CQ…Clark Here

Thoughts and opinions. LOTS of opinions.

Archive for the month “July, 2012”

Gun Control

Up to now, I have written little regarding politics, but recently comments have moved me to this post.  Michael Bloomberg, mayor of New York City, and uber-millionaire, has made some comments about gun control.  In case you missed it, here it is:

http://www.nydailynews.com/new-york/mayor-bloomberg-comment-police-strike-congress-attention-gun-control-debate-level-drew-mixed-reactions-article-1.1120980

In brief (and I’m paraphrasing), he said that he just doesn’t understand why cops don’t go on strike until gun control laws are enacted, and guns taken away from, well, everybody.

First, it is completely reprehensible that Bloomberg, or anyone else, will politicize events like the Colorado theater shooting (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/21/james-holmes-colorado-shooting_n_1692381.html).  Disgusting.  Let it alone for a bit, let the victims’ families have some time, and get Holmes in jail in preparation for his execution.  At least give it a couple of weeks, then if you must, bring politics into it.  But no.  About ten point five seconds after the last victim hit the ground, Bloomberg comes out with his crap.

A bit of background, here.  I have been a career policeman for over thirty years, first in a small town, then as a cop in a larger city, and now I proudly serve as the Chief of Police at a small University in north western Pennsylvania.  While with the City of Erie, PA, I served as a street patrolman and as a detective.  I also was on the SWAT team and Honor Guard.  In detectives, I was promoted to Detective Sergeant and founded the Homicide division, was co-head of the Burglary division, and ended up working white-collar crimes (forgeries, frauds, bad checks).  I have worked with the FBI, with the U.S. Treasury, and with the Secret Service.  I realize this is not New York City, but I have seen and done a lot.  I have had friends die in the line of duty.  I have had friends shot and their careers shortened by gunmen who I am ashamed to say lived to see prison.  I have faced guns, knives, and angry women (just which is more deadly, I will not speculate).  I have investigated homicides by guns, knives, strangulation.  I have investigated sex crimes, child abuse, bank robberies, and granny’s lawnmower being taken from her garage.  I have seen children murdered by their parents, teens shot by boyfriends, and kids hit by trains.  And I have done what I can to help the families of those victims.  I once held the sister of a boy killed by a train.  Three young kids were on their way to their home in the projects when they decided to run across the tracks ahead of an oncoming train.  She and their friend made it.  Her brother did not, and she watched the train smack him and fling him to the side like so much tissue paper.  She clung to me, and would not let me go for over an hour.  In a hot, cramped little apartment I was her life-preserver, keeping her afloat.

I am a life-long hunter, from the earliest legal age, hunting small game, big game, whatever.  I have held guns, I own guns, and I know how to use guns.  Guns are pieces of steel and alloy engineered to accurately propel a small piece of metal for a distance.  In that regard, they are not much different from a piece of steel engineered and formed to strike a small piece of metal and accurately drive it into wood.  It is not the instrument that matters, it is the person wielding it, and what they do with it that makes the difference.  If a person utilizes an instrument, any instrument, in an improper way, it becomes a tool for evil.  It is not the instrument, it is the person using the instrument.  The differences are that a gun is much less personal (in that it can harm or kill from a distance), and it can harm or kill multiple victims with very little effort.

So, would “banning” guns, or even eliminating them, prevent homicide?  Clearly not, and I doubt that any thinking gun control advocate would say that.  What they would say, I believe, is that it would make such actions more difficult, and require a different dynamic to accomplish such a crime.  Perhaps that is a point.  But assume the banning of all guns for a moment.  Do you really think that will make it all that difficult to commit such an atrocity?  Consider the same type of movie theater as the recent atrocity in Aurora, Colorado.  People enjoying a movie, eating popcorn, relaxing.  Suddenly, multiple bombs go off, killing or maiming dozens of people, with not one gunshot heard.  Fantasy?  Consider:  while sitting here at my laptop, eating a sandwich, I timed myself.  It took less than a minute and a half to find over a million websites on making pipe bombs, and over one-hundred thousand websites on homemade explosives. Guns? We ain’t got no guns. We don’t need no guns! I don’t have to show you any stinkin’ guns!  I can make a bunch of pipe bombs with fuses of various burning times, filled with explosive substances, and every piece of this killing machine purchased at my local hardware store.  So, should we ban household cleaners?  Iron pipe?  Nails?  Because with just a bit of planning and time, I can make enough material to kill a multitude of people.

