If You Want to Learn Patience, Toast a Marshmallow

The art of roasting a marshmallow, for it is indeed an art like any other culinary endeavor, requires various skills.

Proper placement on the stick—not too close to the edge (it might fall off) not too far down (you’ll lose all the magic inside as you slide it off)

Proper elevation above the flame—too high and it will not roast properly, too low and you’ll have a torch not a treat.

1,375 Roasting marshmallows Stock Photos, Images | Download Roasting  marshmallows Pictures on Depositphotos®
Golden Brown Perfection

But the most important is patience. Balancing all the technical skills in placement and flame elevation is just the mechanics, it is having the patience to allow the savory delicacy to properly heat and change from white to golden brown that is the key to a successful roast.

Marshmallows, while there is no archaeological evidence in the form of a petrified marshmallow, date back to 2000 BCE. Despite this lack of physical evidence—I mean who would leave a marshmallow behind, although properly sealed it is likely they would still be viable after thousands of years— the process was well established by the Ancient Egyptians (who also may have invented beer if you need more proof of their brilliance as a society.)

The plant used to produce this delicious treat (which should have its own food group) is called Althaea Officinalis which translates to Official Food Stuff of Gourmands, my Latin may be rusty but close enough.

Over the centuries, the process was refined to the point where marshmallow exists in hundreds of forms.

My personal favorite is Marshmallow Fluff which fueled almost my entire adolescence (and a significant portion of my adulthood as well.) Combined with that other miracle invention, peanut butter, a Fluffernutter is the height of culinary excellence.

In 1927, the first “official” recipe for S’mores was printed in the Girl Scout Guidebook “Tramping and Trailing with the Girl Scouts” (not sure the title was the best choice of words, but they were different times.)

The original purpose of Graham Crackers was to curb sex drive!

I myself am not a connoisseur of S’mores, I am not a chocolate fan, so I tend toward just eating toasted marshmallows which is much faster than trying to build a sandwich out of melting, gooey confections squashed into a graham cracker.

I also found another danger linked to such practices. The original purpose of Graham Crackers which, after you read this, will forever raise caution whenever you decide to make a S’more or other such snack involving graham crackers.

The original purpose of Graham Crackers was to curb sex drive!

Think about that for a moment.  Don’t believe me? Here’s a quote from the article in Food & Wine.

“Graham crackers were originally invented to curb sex drive. Early 19th-century New Jersey Presbyterian minister Sylvester Graham believed that humanity, as Atlas Obscura reports, was on its way to a moral collapse due to an obsession with carnal desires. He also believed the food we were eating greatly contributed to our undeterred need to have sex. A simple steak dinner with wine could, according to a 1847 text he wrote, “increase the concupiscent excitability … of the genital organs.” So, he promoted a special process of baking using only “finely ground, unbleached wheat flour, wheat bran and coarsely ground germ.” Out of this, came a bland, dry cracker that he named after himself – the graham cracker.”https://www.foodandwine.com/desserts/give-me-some-more-history-about-smore

So, unless you are trying to curb some out-of-control sex drive, learn patience when roasting marshmallows and avoid graham crackers. And next time somebody offers you a graham cracker, you might take a moment to wonder why.


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“There Be Dragons” Says Saint Trump

Dragon:  dragon is a large, serpentine, legendary creature that appears in the folklore of many cultures worldwide.

A recent cartoon by Maddie Dai in the New Yorker Magazine depicted a man dressed as a Knight, holding a sword, while reclining on a therapist’s couch.  The caption read, “There was a time—back before people found out that dragons were made up—when I would’ve gotten a hell of a lot more respect for being a dragon slayer.”

I realized this was a perfect illustration of the Trump phenomenon—belief in myths and imaginary dangerous creatures and a charlatan claiming he can slay such beasts to garner the admiration (or votes) of those who believe such nonsense.

Dragons are wonderful creatures for books, movies, and storytelling, but when turned into real threats requiring us to put our faith in both their reality and the necessity for a “hero” to confront them, we border on the abyss of insanity.

Mr. Trump in his time in the public light has created many dragons—hordes of rapists and murderers surging over the border, Muslims, Q-Anon complicit politicians, deep state actors, and the latest and most dangerous of them all, voter fraud.

That each Trump dragon is no more real than the one slain by the legendary Saint George matters little. They are dragons needing vanquishing and Mr. Trump with his mighty sword of prevarication is the only one capable of slaying them.

