Memorials for the Dead Describe Less than the Full Tragedy

New Orleans  The horrific tragedies of our time call for action that is often unheeded, and it has forced me to think more and more about this puzzle. I have increasingly gravitated to a conclusion that part of the mystery of why this happens is that we inadvertently are allowing ourselves to minimize the impact by only focusing on the dead, leaving in silence the many who are permanently maimed, physically and mentally, and by doing so, silencing their voice.

I was struck by the power of the memorial created by the pastor and congregants of the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas after the tragic shooting in their church recently. They made the church itself a memorial with twenty-six white chairs sitting in the church to symbolize their members that lost their lives in the massacre. The dead deserve such a fitting remembrance. To lose life is the loss of everything and the ultimate and permanent tragedy, so let there be no misunderstanding on this score.

But, I couldn’t help thinking about how easy it would have been for them to place another twenty chairs in this space they shared, even if separately, to acknowledge those that were wounded as well. The pain of the experience is also something they will bear for the rest of their lives. Some may heal physically, but the scars of that morning will be etched on both their bodies and minds for the rest of their days.

The shooting at the concert in Las Vegas was, if anything, even more terrible, if decidedly less personal. Fifty-eight people were killed. Lists of other mass shootings rank Vegas as very high in US history. That figure will be repeated forever, but there were four hundred eight-nine people wounded, many of whom will physically be maimed for life. Fifty-eight dead is unimaginable, but 489 is beyond any comprehension. Is their pain not equally worthy of attention? In the events of 9/11, a watershed moment in US history, 2996 were killed, but 6000 were injured both at the World Trade Center in New York City and the Pentagon in Washington.

It’s not just gun violence or terrorism, but even highway safety where we are allowed to gloss over the full dimensions of tragedy and silence the demands for change by minimizing the violent impacts. The latest figures from 2015, the National Safety Council counted 38,300 dead, a figure so large that it is past our realistic human ability to internalize, yet how do we absorb the fact that 4.4 million were injured in car crashes, if we even hear or read the figure at all. Globally, 1.3 million die in road crashes – I can’t even call them accidents at this point which would dilute their power even more – and they only estimate the number of injuries at 20 to 50 million, because the fact that many countries are not counting indicates how little we have come to care.

No matter whether we agree on the need to deal with gun and traffic safety or even the steps that guard national security, as a culture we need to come to grips not only with the dead, but also the wounded and injured. We have allowed the dead and their tragedy to become hallowed, because they have no voice and can be revered for their sacrifice and in some ways their silence, and in so doing we have reduced the full dimensions of these tragedies by ignoring those hurt and maimed. In dealing with these issues as a society, we need to recognize the price they continue to pay and allow their voices to be heard more clearly and loudly in the debates over future action.


Jerry Jones’ Trump Tactics are Revealing More of the Dark Side of the NFL

New Orleans  The public rarely gets a good inside view of rich people’s world, but thanks to the Jerry Jones, owner and chief potentate of the Dallas Cowboys, formerly known as America’s Team, we’re all being shown a vivid display of a real time reality show that turns out to be a plain and simple horror movie. The 32 super rich owners of teams in the National Football League (NFL) are arguably one of the most exclusive rich folks clubs in the country. Thanks to Jerry Jones, we can now confirm that their operations are so tone deaf to what’s happening in America to its people and their lives that they are virtually alien beings.

Full disclosure. The New Orleans Saints are on a roll with seven consecutive wins and knocking on the door to win their eight and have become a contender this season. Having never paid much attention to Jerry Jones, his bullying and illegal coercion of his players until the national anthem controversy forced Local 100 United Labor Unions to step in and file charges against his threats with the National Labor Relations Board, so now we follow him more closely to make sure he toes the line.

Turns out that he’s not only a bully to his players and something of a Simon Legree employer, but a “my way or the highway,” wannabe-bully with his fellow rich club owners, as well as bad loser, bad sport, and Trumpian pretender and reality shapeshifter. In a precious irony, he is also making his own team an object of pity, rather than pride, and destroying its brand throughout the country.

His star running back, Ezekiel Elliott, got caught up in a domestic abuse mess, and the NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, who has been largely an empty suit and a poster boy for missteps in handling domestic abuse in the past, stepped up and suspended Elliott for six games for his actions. Courts have upheld the suspensions, and Elliott has dropped his own appeals and served the first game of his suspension already. Jones though wants a special standard for the Cowboys and his star’s behavior and after having been part of a unanimous vote for an extension of Goodell’s contract and advocate of some of the incentives for his pay, has become the fly in the ointment. His threats to sue the league got him booted off the compensation committee where he had been a nonvoting member and threatened with censure. He has masked his pique around Elliott’s suspension by claiming Goodell’s contract should be held up because of recent problems with decreased fan support for the league and the anthem mess, but Jones now only sounds like Trump trying to blame Clinton because he doesn’t want to deal with his Russian problem.

In a pure move modeled after his buddy, Trump, he has now gotten into a letter writing war with the other owners by claiming they agreed to an all-owners vote to review Goodell’s extension, while the committee has responded saying there is no such agreement and that the owners have already voted for the renewal. Jones also leveraged his 100 pizza franchises into a pizza war claiming that advertisers were losing money on the anthem controversy and allowing the other pizza companies to make fun of him by citing their soaring sales.

Additionally, and perhaps more revealing, Jones has now told ESPN according to the Times, “that Goodell had promised him that Elliott would not be suspended for his involvement in a domestic abuse case,” although Goodell’s spokespeople said there was no such commitment, so “when Goodell then suspended Elliott, Jones told colleagues he would seek revenge, the article said.” What a piece of work this guy is! The owners have threatened him with sanctions. They might should consider putting the team up for sale while it still has any fans outside of Dallas.

Meanwhile the terms of Goodell’s $30 to $40 million per year contract and extension for the nonprofit and Congressionally favored NFL have become grist for the mill at the same time as the reports of the NFL’s miserly record in meeting the terms of their $1 billion settlement over the effects of concussions on its players has also become public. Only 140 of 1400 claims have been honored, and most of those claims have not been fully paid. Parents are increasingly not allowing their children to play football, and efforts to offset the crisis are weak kneed. Football is being pushed from a popular sport to a place alongside guns, sexism, and red state politics, which will marginalize it, if not kill it, in the future.

The NFL might have better prospects with Jones just selling pizzas or whatever and Roger Goodell finding another job somewhere outside of football. But in a country reeling with division and inequity, watching the way billionaires and millionaires pad their own paychecks and ignore the issues of the day in their exclusive club, could also kill what’s left of its public support, as the fans realize it’s just about them, and never about us.