It is a problem of human will and evil intent, not one of “bad” objects.  It is neutral objects being used for evil purposes, and it can be a ball bat, a car, a chainsaw, a knife, or a ball point pen.  Or a gun.

However, it isn’t just gun control that cranked me up about Bloomberg.  There are several things he said that made me want to vomit.  First, his comments were disgusting just on the face.  Cops on strike?  I have been a cop for thirty years, and I have never seen an issue that I thought would justify a general strike by cops.  When I pinned on the badge, I did so as a calling, with a sense of purpose.  Strike?  That is not even in my vocabulary.  Second, even if cops did think an issue worth going on strike, it is illegal in most states for police to do so.  I know this is so in Pennsylvania where I serve, and in New York where Bloomberg lives.  So Bloomberg was kind of showing support for an illegal action.

But you know what really offends me about Bloomberg’s statements?  It is something that as far as I know no one has touched on.  His statement was that he doesn’t understand why cops don’t just go on strike until gun control laws are enacted to protect them.  One of his problems is that the only cops he apparently knows are sycophants and libs who share his views.  I would be willing to bet that most cops, in fact the vast majority of cops, are rather conservative and thoroughly not in favor of gun control.  But this is not the offensive part.  The offensive part is that essentially he is saying, “The issue of gun control is so obvious.  Guns kill cops, and if we ban guns, cops won’t get killed.  Why are they so stupid that they can’t see this or act on this?”  And this ticks me off.  This falls under what I would characterize as “typical liberal thought.”  Now a disclaimer.  I have several liberal friends with whom I have had multiple challenging and enjoyable conversations.  With them there is mutual respect and room for disagreement, as well as passion and commitment.  So when I am discussing “typical liberal thought,” please do not confuse my “debate partners” with my statements.

Bloomberg, I think, likely believes cops to be basically brain-dead thugs, without the capability of deep thought.  Why, they can’t even understand simple issues like gun control!  Clearly they are unlikely to understand more complex issues.  And isn’t that what the liberal elite think of most of us?  African-Americans, Israel, guns, wealth, taxes, the role of government, fill in the blank.  I believe people like Bloomberg think most people simply too intellectually challenged to really understand what is best.

And I believe he shows that with his latest comments about cops.

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Supporting Paterno

Note:  This post will contain some graphic material.

One would have to be from the most sheltered pocket of Appalachia to live in the United States and not know of the Jerry Sandusky/Penn State scandal.  That Sandusky (according to credible testimony during his trial, and according to the jury’s verdict) molested multiple boys over a period of decades.  Based on what I have read and observed, it is my opinion that the verdict was just and fair.

This blog will act on the assumption of Sandusky’s guilt, but that is not the point of what I am writing today.  My focus is on Joe Paterno, known affectionately to legions of Penn State fans as “Joe Pa.”

First, I am a proud graduate of Penn State, and have loved the white and blue for over three decades.  Second, I am not a huge Paterno fan, although I have appreciated his coaching and presence in Penn State football.  Third, I am a committed Christian, seeking to honor God in all I say, all I do, and all I think according to God’s word to man in the Bible.  And fourth, I am a career policeman, having served for over thirty years in my profession.  All these are merely disclaimers that I offer up as background.  I have no doubt that my opinions are (at least in part) shaped by these factors, but in part not.  The following are my thoughts on the whole sordid affair; I have definite opinions on this, but I am attempting to be as dispassionate and objective as I can.

I first made my opinions known months ago on Facebook.  I dropped what I thought to be a one-liner throwaway, when I said something to the effect, “I will save my sympathy for the boys that were molested because nothing was done,” or something similar.  Wow, did I get crucified for that!  I honestly didn’t see it coming, but in retrospect I should have.  Feelings for Penn State and Paterno run deep, and I should have understood that.  In any event, I am a bit more aware now, so hopefully any adverse comments will not sting as badly.  I believe I can go into a depth here that I could not on Facebook, and to present my thoughts on why I believe the way I do.