There is one thing you must give Saint Trump credit for, his powers of persuasion to convince millions of the reality of what is complete fabrication. In his battle with the dragon of voter fraud, fought on the battlefield in the courts, Mr. Trump suffered defeat after defeat when the dragon was shown to be a myth, yet the myth lives on.

When Mr. Trump whipped his hordes of dragon-fearing followers into a frenzy and sent them to the lair of the Dragon itself, the US Capitol, once again they were defeated, not by a fire-breathing dragon but by truth.

Myths are persistent things, like the concept of white supremacy. They are based on tales dreamt up in the minds of those who need an enemy to explain their own inadequacies. Trump’s dragons may be real in his mind. They may be real in the minds of his followers. But they are not real. They are a child’s story run amuck. And, like an out-of-control child, those who embrace such myths need be sent to their room until they regain their senses.

In Mr. Trump’s case, that will be a long, long, long time coming. Maybe he should try to convince us the flying monkey army has been unleashed by the witch, give us a new myth to fear.


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Suicide is Not Painless

To be, or not to be, that is the question:
Whether ’tis nobler in the mind to suffer
The slings and arrows of outrageous fortune,
Or to take arms against a sea of troubles
And by opposing end them. To die—to sleep,
No more; and by a sleep to say we end
The heartache and the thousand natural shocks
That flesh is heir to: ’tis a consummation
Devoutly to be wish’d. To die, to sleep;
To sleep, perchance to dream—ay, there’s the rub:

Hamlet Act 3, Scene 1

A friend, a person I worked with at the East Providence Police Department for many years, died by his own hand the other day.

It had been several years since I spoke with him with any regularity, but on the occasions when I ran into him, he seemed much like he had been when we were on the job.

That’s the difference between most people who have jobs and cops—at least the good ones. Cops don’t have jobs, they become the job. They don’t work for the Police Department, they are “on the job.”

No photo description available.

It is a calling even more than a career. My friend was one of those truly dedicated cops called to the job, and he made a great deal of difference while he was there.

When the time came to retire, knowing how much he’d miss the job, he struggled with the decision but ultimately moved on to a new career. It seemed, to all of us, his life was as good as any other in this world. Not perfect—no life is—but nevertheless worth living.

Whether it was the demons he carried from those years on the job—demons every officer encounters but the good ones just take so strongly to heart—or something else that haunted him, we may never know. Yet since the moment I heard of his passing, the question of why has roiled my imagination.

Why do people commit suicide when, at least to most, it would seem they have no reason to end their life?

Why do those who commit suicide seem oblivious to the trauma and sadness their passing will bring to those who live on?

Why are they unable to picture the wake, the funeral, the sadness their passing will set in motion?

Having been to the scene of many suicides when I was “on the job” the thoughts of what drove people to such permanent extremes always troubled me. Even for those who faced what seemed like hopeless situations, there was always another option.

Just not one they recognized.

Police Officers have the third highest rates of suicide among professionals (behind Medical Doctors and Dentists) but the rate declines after retirement. Why my friend, long separated from the department, took his own life contradicts the research. But research is not life, and something drove him to his decision.

Almost everyone, on hearing the first few notes of the theme from the TV show MASH, would recognize the song, but most have likely never heard or read the lyrics or know the original title, Suicide is Painless. Lyrics by J. Mandel

Through early morning fog I see
Visions of the things to be
The pains that are withheld for me
I realize and I can see

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please

…The sword of time will pierce our skins
It doesn’t hurt when it begins
But as it works its way on in
The pain grows stronger watch it grin, but

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please

A brave man once requested me
To answer questions that are key
Is it to be or not to be
And I replied ‘Oh, why ask me?’

That suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please

‘Cause suicide is painless
It brings on many changes
And I can take or leave it if I please

And you can do the same thing if you please

Suicide for those of us left behind is never painless. And even though those who may consider suicide see it as a way to solve the pain of their own demons, and have no intention of inflicting pain on others, it is never without pain.

If the thought occurs to you, contact someone. While suicide may seem the answer, it is only because you may not be asking the right question.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
Hours: Available 24 hours. Languages: English, Spanish. 
Learn more

Imagine If You Will…

Picture, if you will, the biggest smile you have ever had…now double it.
Recall, if you will, the happiest moment of your life…now magnify it a hundred times.
Imagine, if you will, the most satisfying times of your life…now enlarge it beyond your wildest dreams.

