Crushed at Walmart…

November 30, 2008

In 1978, or thereabouts, I was in a crowd waiting to go through an entrance for a concert by Emerson, Lake & Palmer.  With a fence surrounding the venue, and only one doorway, as the fateful hour of access arrived, thousands of excited fans pressed toward the porthole, pushing for the opportunity of a good seat, awarded via first come-first served.

Then it happened.  Just 15 feet away from the constricted passage, the pressure rapidly and exponentially grew from all sides.  With good friends and total strangers pressed impolitely into my body, my chest cavity could not fully expand, and I was finding it hard to breathe.

Unable to move my legs as the pressure mounted, my foot caught an ashphalt lump in the ground and I began to tilt over. 

And panic.

Seeing anxiety well up into my face, and my head and shoulders steadily dropping from view, somehow Brian, one of my good buddies, clutched at my jacket and yanked me upright. 

To this day, I am certain that he saved my life.

He also saved himself from the reality of being the first to trample a terrified young man to death.

Just a few days ago, Jdimytai Damour, a holiday employee at a Long Island WalMart, was crushed underfoot by a “mob” of shoppers bursting through a glass door in hot pursuit of bargains that ultimately cost a man’s life.

I suspect a search will be on for the ones early inside the establishment, as they will be held responsible for Mr. Damour’s tragic death.  Having not seen the store security video, it may be right to lay blame at the feet of the very first.

Yet, if Brian had been unsuccessful and I had been killed while nearing the lone entrance for a concert, it would have been my best friends inflicting the initial injury.  And there is nothing they could have done to stop.

You see, it may well be that the real culprits who killed an unfortunate employee were standing well back in the crowd, far away from view and any subsequent pleas to stop.  At 5am, as they pressed forward, even lightly, they combined with many others to create a force at the front, so irresistible, even the best of intentions would have been instantly swept aside by an ugly, almost glacial inertia.

No one can easily or morally absolve those who knocked a poor soul down to his death.  But nor can we presume to know what was in their hearts.  Indeed, there are times when our collective presence creates an unspeakable pressure focused upon and directed through individuals impelled completely beyond their own power.

Indeed, the folks fashioned as an unrecognizable and crazed mob by the media may well be more familiar to us than first imagined.  For in the vast bureaucratic sea of modern society, we too may sometimes find ourselves being the point of an incomprehensibly sharp spear, piercing the hearts and lives of those whose only culpability is that they stand near us.

Whether in middle-management of a company that cannot sustain its present workforce, or in uniform, enacting the sentences meted out by our highest courts, there are those in our world who are often called to carry out that which we cannot bear to conceive.  They stand at the front, compelled by inexorable force from above and behind.

As they stand conveniently at the front, they are often the object of our instant and manifest disdain.  Perhaps they should also be the recipients of our most fervent prayers.

Regardless of their personal culpability, whether at the front, or well behind, all of those who were in any way connected to the trampling an innocent man on Long Island, causing his death, will forever be forced to bear the heavy weight of taking his life.

Thus in the very midst of celebrating the arrival of a Redeemer, we are shown that, truly, we need a Redeemer.  Perhaps He is One Who needs to save us, not only from the sins we commit against others, but also from the ones we ignorantly take upon ourselves.


Alpha Dog?

November 18, 2008

So we got this Sheltie for our youngest, who proceeded to name him Laddie.  Seems innocent enough.

But as a male Shetland Sheepdog, Laddie is both intelligent and very dangerous.  Why?  Because from day one he assumed he should be the Alpha Dog in the house, and as the only other male nearby, I was immediately deemed a threat, an interloper, an imposter.

That’s why every morning, when I get up, Laddie leaps on the bed and proceeds to scrape his head and neck on my pillow.  A subtle move, to be sure, but still I think, very revealing.

Then, after dressing, as I make it downstairs, Laddie attempts a tackling maneuver, adding a vicious growl, challenging my authority and strength, to see if perchance with a new day, a new top-dog has emerged.

Maybe it’s just me, but over the last several months it seems if I sneeze, cough, or even just clear my throat, he takes special notice — a knowing, analytical stare, that initially seemed endearing, even cute.

At first I though it was canine compassion, but now I think he is looking for the slightest indication of the onset of some fatal disease.  Or at least a malady incapacitating enough that my ability to defend against the morning pounce might be sufficiently compromised to enable a swift, but definitive shift in power.

Perhaps I am over-reacting, but I think we may be getting in way over our heads.  Thus, before it is too late, I have suspended all of Laddie’s phone privileges indefinitely and he’s lost the use of my recliner for at least a month.

He thinks he’s so smart!  Well, we’ll just see about that!


The Worst financial crisis since… Jimmy Carter?

November 10, 2008

How many times in the last month have we heard that our nation’s current fiscal dilemma is the worst since the Great Depression?

How soon we forget.

If you didn’t live through it, according to figures published in USAToday, and elsewhere, when Ronald Reagan entered the Oval Office vacated by Jimmy Carter, consumer inflation was at 12.4% (now it’s around 1%)!  The prime lending rate was above 15% (now it’s around 4%), and unemployment hovered for a while in DOUBLE-DIGIT territory (today it’s at 6.5%)!