I want to start this section with a brief description of child sexual abuse, taken from Wikipedia.  It says:

“Child sexual abuse is a form of child abuse in which an adult or older adolescent uses a child for sexual stimulation. Forms of child sexual abuse include asking or pressuring a child to engage in sexual activities (regardless of the outcome), indecent exposure (of the genitals, female nipples, etc.) with intent to gratify their own sexual desires or to intimidate or groom the child, physical sexual contact with a child, or using a child to produce child pornography

This is an excellent article, and I recommend you read the entire thing at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_sexual_abuse.  Child sexual abusers who have physical contact with their victims come in two basic varieties:  child rapists, and child seducers.  No one ever accused Sandusky of child rape.  He was the classic child seducer, grooming his victims over time until they acquiesced to sexual advances.  And I want to be perfectly clear on what that means.  This is a grown man, in his thirties, forties, fifties that had a definite age range for his victims.  And over a period of time, he would befriend the child, be an adult confident for the child, and be everything that child needed most in a man.  A child looks to adults to help him become an adult, to show him how to be a man.  A child needs grown-ups to look up to, to emulate, to trust.  And Sandusky broke that trust.  He used that trust, not to help the boys he abused to reach manhood, but to break them down, so he could use them for his own perverse sexual desires; to use them as he saw fit, and once they got too “old” for him, to move on to the next victim.  Adults who are child sexual abusers will seduce their victims, until the child is compliant, and will eventually place his erect penis into their mouth, or their anus, or both.  In this case, absorb the notion of a fifty year old man placing his penis into the anus of a ten year old boy.  I want you th think about that for a minute.  Seriously.  Close your eyes and consider this for just a few moments.  It makes me want to vomit.  And the thoughts I have of vengeance for those innocents damaged by this non-human piece of filth are decidedly not inspired by thoughts of Christian love.

Philosophically, there are generally two types of laws;  Mala in se, and Mala prohibita.  Mala in se refers to laws that are self-evident, that “nature,” if you will, demands.  Murder for the sake of murder would be considered mala in se.  Rape would be another example.  Mala prohibita refers to laws that are man-made, that exist simply because society had decided that the law in question should be in place.  Public drunkenness might be an example of this, or personal drug use.  None of these laws are invalid, their classification above simply indicates from whence they arise.

I would argue that adults protecting children is a law, though perhaps not codified, in the Mala in se category.  Nature demands that we protect our children, no matter what the situation may be, no matter from whom we are protecting them.  This is where I believe McQueary, Penn State administrators, and Joe Paterno failed.

Here are the general facts of this case.  Mike McQueary. an assistant football coach at Penn State, observed some sort of inappropriate sexual contact between Jerry Sandusky and a very young male in a locker room shower at Penn State.  This is where my disgust with McQueary begins.  What did he do?  He left the locker room, and went home to talk to his dad about it.  Personally, I would have found the nearest heavy implement (think tire wrench or baseball bat) and had a very personal “chat” with Sandusky.  Mike McQueary asked his dad what he should do.  And he turned it to his benefit.  In my opinion, he did what would further his career, and not what was best for that boy.  Also in my opinion, Mike McQueary should never coach football again.  I personally think he should be shunned by society, and should have trouble finding work stocking shelves at K-Mart.

The next day he approached Joe Paterno, arguably the most powerful man in Penn State, and one the trustees had been looking to put out to pasture for a long time.  Now here, what Paterno did approached the correct thing.  Stunned, he contacted his boss and told him of what McQueary had seen.  In my book, not enough even at that time, but he did something so I will not fault him for that.  He should have called the police, which he did not.  His notifying the head of the police is the equivalent of reporting a homicide in Chicago to the mayor, and not the police department.  So do not indicate Paterno even “technically” notified the cops.  He did not.  However, as I said, at that time at least he did something.  He met his absolutely minimum legal obligation.

Now here’s where I have the most difficulty, and where Paterno steps into the unforgivable.  I will quote what Paterno did next:

.”

That is simply unacceptable.  Paterno met his legal obligation, but utterly failed in his moral responsibility, as did every other person connected to this scandal.  For several years after the initial incident, Mike McQueary, Joe Paterno, and other high-ranking administrators did absolutely nothing while Jerry Sandusky had sexual intercourse with ten year old boys.  Nothing.  Absolutely nothing.  Wait, I take that back.  Sandusky was allowed on the sidelines of Penn State football games, often accompanying a young boy.  He was allowed access to Penn State facilities, often accompanying a young boy.  He was allowed to keep his good name and his Second Miles Foundation, often accompanying a young boy.  See the pattern?  By their inaction, men that should have done more allowed young boys to be shattered and broken.  And that I cannot forgive.  Understand, I do not think that anyone other than Jerry Sandusky actively harmed children.  That is all on him, and him alone.  But each and every other adult in this tragedy are culpable for their inaction.  It is not enough that Paterno later said hd “should have done more.”  To me that is hardly a mea culpa.  Had he said that he was wrong, and he was so, so sorry for what he didn’t do, that would be something.  But he did not.  It appears to me that he was more concerned about Penn State football that he was for young boys being molested by a serial pedophile.