Do all those things, at the same moment, and you still won’t approach how I feel with the birth of Levi David Walkup, our first grandchild. April 29, 2021, 10:48 a.m., 9 lbs. 9 oz.

Levi David Walkup/ April 29, 2021

And to Levi, I say welcome and bear with me as I share this moment with the world. You’ll have to get accustomed to my penchant for writing about life and, well, pretty much everything, and with you here the words will come in torrents.

You’ll get used to it. We can write these stories together.

Finally, after the long wait, you have arrived. From your point of view, everything you see or hear will be something new. Something you have never experienced before.  For you it is the beginning of a lifelong adventure.

If you would indulge me, what I see is a blank canvas on which to paint character, compassion, and courage. This canvass will be painted by many artists. Each will contribute until such time as the most important artist, you, completes the portrait.

We now begin a great adventure together.

To teach you and to learn along with you.

To help you understand that life is full of darkness and light, joy and sorrow, hope and hopelessness, pain and pleasure, love and anger, tears and laughter, and, most importantly, each of these moments are worth living.

For now, we will…

Share what we know.

Give you the freedom to learn your own lessons.

Enjoy every moment we can with you in your oh so brand new life.

Savor each and every breath of this experience…

I still recall the moment I first saw your mother on the day she was born. The nurse said “talk to her, she knows your voice.” So I did, and she opened her eyes, smiled, and the tears sprung from mine. And I knew, in that moment, how lucky I was to be part of her life, and, in this moment, I know how fortunate I am to be part of yours.

Ten fingers.

Ten toes.

And the infinite possibilities before you.

Imagine if you will, where we will go from here…

A Want of Wits in Fairness

In The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha there’s a line where an innkeeper, who Don Quixote mistakes for a royal and implores him to grant him Knighthood so he might continue his quest as a true Knight-errant, suspects Don Quixote suffers from a “want of wits.”

Such a want of wits is at the heart of this trend to denigrating unions, ostracizing organized labor, and intentional mischaracterizations of the purpose of minimum wage. Highlighting only the sins of such organizations (what group of any sort is without their flaws?) and ignoring the benefit of organized labor is disingenuous.

Unions leveled the playing field, offered protection from indiscriminate loss of jobs, fought for fair wages and benefits, and improved the working conditions of most Americans, even those who may not be union members. Seeking to eliminate such labor groups is a danger to American workers.

The 40-hour week, health benefits, retirement benefits, sick time, workmen’s compensation, vacation times, eight-hour workday. The list goes on.

These benefits did not come simply by negotiating at a table. Many of these benefits were fought for under the baton of the police, the military, and private thugs used by a government controlled by the wealthy to subvert unionization.

But, through the perseverance of brave men and women, unions rose to a position of almost equal power with management.

This country has always favored the entrepreneur. Those who would risk it all for the opportunity to create their own business. We admire the self-made person who works hard to build a company from the ground up. But this success does not allow them to preserve it on the backs of those disinclined to such pursuits by maximizing profits and shareholder investments subsidized through the coffers of the American Taxpayer and by preventing unionization.

There need be a balance between the success of the widget designer and the labor that produces the widget. They are equal parts of the equation. The compensation needs reflect equity.

Over the past few decades, the American economy has shifted from manufacturing to service-based companies and technology. While many of these jobs are skilled labor, a significant number are not. Over time, these minimum wage positions have been mischaracterized as merely entry-level positions not intended to be careers or to support a family.

Yet, companies like McDonalds, Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Amazon, and Wal-Mart, reap huge profits based almost entirely on the backs of their lower-level employees (and even cheaper labor overseas). Employees they recruit with promises of a family-oriented working environment, even if the offered wage doesn’t support one.

In October 2020, the GAO published a study called Federal Social Safety Net Programs: Millions of Full-Time Workers Rely on Federal Health Care and Food Assistance Programs

Here’s is the opening paragraph:

What GAO Found

“The 12 million wage-earning adults (ages 19 to 64) enrolled in Medicaid—a joint federal-state program that finances health care for low-income individuals—and the 9 million wage-earning adults in households receiving food assistance from the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) shared a range of common labor characteristics. For example, approximately 70 percent of adult wage earners in both programs worked full-time hours (i.e., 35 hours or more) on a weekly basis and about one-half of them worked full-time hours annually (see figure). In addition, 90 percent of wage-earning adults participating in each program worked in the private sector (compared to 81 percent of nonparticipants) and 72 percent worked in one of five industries, according to GAO’s analysis of program participation data included in the Census Bureau’s 2019 Current Population Survey. When compared to adult wage earners not participating in the programs, wage-earning adult Medicaid enrollees and SNAP recipients in the private sector were more likely to work in the leisure and hospitality industry and in food service and food preparation occupations”


These companies, who are letting the US taxpayer subsidize what would normally be labor costs in a union shop, profit on the lack of a fair minimum wage.

