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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Street Kill in a Home Town Newspaper

"On Friday afternoon, as employees of Keary Advertising on Rolling Mill Road readied for their annual Halloween office party, Dundalk resident Dennis McLaughlin parked his car next to the building and walked through the front door with a pistol. About three minutes later, at 12:33 p.m., McLaughlin, who had just fired five shots into owner Wayne Keary, walked outside to the front lawn, pointed the gun at his head and pulled the trigger." The Dundalk Eagle, October 30, 2009

Where I grew up, my hometown newspaper was The Dundalk Eagle. It's one of the oldest weekly newspapers you can find anywhere, publishing in a town which is really the population of a small city, located in Baltimore County, right outside the Baltimore City boundary line.

Once upon a time, the front page of the Dundalk Eagle reported on local events like parades, high school graduations, or unusual weather. I checked out The Dundalk Eagle's recent website to find out what was happening in my old home town, to discover a lot of violence reported. The above tragic story was below the newspaper's front page fold, because, another murder involving a police officer was the headline lead.

This commentary is not a nostalgic cliche, reflective of the peaceful good old days. Rather, it's like Rip Van Winkle waking up from a nightmare and wishing he were still asleep. Since when has hometown news turned into double murder stories?

Americans are, unbelievably, becoming ambivilant about murder. For some reason, we don't want to acknowledge that more people are killed by crazy people who buy guns than die in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. So, I checked. In fact, in 2004, the number of violent murders in the USA was 16, 137. http://www.fbi.gov/ucr/cius_04/offenses_reported/violent_crime/murder.html

This grim statistic was reported in the context of the violent crime incidents being down from the previous year. But, in 2003, the rate was 16,528. Big deal.

Nevertheless, we have become a nation of mourners. We are now experts at creating memorial services. There are too many teddy bears in coffins.

Now, we have seen a grizzly attack by a Muslim American Army officer at Fort Hood, Texas, killing 13 people. With this horrible murderous incident, we have reached the point in America where safety is an elusive concept. If we can't be safe from terrorism and random acts of violence on a US military base, then safety itself is nowhere to be found. Three girls watching stars in North Dakota are found drowned in a lake. A man in Orlando walks into a building and shoots former co-workers. It's become a daily ritual, like the parades, high school graduations and unusual weather reports we once read about in our home town newspapers, like The Dundalk Eagle.

As a nation, we need psychoanalysis. Something is gruesomely wrong and we need to find a cure for it. Please.

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