It is, to me, unacceptable to believe the equivalent of “Look at all the good that Paterno did.”  One could use that argument about Hitler (and no, don’t get in a twist, I am not comparing Joe Paterno to Hitler).  Look at all the “good” that came out of the experiments carried out on those in the Third Reich’s concentration camps.  Does the good out-weigh the bad?  Certainly not.  Nor does the “good” that Paterno did cleanse the stain from his inaction.

Further, I have heard Paterno’s situation equated to Pete Rose.  Not even close.  Pete Rose never harmed a young boy, nor were young boys harmed because of his actions or inactions.  Not the same, and no comparison.

Further, I have heard the rationale that since I am a cop, it is somehow “different” for me.  Sorry, that doesn’t cut it either.  My Dad was the best man I have ever known, and I can guarantee you that even in his 70’s (he died at age 80), he would not have twiddled his thumbs (to use one of his expressions) were he to have heard directly from someone who had seen a child molested in such a way.

I know there are those that support Paterno, and I do not look down my nose at them.  I believe such support wrong, but it does not make me despise them.  I believe such support to be misguided, and motivated by hugely identifying oneself with Penn State.  It looks to me like “worshiping the man,” or being devoted to one person rather than ideals.  I cannot help but be outraged at the damage done those boys, and I cannot get past that.   You know what?  I wouldn’t even mind the Paterno supporters as much if they were to agree with all I said here, but in spite of all this still appreciated what Paterno did.  But I’m not seeing that.  It appears to me to be blind devotion to the legend that was Paterno, and not seeing the man for what he was.  Flawed, human, devoted to Penn State football, yes, but terribly incorrect in what he failed to do to protect those children.

Last point.  Regarding Sandusky’s wife, I have zero sympathy for her as well.  Either she knew what was going on and turned a blind eye to it, in which case she should be in a cell with a 300 pound mother named “Bertha,” or she did not know what was going on and refuses to believe the truth once presented, and that makes her a useless human being.  Further, what Penn State did to Paterno’s wife was simply wrong.  This was Paterno’s issue, not hers, and they should be ashamed for how they mistreated her.

So.  In the end, I cannot support Paterno.  Had this been anyone else, I would not feel more, or less, outraged.  Think of any well-known figure.  George Bush.  Donald Trump.  Bill Clinton.  A favorite uncle.  A cousin you have known your entire life.  Would your support for Paterno, or your outrage at his inaction be any different if it were any of the men I named?  For me, it would be exactly the same.  I believe in forgiveness, but I also believe in justice.

I hope this does not create a firestorm like my first Facebook post did.  But we will see.

Useless.

That’s me.  Useless.  Worthless.  Incapable of measuring up, of succeeding at…anything.

These are the thoughts and attitudes I have had nagging at me for pretty much my entire life.  I’m not sure exactly why, but I have a few ideas about that.

I am adopted.  My bio Mom approached my folks when she was pregnant to ask if they would consider the adoption.  So, not only was I “chosen” by my parents, my parents were “chosen” by my birth mother.  I grew up knowing of the adoption, and my parents always made sure I honored my mother, even if at the time I did not know who she was; that she had made some very difficult choices under very difficult circumstances in order to see me thrive in a home that I couldn’t have had otherwise.  I looked up my biological family a few years ago, and it has proven to be wonderful.  My adoption and bio family will, in all likelihood be topics of future blogs, but for now I offer it as background.

I cannot speak for all adoptees, but in my case it was difficult on only a couple of fronts.  My parents were fantastic, and I am so grateful to have been their son.  I did, however, sometimes wonder why my mother had given me up.  I knew from my folks that it was for good reasons, but still I wondered.  And part of that, I think, lead me to wonder if I somehow didn’t measure up.  If somehow, it was my fault that I wasn’t found “worthy.”

Growing up it was generally unspoken, but I knew much was expected of me.  I rather coasted through school, with mostly B’s on my report cards, with a couple C’s and A’s thrown in.  It was sufficient, if not outstanding.  My behavior was good, no real delinquency apparent, and I was kind of a “church kid.”  But for some reason I was always striving for more, better, faster, funnier (not attained by studying, are you serious?  Get real!).  I just knew that I kind of disappointed, that I didn’t quite bring home what was expected.

I remember one time, my Grandmother was visiting, and she was standing by the upstairs stairway talking to my Dad.  She turned to me, and looking at me said, “If you ever go to jail, it would kill your parents.”  I laughed at the time, and made light of it, but that has stuck with me for over forty years.

