Thursday, April 10, 2014



Alex Hribal, the suspect in the stabbings at the Franklin Regional High School
 is taken from a district magistrate after he was arraigned on charges in the attack
 on Wednesday, April 9, 2014 in Export, Pa. (Keith Srakocic /AP)


(Thursday April 10, 2014, Pittsburgh, PA)  In the wake of a slashing spree yesterday at the High School in Murrysville
that left 21 students and a security guard with varying degrees of slash and stab wounds local, state and federal leaders are calling for more “knife control” legislation.  As the small town of Murrysville just north of Pittsburgh was coming to terms with the shocking events of yesterday some parents and officials were demanding that the issue of knife control to be addressed as a serious threat.  “There are far too many knives in our society.  People are very careless with their knives.  Some knives like penknives, Boy Scout knives or pocket knives are not as dangerous as kitchen knives, hunting knives, survival knives, carving knives, boning knives, sabers, daggers, swords, machetes, and some of the larger bladed implements that are out there”, said a man who would only identify himself as Stanley for fear that he might become a target for a stabbing or slashing if his identity was revealed.  Others in the community and here in Pittsburg as well echoed Stanley’s opinion.

In Washington, DC the Democratic Senator and Majority Leader hapless Harry Reid went to the Senate floor late yesterday afternoon and made an impassioned plea that “We all wake up to the fact of knife violence.  We should not need to be reminded about this country’s knife problem whenever a mass attack such as we witnessed today in a suburban Pittsburgh High School occurs.  We should be dealing with making this less of a knife culture all the time”.  Democrats have long been advocating for increasingly stricter knife control laws.  The Republicans, on the other side of the political divide, are very knife friendly and received staunch support and financial donations from the National Knife Association (NKA).

NKA Chairman Dwayne La Sagna made a statement at a hastily called press conference at the NKA headquarters in Washington, DC.  La Sagna commented that “We all recognize that what happened today in that Pennsylvania high school was tragic.  However, if we continue to just look at knives as the issue we will never reduce knife violence and knife deaths.  Over 99.9% of Americans own and use knives for the same purposes they have and their families have for generations.  The knife is no more a danger to our society in itself than is the crossbow.  We have ample knife control laws on the books and really need to look at the causative factors with knife violence such as the mental health of young offenders. Knife control is not the answer.  I own many knives and use them safely and responsibly for many purposes.  Maybe parents should be teaching their children more about knives and knife safety”.

Dr. Arlen D. Stutter, a clinical psychiatrist at the Western Pennsylvania Home for Lunatics, is a recognized authority on knife violence particularly among young offenders.  Dr. Stutter noted, “We live in a generally violent society.  As a people we tend to be more aggressive in manner and actions, more impulsive and have plenty of ways for us to safely, productively even, to express our aggressive urges and violent tendencies.  But the young people who commit these mass casualty slashing and stabbing crimes tend to be shy, introverted and, as is usually found in most of them, suffering from a more significant mental health issue ranging from simple idiopathic neurosis to schizophrenia and severe psychopathy.  These troubled youths need early intervention and most should be taking copious amounts of anti-psychotic drugs”. 

If the previous four paragraphs seem a bit ludicrous it is because they are.  They are meant to be.  If you were to go back and reread them and replace the word “gun” every time you saw the word “knife”, you would see just how ludicrous those assertions and statements are.  Make no mistake about it; yesterday’s events are horrifying to imagine.  That they transpired in a school, a place historically of safety, security and refuge makes them even more concerning. One might argue that had that 16 year old student with the knives been armed instead with guns we would be counted dead bodies rather than stab wounds and they are correct.  To a point.  Accessibility to and choice of weapon notwithstanding, a person bent on or driven to commit mass violence will achieve that goal one way or another. The point here is that the topic of "gun control" is asinine. The issue, if it were to be addressed, is "illegal" firearms out on the streets being peddled as easily as a rock of crack or a bag of weed.  Those are the guns that need control not the overwhelming majority of firearms owned and used by responsible people.

