Shocked, But Not Surprised

This morning’s news was consumed by stories about the shooting at the Congressional baseball practice.  This was a horrible incident, and my heart goes out to those injured.  I wish them a speedy recovery.

I am both shocked and saddened, but there really is no surprise.  An angry despair has spread across America.  A despair caused not by some external influence, but one from within.  Once one of the most respected institutions on Earth, our Congress has devolved into nothing more than a bickering, partisan mess driven by systemic corruption and lack of integrity, with members worried more about campaign contributions than solving the country’s problems.  Their approval ratings are at historic lows.

This is being felt internationally as well.  A friend in Germany recently said to me, “… there is some sort of vacuum where US leadership used to be. And that is a potentially dangerous situation. … the new star is China. [The US has] handed world leadership to them on a platter. And they gratefully accept since they anyhow see these last few hundred years as a fluke. Otherwise China always has been the greatest nation in the world.  So that’s where we’ll all have to look in the future.”

I believe incidents like yesterday’s shooting are driven by a sense of hopelessness, a feeling that we can’t fix this.  A lack of hope causes people to either give up or it drives them to extreme actions. We are seeing both.  Initial reports of the shooter indicate he was emotionally distraught, in part due to this governmental chaos and associated divisive rhetoric.

As expected, we are already hearing about how to provide better security for members of Congress, including increased police and Secret Service details.  It seems to me, however, the best security would be obtained simply by Congress cleaning up their mess.  Maybe by becoming respectable again, by eliminating the corruption, stopping the petty politics, and getting back to actually working for America (and setting a good example for the world) fewer people would be compelled to violence through desperation.  And just think of the problems we could solve.



Unbelievably, It’s Still the Same

Sarah Knife r1

Ten years ago my son and his girlfriend visited our county courthouse, for a reason I no longer remember.  When they returned home, they were laughing about the ineptitude of the security screening process.  It seems they had gotten mildly reprimanded because Sarah had not declared the cell phone that was in her purse, found as it went through the scanner. Reaching into that same purse, she pulled out a lock-back knife with a three-inch blade (photo) and asked, incredulously, “Why didn’t they yell at me for this?” A previous boyfriend had given it to her for protection, and she had forgotten it was still in there.

Fast-forward to this afternoon when I visited the courthouse.  Same county, but now in a new fancy building down the street. As I approached the security area, one of the four armed security guards stated, “Everything out of your pockets and through the scanner.”  I then also remembered the large Leatherman tool that lives on my belt (which I should have left in the car!), including its two three-inch blades, and added it to the wallet, keys, and change I had already put in the bin on the conveyor.

When my turn came, I was waved through the metal detector and quickly ‘wanded’ by the guard who had called me through.  He nodded that I was clear, and I collected my stuff from the other side of the X-ray machine and filled my pockets.  As I was reattaching the Leatherman to my belt, I was thinking, ‘this can’t be right’, so held up the tool to the closest guard and asked, “Is it really OK to take this in?”

“What is it?” he asked.

“A Leatherman tool,” I replied.

“Absolutely not!” he said, and it was exchanged for the stub of a ticket so I could claim it on the way out.

Obviously not much has changed at our courthouse.  Their crack security system still hinges on people declaring the weapons the guards miss, and is wasting buckets of taxpayers’ money.  In light of recent world events, that doesn’t give me much of a warm fuzzy.