Friday, December 6, 2013

So that we can protect you in an emergency

I listened today to spokespeople for the TV networks fall all over themselves trying to explain how difficult it was to make the call whether or not to play the 911 calls that went in after the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  They were released to the media today over the protests of parents and others involved.

What's so damned difficult, I'd like to know.  There is only one reason to play the tapes – so people could look at their television sets and gasp and cluck and get a little charge out of life.  I was reminded of the time I saw somebody actually stick a microphone in the face of a parent who had just lost a child in a car accident.  This isn't quite as obscene as that, but definitely moving in that direction.  Where's the friggin NEWS in this news story?

Instead of getting rid of guns, we put our energy into titillating ourselves with the misery of others.  You’ve got to give credit to CBS.  They said no to this folly right off.  CNN is another story.  Fox went on about how important it was to select the passages you played carefully.  For what?  So the part you played didn’t cross the line?  So that you captured the fear in the voices but didn’t actually play the sounds of the shots?  It makes you want to throw something.

Then came the news of Nelson Mandela’s death, and for a moment I was lifted up again.  The human race was not just one clown after another.  There are people who give their lives to make the world a better place.  Mandela was one of those people.  You mourn his passing, but you know he will always be there, along with Gandhi and Martin Luther King, to remind you there are people who turn despair into inspiration, and that there is no cause to wallow in cynicism and rage at the injustice all around.

But then, as if to remind me not to get carried away with all this loftiness, an e-mail pops into my inbox from my friend Bill in Indiana telling me he is in his office on the campus of Indiana University Southeast, behind locked doors, listening to the sound of helicopters flying over trying to locate a man with a gun.

Indiana University Southeast
They found him.  A stupid kid had forgotten the world we live in today.  They needed a gun as a prop in his theater class, so he brought in his BB gun.  Simply walked onto campus with it as if it were no big deal. Somebody saw him and pushed the panic button.

This is 2013, and this was a university campus, and of course it’s a big deal.  What in the name of all that’s holy was this shlemiel thinking?

As usual, the word went out on Twitter:

IU Southeast Emergency! An armed person has been seen on campus. Go into nearest room and lock door. Follow instructions from authorities

And for 45 minutes people, including my friend Bill, cowered, hoping the next sounds they heard would not be shots or shouting, hoping this would pass.

It did pass.  As soon as the student with the gun realized he was the cause of the ruckus, he phoned in and explained himself.

The interim chancellor sent a message around at the end of the day explaining the events and thanking everybody for keeping calm and helping themselves and others get to a safe place.

What caught my attention in her message was this paragraph:
I want to remind you of how very important it is for you to be registered in IU Notify, our emergency notification system which sends messages via email, text message, voice message, and social media. If you did not receive a notification message, please go to and click on the notification link at that top of the page to update your contact information as soon as possible. It is critically important that we have your current contact information in order to protect you as best we can in an emergency situation.
There it is in a nutshell.  The event itself, which no doubt terrified pretty much everybody on campus.  Some students piled desks in front of the door, barricading themselves in.  And the sign of the times that is the campus “emergency notification system,”   So authorities can “protect” the student body.

There is something terribly terribly wrong in this country.  And I'm not talking about clueless young people who have yet to figure out the rules of common sense in this brave new world we now live in.

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