be no verbal cue. No one will say it. But their eyes will verify that the rose-tinted death we all aspire will not occur me.

As a Buddhist, I realize y body is rented. The day is rented. Nothing will last. And if we live from a mindset of “I am entitled to this,” or “I deserve such-and-such,” we’ll get stuck trying to hold onto something no longer there. Either we change or the world will force us to change.

There are many lessons. First, life goes on – until it doesn’t. Second, the idea of having time for preparation, a time to say goodbye, to receive love and give love, is the kind of death any would choose is wonderful. We all want a death, without suffering, to do what we want to do. Only a handful will get it.

It would poetic for me to say my death should be free of pain, free from suffering, free of deterioration, and free of complications. But that’s not death. That’s a dream. Therefore, the goal should be to have a deeper compassion for others and a greater appreciation for the life that remains.

In doing that, life will go on. And that’s the final lesson Bob taught.

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