This is not to mention the hostage situation reaching its 444th day (they were released from Iranian hands, taking off in a plane during Reagan’s Inauguration address)!  During the campaign, he had said, if elected, their captivity would not last another 444 days.  Indeed, it did not.

Clearly, we are in the midst of an economic storm that, if not managed well, could spell real and long-lasting heartache for billions of people world-wide.  But since consumer confidence is so crucial to any recovery and renewal, perhaps it is a good thing to note that we have seen and dealt with FAR worse, MUCH more recently than the 1930’s.

Whenever times are tough, perspective is as valuable as any short-term profit and loss.  Let’s hope our new President will be afforded such in the coming days, and that some will rub off on the rest of us as well.


A Happy World?

November 8, 2008

A strident supporter of President-elect Obama said to me that “the world” seems happy with our new choice.  This, I do not wish to contest.

What I will confess to is a singular lack of interest regarding what “the world” thinks of our President-to-be.

I am, however, interested in the immediate joy expressed by the likes of Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.  In addition, it is also hard to ignore the recent Russian confidence to attempt the placement of missiles on the border of Poland…

What the residents or parlamentarians of France or Germany or Brussels think of these developments matters, to me, not one iota.

How Mr. Obama thinks and acts will matter a great deal.


How to lose $50…

November 5, 2008

Well it looks like my guy will come in second, our next Commander-In-Chief will be President Barack Obama, and I will lose a $50. bet.

This is what makes America so great. 

Far and away, we are the only nation where a child born to an immigrant, now expatriate father, can aspire to, and then acquire, the most powerful office in the land.  Check that, world.

My vote proudly went for the loser, but having Obama emerge victorious has its distinct advantages.  Not the least of these positive ramifications is that our nation can now definitively put to rest the constant playing of the race-card, along with the notion that while we all have a seat at the table, some have to play against a stacked deck. 

Please…  apart from the normal and eternally unavoidable cavities and disparities in the human condition, let us lay that fiction permanently to rest.  Like nowhere else in history, on this planet, in America, where you start does not have to define where you will wind up.

This fact is now permanently beyond dispute.

No, we are not perfect.

But, in this electoral process, if we haven’t shown ourselves to be the ultimate Land of Opportunity, then it is only to those who must have a vested interest in perpetually opening old wounds, preferring the well-worn path of acrimonious division over the new way of restorative reconciliation.

Yes, I lost 50 bucks, but, no matter who our preferred candidate was, we have all gained so much.

All of us now need to stand with our President-elect. 

It is what smart people will do, and what good Americans have always done.


So, who will win?

November 3, 2008

So, even though we are voting for the same person tomorrow (McCain), I placed a bet with a sympatico family member that John McCain will win the Presidential election.  $50. in fact… 

This is serious business!  The person at the other end of my wager, while pulling the lever for the Republican ticket, believes that Obama will prevail.

Why do I hold my present view?  Simple.

The Investors Business Daily had the most reliable polling in the last election, and as of today, they have it as a 4.5 point race, in favor of Obama, with 9.5% still undecided!

OK.  Here is my angle…  9.5% are not, in fact, undecided.

Many, I believe, are actually quite decided, and will enact their choice in the secrecy of a voting booth. 

BTW, as an aside, secret ballots deciding union representation are critical to getting fair and uncoerced results…

Personally, it seems to me that coming out for Obama has been the flavor of the month, for almost two years!  Most people who are giving the nod to the Senator from Illinois have felt this way for a while, and are more than happy to say so.

But saying one might be for McCain often invites charges of bigotry and racism, as if the only reason one might not jump on the Obama bandwagon is because of some personal character flaw! 

Weeks ago, Jack Cafferty, playing the role of impartial journalist for CNN, said as much by opining that the only reason the race was so close was because of race! 

Incredible. 

Even so, it means the climate is much milder for those who say, “I’m not sure,” than “I’m going with McCain…”  Alas, the only truly safe place to express your will is behind a curtain, in the local voting booth.

Tomorrow, millions will punch cards, throw levers and touch screens.  What an exciting privilege! 

I may indeed lose a bet, but regardless of the final tallies, I hope and pray that, in time, it will be seen that in this election, it was the American people who really won.


Promises, promises…

November 3, 2008

Came across this piece from the NYTimes:  “The huge gap has been made possible by Mr. Obama’s decision to opt out of the federal campaign finance system, which gives presidential nominees $84 million in public money and prohibits them from spending any amount above that from their party convention to Election DayMr. McCain is participating in the system. Mr. Obama, who at one point promised to participate in it as well, is expected to announce in the next few days that he raised more than $100 million in September, a figure that would shatter fund-raising records.”

How is it this is even a race?  With 3 times more being spent by one candidate than the other?

Amazing.  The money probably just looked too good to pass up. 

I wonder if all the promises made in the media blitz will have some semblence of expression when reality sets in…