As Americans we have to accept certain aspects of our culture and society today that may be a little unsettling at first glance, need to be carefully considered when we debate matters of crime, criminality, mental health, gun ownership, gun control and our cultural obsession with violence.  We are a violent people; we always have been.  Our Country itself was born out of violence, practiced wholesale genocide on the Native American population, fought a brutal Civil War and has never known the true sacrifices that come with military conflict on our shores since the early years of the 1800’s.  The two “World Wars” were fought overseas as were all the other military conflicts in which we became engaged. Having not experienced war in our homeland, in our own cities, towns and communities we have become vicariously violent as spectators of violent sports, video games and more than jaded by the daily news. 

Some will argue that we do not have to “accept” these truths about our society, that we have the power to change it.  After all, we are not some banana republic or “third world nation”: we are American’s dam it, and we can change whatever needs changing.  Alas, if this were so.  We are who we are; we do what we can do.  We might dance around the fringes of an issue such as why many of our young children develop into stalkers, bullies, murderers, arsonists, drug abusers, antisocial personalities and exhibit all the various disorders defined in the textbook of mental disorders.  But, for all the fancy footwork and dancing, for all the studies, panels, experts, blue-ribbon commissions, peer reviewed papers and all the rest, we seem to wind up at the exact same point from which we began. 

For a country as big, diverse and disparate as ours with a multicultural, multiethnic composition, free markets, freedom of speech, religion and all the other traits that make our country what it is, it is a little surprising why we do not have more crime, why we don’t have more frequent mass casualty crimes committed.  We number over 400 million in population and are scattered over this part of the North American continent in big urban centers surrounded by rings suburban and exurban living.  We have smaller cities interspersed throughout rural sections in the continental 48 States and our Constitution, while a little strained and twisted, has served us well.  Our public education system and criminal justice system are profoundly dysfunctional and, if one were to believe that those two entities are not intimately related, they would be very much mistaken.  If as a society we cannot provide an equal education for all of our children regardless of any external factors then we are failing as a society.  When our jails, prisons and penitentiaries become the go-to warehousing place for the mentally ill among us we are falling short.

Our broad systemic failures in public education also pose a serious national security threat.  In a paper sponsored by the Council on Foreign Relations and co-authored by two former Secretaries of State, Henry Kissinger and Condoleezza Rice reported that an alarming number of applicants to enlist in the Armed Forces cannot even pass the basic competency tests for admission to the military.  In a similar study conducted by the RAND Corporation over 25% of potential enlistees were disqualified because they could not achieve a passing grade on that same basic skills test that Drs. Kissinger and Rice evaluated in their work.

Providing a basic education for every child in the country should be among the very top priorities of the federal government.  State and local politics, regional tendencies and any number of extraneous variables should not be impediments to attaining that goal.  Our educators interactions with our children may be the only positive interactions they have with an adult.  This is not about need or merit, nor is it about any of the other red herrings that politicians like to throw out into this debate.  This is a nation-wide problem and it needs to be addressed in a serious manner.

We do not intend to say or even remotely imply that lack of education, poverty, bad neighborhoods or whatever else can be tossed into the excuse pot are “valid” reasons for, or “causes” of violence in our society especially among our youth.  That is simply not the case.  Millions of Americans over generations and hundreds of years have lived in less than ideal circumstances and have gone on to be productive law abiding members of society.  We cannot perform some type of “Mass mental health evaluation” for every child or teenager in the country but, the more of them we can teach – actually get into a classroom and keep them there - the better off we will all be.  Having our youth as “students” allows for them to be casually observed and unofficially evaluated by their educators on a daily basis and it is that level of scrutiny, that noninvasive or confrontational observance that might help a teacher identifies a legitimately “troubled” student before they drop out and pick up a knife…or a gun.  Our public schools lose hundreds of students a month to the streets or town squares.  In some of our largest cities, the biggest urban school districts, the dropout rates are almost at 50%.  That should be unacceptable to every person in the country, to every voter, to every elected official be they members of a local school board or the President of the United States.

Until we assume the responsibility as a people to provide an equal education for every child we will continue our slow but sure backsliding and it will continue to get worse.

Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2014 © All Rights Reserved

Wednesday, April 9, 2014








(Wednesday April 9, 2014, The Bronx, NYC)  The inadequacy of words is most acutely evident at a time such as this. While a vocabulary exists to express the emotions and feelings in the face of such a tragedy, they all fall short.  They are, after all, just words.  When a man’s actions are such that we are awed by them our vocabulary no matter how expansive and detailed it is it will  not be capable of providing a way to express that which is in our hearts and minds without them sounding tired and worn.  Some of this is because we have over used some words and undervalued some actions.  When the true mettle of a man is exposed for the world to see it is a challenge to give it voice.  That which is so crystal clear in our minds rings hollow and flimsy no matter the words used.

Earlier this morning a New York City Police Officer, 38 year old Dennis Guerra, passed from this earthly realm after succumbing to injuries sustained last Sunday when he and his still hospitalized partner waded into a thick blanket of toxic smoke and carbon monoxide responding to calls about that fire raging on the 13th floor of a New York City Public Housing building on Surf Avenue out in Coney Island.  The fire was intentionally started by a 16 year old resident of that building who set a mattress on fire because he “was bored”.  The ironies are stunning between these two people.  A Cop without a second thought rides the elevator up to the floor where the fire was most intense and is knocked unconscious by the super-heated noxious billows of smoke condensed in the narrow corridors of that building.

But the ironies are not what we dwell on today nor is it the time to allow our anger and rage to distract us from honoring the son, the man, husband, father of four, and eight year NYPD Veteran Officer.   Dennis Guerra epitomizes the term “Public Servant”.  As part of his sworn duty to provide safety and security for our City and our 9 million residents he reacted to aid and assist those residents at the point where the blaze was most threatening. Neither he nor his 36 year old partner and mother of four, Rosa Rodriguez, had any idea what awaited them as soon as that elevator’s doors slid open but that fact did not dissuade them or hamper their response.

Today when Mayor Bill de Blasio said, "On behalf of all 8.4 million New Yorkers, our hearts go out” to the Guerra family he was likely expressing his own feelings because it would be a false claim to say that this NYPD Officer’s death is a “shared loss”, “a shared tragedy”, because it simply isn’t so.  It is however a very real shared loss experienced by the entire NYPD, past and present members alike, and the families of active duty  Police Officers who often must deal with sacrifices from the most minor disruption of family plans to a major life altering catastrophe such as the Guerra’s face from this day forward.

With the public and media typically so intent to tarnish the NYPD and any of its Members over any infraction real, rumored or false, the unseen thousands of acts of humanity, of quiet kindness and humility, of decency and courage are lost; buried beneath the average New Yorker’s consciousness when they think of the men and women serving in NYPD.  Perhaps that is natural and not an exception to a norm that applies in other parts of the country.  Police Officers are Law Enforcers and, as such, they perform all the down and dirty work that must be handled every day and every night to keep the multitude protected from the criminal minority. But often, they are called upon to act in ways far afield from enforcing the law.  That was the scenario last Sunday.

That Officers Guerra and Rodriquez raced to face down a danger not in the form of a man with a gun or a violent drama being played out is also part of what Police Officers do.  They faced a menace in the form of a corridor from hell engulfed in flames with smoke depriving the Officers that essential element for life – oxygen.  As the fire feasted on the available oxygen the clock ticking off the remaining minutes of the life span for both Officers had already begun.  But, a brain deprived of oxygen dies within minutes and it was in that smoke chocked corridor where life departed from Officer Guerra’s body.  Having never awakened from his coma, with no detectable neural activity, in the small early hours of this morning, the Guerra family decided that any life so dependent on the medical technology that can keep a heart beating as long as electricity is available, would be no life at all.  They understood the cruel fact of “brain dead”.

Our City lost one of our good guys today who also happened to earn his living as a Police Officer. But, ask any Police Officer about the thought of losing their life on the Job and to a man or woman you will always get the same reply; it would be a noble way to go especially if my actions saved the life or lives of another.  If Officer Guerra had been asked that question last Saturday night that is almost certainly the answer he would have provided.

Rest in Eternal Peace Officer, your Job here is complete.  EOW.  Amen.

Copyright The Brooding Cynyx 2014 © All Rights Reserved