I have worked hard to be approved of by authority figures as long as I can remember.  Not to suck up in an Eddie Haskell kind of way (for you children under thirty, that would be a Leave it to Beaver reference, Eddie being an insincere flatterer), but to perform so that I would be found acceptable.  And that is hard work.  In my case, I could never do well enough at any given task to satisfy my thirst for excellence.  No, that isn’t quite correct.  In truth, I could never do well enough to satisfy my need for perfection.  And therein lies the rub.

Any time that I failed at a task (and in my personal lexicon, the word fail means that I didn’t do it perfectly; I didn’t do it “right.”) the words “idiot!” and “moron!” would ring through my head like the words of a relentless, cold judge pronouncing sentence on a convicted felon.  Over and over, time after time, year after year.

And if this sounds like I’m whining, I do not intend it as such.  I am merely relating how I have lived for most of my life, and actually for as long as I can remember.

I serve a loving God, one who has sent his Son to save me from myself.  And through Christ’s sacrifice, I am whole, unspoiled, in a love relationship with my God and my King.  I think of Jesus as Boromir thought of Aragorn in Lord of the Rings.  I look at Jesus and see “my brother, my Captain, my King.”  And intellectually I know that all is forgiven, all is forgotten.  I know that God has chosen to forget my failures, my imperfections.  But I seldom feel it.  Idiot!  Moron!!  FAILURE!!

Beth and I are currently on Grand Cayman for a long anticipated vacation, with some of our favorite people in the entire world.  And this is paradise.  We have relaxed (I read a book!  Due to responsibilities, I cannot tell you the last time I had a chance to read), gotten in some amazing scuba dives, and spent some fantastic time together.  But even here I have had some roadblocks.  We got a flat tire.  Idiot!  I have lost my cool a couple times.  Moron!!  I have been short with Beth once or twice.  FAILURE!! 

I love the ocean.  When we are at the shore, I customarily park myself near the shore and just experience that point where wind, water and land meet.  I feel small, and yet comforted at the same time.  It is one of the few times I feel content.

One of my favorite things to do when vacationing at the ocean shore is to have my devotional time on the sand or on a balcony where I can see the ocean, hear it, smell it.  Where I can feel the breeze and see the waves, the colors, the horizon.  I have done so this week, and devotions have been good.  However, I have felt a nagging “something” that I could not pinpoint.  I have been looking to God to help me let go of…whatever this is.  And I think today I have a clue.

I decided to not open my Bible to a particular passage to read this morning.  Instead, I really felt led to focus on a bookmark entitled “My Identity/Who I am in Christ” which contains a number of key passages under various headings.  (The bookmark is published by Freedom in Christ Ministries, and as far as I know can be obtained at www.freedominchrist.com.)

Under the first heading, “I am Accepted,” it starts out with John 1:12; I am God’s child.  Comforting, but not awe-inspiring.  Ok, next, John 15:15: I am Christ’s friend.  Huh.  That’s right, I had forgotten that.  Christ looks at me as His friend.  Friends with the creator of the universe?  Nice.  And so on for several more verses.

The next heading, “I am Secure,” was the crux of the time I spent this morning.  And it only took the first verse to shock my system like a glass of ice-cold water after mowing the lawn on a hot August day.  It came from Romans 8:1-2, and it told me that “I am forever free from condemnation.”  And I stopped dead in my tracks.  I looked at the water and the waves, the perfect blue skies with perfect white clouds, and whispered, “How can you not condemn me, Lord?  I condemn myself!”  And as I pondered that, I felt the merest touch of God’s finger deep inside me, and He answered me and He said to me, “How can you condemn yourself when I do not?”  Loved!  Cleansed!!   ACCEPTED!!  NOT condemned.  NOT  a failure.  But a child of the Master.

Useless?  Yeah, probably.  Left to oneself, one can live four score years, and by strength of will maybe a bit more.  For what?  To accomplish a bit, die, and after a time, be forgotten.  But not so in Christ.  I am not condemned.  I am loved, I am accepted, and I am paid for, purchased with the most precious commodity in the world: the priceless blood of Christ, shed for any of us who recognize our hopelessness, and who long for something more.  Christ’s blood shed for me.

I expect I will still struggle with the relentless judge, pronouncing sentence upon me, with the words “Idiot, moron, failure. Useless!!”  But I don’t have to listen to the accuser.  I can rest in the promise, and wrap myself in the truth.  I am not condemned!

What a great vacation.

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