Making sense of the senseless
Prayers were said for the victims and the survivors of the massacre in Aurora, Colo., this weekend, not only near the site of the slayings, but right here in Midcoast Maine.
Shock, horror and tears were not limited to the area surrounding the movie theater where a 24-year-old man killed 12 people. Something like this affects us all.
The victims were a cross-section of a community, much like our friends and loved ones. NBC news describes some of them in an article as follows:
"An aspiring sportscaster. A 6-year-old girl. A man celebrating his 27th birthday. College students who moved to Colorado to blaze paths for their futures."
In an attack like this, anyone in a community similar to Aurora says, "What if that happened while I was in a movie theater? What would I do? What if my son or daughter was there?"
Each new mass-killing, each terrorist incident reminds us not only how fragile we are but how difficult it is to ensure our safety and security against the unknown crazed killer among us.
In the wake of events like this, people look for easy answers. Some argue we would be better off with gun control, which would have prevented James Eagan Holmes from amassing the arsenal he used to carry out the massacre. Others counter that people like him, who do not respect the law, would find weapons anyway. Still others argue if more people were armed, maybe they could have shot back, but given his body armor that may have only made things worse.
Can we identify the criminally insane before they kill? Can we increase security everywhere against everything? These discussions are as inevitable as they are fruitless. Here was a man with no criminal record, no clear motive, obsessively committed to killing as many strangers as possible.
Terrorists and mass murderers only want to create fear and anarchy. In the face of such hatred, we can only carry out justice in the courts and give what comfort we can to those who have been victimized.
We fight back not by going out and arming ourselves with weapons similar to his or creating an intolerable police state in which people can no longer enjoy an evening at the movies without putting their shoes through an X-ray machine. We fight back by refusing to live in fear and refusing to give in to cynicism.
We were proud to see President Obama visit the victims. On the one hand, the move could be seen as political, but consider waking up in a hospital room after an event like that and finding the president of the United States has come personally to offer comfort.
Even in the midst of what one victim's family member described as their worst nightmare, there were moments of courage that provide hope and comfort.
Many of those who died, did so protecting their friends and their loved ones.
"Matt McQuinn dove in front of his girlfriend and her older brother to shield them from the gunfire," CBS news reported. "They lived. He didn't."
"John Larimer, who had just joined the Navy, stood between life and death for his girlfriend too.
"Air Force Staff Sergeant Jesse Childress saved the life of fellow airman beside him.
"And Jonathan Blunk pushed his friend Jansen Young to the floor and lay on top of her."
Holmes ended up outnumbered in the argument he tried to make. For the one man in that theater willing to kill, there were many more willing to sacrifice their lives for their friends.
Will it ever end in Warren?
Sometimes there's just too much due process.
Take the battle over the proposed methadone clinic in Warren for example. This has already raged on since 2010, and has managed to get approval from the planning board.
A group of neighbors, through their attorney, have filed an appeal of the project to the town's zoning board. It seems to us the system might make more sense if some appeals went straight to court.
Under the present system, the zoning board could uphold the planning board's decision, deny it or send it back to the planning board due to an error.
So after more than a full calendar year of debate on this issue, involving multiple lawyers and boards, we are adding another board and another lawyer (one representing the zoning board) to the mix. How long and how many meetings will this process require?
If the board upholds the decision of the planning board, the neighbors will likely continue their appeal to court, which could take years to settle the matter. If they deny the application, overturning the planning board's approval, CRC, the company proposing the clinic, will continue the battle in court.
Our bet is this board will remand it back to the planning board, and whatever the planning board does with the application from there will likely be appealed by one side or the other again.
While all of this continues endlessly, rifts in the town widen, volunteers on community boards burn out, and other town business that needs attention falls by the wayside.
It was pretty much a given from the very beginning that this was going to end up in court. Perhaps the Legislature should look at this issue and find a way to keep small communities like Warren from sinking into a legal quagmire every time a controversial, ill-fitted project is proposed by an organization with deep pockets and lawyers on retainer.