What can be done ... and will we do it?
By Bert Raynes, Jackson Hole, Wyo.
December 19, 2012
A few United States presidents ago, there was one who could “compartmentalize.” He was said to be able to concentrate on problems and concerns in sequence, setting aside urgent matters to deal with even more urgent ones. This was supposed to be a good thing.
For that person, such an ability was probably a good thing. Back in the day, as I like to now recall, I tried to deal with the most urgent situations first and deal with lesser ones in turn. Placing blame came dead last. (Nowadays I tend to panic ...)
I’m scribbling this as it’s still breaking news that another man (it’s still men) has entered a public building and killed a lot of people with guns. Almost 30 people dead, at least 20 little kids. Authorities are still investigating, naturally.
The current president made a statement expressing concern, sympathy and recognition that this kind of event must be addressed. He was emotional, naturally. So here we have a president who is “fully engaged” with the urgency of national fiscal matters — the fiscal cliff — yet must try to deal with another mass killing of little children.
How does this president absorb a tragedy that obviously affects him as a parent as well as an executive and immediately turn to a phone and try to negotiate a seemingly intractable fiscal problem with a rigid political adversary?
First, a president has to wait for confirmed details to come in. Initial reports are always incomplete — and wrong. There seems always more to the story. This latest shooting happened in Small Town America and not far from TV’s major stable of reporters and producers; details shall be discovered. It’s OK to make mistakes in initial reporting; they’re expected and normal. Must don’t try to correct an initial error in a dispatch from a foreign country; get it all right the first time, or else.
This president seems to have a classic ability to sublimate his feelings when necessary. Appearing at televised dinners as the Bin Laden raid was ongoing, for example, and a similar performance when Navy Seals rescued U.S. citizens at sea.
As I wonder this day how a president will deal with another awful episode, I realize that I no longer seem to be able to compartmentalize as once I think I did. I can’t recall what topics I’d thought of writing about this week. Certainly it was going to be great, but I’m now engaged in reflecting on whether acts of irrational violence can be averted. Essentially I don’t think so, not on an overcrowded planet.
Therefore, I shall end this portion of this week’s column with an entry in my little book “Curmudgeon Chronicles.” It was written about 15 years ago; change a name or two and it holds up.
A Small Quirk
It’s almost predictable these days that following some violent act in which a citizen shoots up a train, fast-food emporium or post office, the media ferret out the accused’s neighbors and ask them to describe him. (Not often a her; just wait.)
The responses fall into two general categories:
• “Oh, he’s just such a quiet fellow. Keeps to himself. Never noticed anything unusual about him.” Or...
• “Never did like him, but never spoke to him. Kept odd hours and dressed strangely. I think he read books. Never saw him wash his car.”
Neighbors of Jeffrey Dahmer, the serial killer-cannibal, added a fillip, remarking that they had noticed on occasion (19 times) an unpleasant odor emanating from Dahmer’s apartment.
Now there’s the friend of a John Salvi accused of shooting and killing two young women in Boston, wounding five other people, and — a day later — shooting up a building housing a women’s health clinic in Virginia. The good friend, John Cristo, is quoted by the Associated Press as saying: “There’s nothing wrong with John whatsoever, other than he killed a couple people.”
Well, I guess. Everybody has some little quirk or other.
Field Notes: Winter arrives. Bears are asleep (presumably). Elk and bison are arriving for lower elevations and the National Elk Refuge. Waterfowl seek open water or migrate. Snow cover pushes seed-eating birds to wind-swept hillsides and friendly bird feeders. (Time to feed the birds.)
Likewise, a percentage of humanoids have melded with one or two boards so as to float on the snow.
The Jackson Hole Christmas Bird Count was held Sunday, Dec. 16. A census of winter wings, carried out yearly. Magpies, ravens, siskins, crossbills, perhaps Bohemian waxwings, evening grosbeaks, red crossbills, all may be in the area. Or not. It should soon be known as of Sunday.
Count day brought weather difficulty to census in — wind, snow flurries, poor visibility — a day for birds to hide in. Counts go on regardless of weather; volunteer citizen-scientists have enough to do to block out a day at this time of the year, and rescheduling is usually out of the question. Blocked roads would do it, I suppose.
I hope to be able to summarize this year’s count by next week.
If you have seen some noteworthy bird or birds any time from Thursday, Dec. 13, through today, inclusive, please call me at 307-733-3721. Thank you.
The Teton County, Idaho, Bird Count will be Jan. 5.
© Bert Raynes 2012
Bert Raynes writes weekly on whatever suits his fancy with a dash of news on nature and its many ways.