In 1965, CEO’s compensation was twenty times that of the average worker. In 2015, it had risen to two-hundred times. 

Nigel Travis, CEO of Dunkin’ Brands, in 2015 took in $5.4 million in compensation. He called the proposed $15/hour minimum wage “absolutely outrageous.” While I am not suggesting we place any artificial cap on CEO compensation, there does need to be a balance between a company’s success and the compensation paid to its employees and the minimum wage is one tool.

Companies can pay their executives any salary and benefit they like and strive to maximize the return on investment by stockholders, but when they do this on the backs of the American taxpayer by using political influence and misinformation to prevent an increase in minimum wage, they are clearly twisting capitalism into a government subsidy.

The minimum wage was an element of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1936, which set an eight-hour workday, forty-hour work week, overtime pay requirements, and a minimum wage. This law came about as a reaction to abuses of labor by industry and through the efforts of organized labor.

This minimum wage set a standard for a livable wage. That livable wage has eroded since it was last raised in 2009.

By way of illustration, in 1996 the federal minimum wage was $4.76. Since then, adjusting for inflation, the minimum wage has lost ground. In 1996, $4.76 was worth $4.76. In 1997, the minimum wage went to $5.15 but in constant 1996 dollars it was worth $5.03.

The minimum wage has continued to lose ground. In 2009, the last time it was increased to the current $7.25, the minimum wage in 1996 dollars was equal to $5.30. Today it is equal to $4.80. In 2021, the minimum wage required by the Federal Government, one that all those aforementioned companies must pay their employees, is worth five cents more than the minimum wage of 1996.

To do a simple comparison, in 1965 rates, a worker earned $1.25/hour the average CEO earned $25/hour. In 2015, a worker earns $7.25/hour the average CEO earns $1,450/hour.

This hardly seems fair.

Until Americans realize the American Dream has been co-opted by major corporations through the organized suppression of unions and misinformation about the cost of minimum wage to business, the dream will continue to fade.

An intriguing statistic correlates to the growing disparity between the average worker and CEO compensation. In 1965, almost 1/3 of workers belonged to a union. By 2015, when the ratio of CEO to Worker salaries had climbed from 20 times to 200 times, union membership fell to 1/10.

While correlation may not be causation, it makes one wonder.

One can make the argument that even if 2/3 of workers didn’t belong to a union, they benefited from the labor competition and wages union membership secured in negotiation. Perhaps the decline in union membership has created an earnings gap, the deficit in fair wages, and hindered the ability to live a happy, sustainable livelihood. This erosion of fair pay by companies is being sustained by the American taxpayers to the benefit of big business.

This “want of wits” suffered by Americans blinded by the misinformation, anti-union propaganda, and resistance to a fair minimum wage is a danger to the once possible but slowly eroding pursuit of the American Dream.


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Vanitas Vanitatum, Omnia Vanitas

 What’s in a word? Turns out, plenty.

A recent piece I wrote, Why Write? Finding Undiscovered Places, sparked some enthusiastic discussion. In the piece, I quoted a line from Ecclesiastes 1:9.

“What has been is what will be,
and has been done is what will be done;
and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 1:9 (at least in one translation)

One reader, Dan Walsh, a former high school English teacher with a significant influence over my love of reading and writing, commented that his favorite quote from Ecclesiastes is,

“Vanitas Vanitatum… All is vanity. All is chasing after the wind.”

Ecclesiastes 1:14

My five years of Latin—which today seems to have been taught to me just shortly after the language went out of style—is rusty, but the Latin phrase seemed straightforward, if incomplete. Summoning the Oracle of Google, I searched for the entire phrase.

The full phrase in Latin is “Vanitas Vanitatum, omnia vanitas” which translates to “Vanity of Vanities, all is Vanity.” This gave me pause as I wondered where the “all is chasing the wind” part came from.

Back to Google to search the phrase in Ecclesiastes. This led me to Biblehub.com and sparked this piece.

Listed on Biblehub.com are thirty English translations of this same verse. Thirty English interpretations of the same line. If there can be so many interpretations of English, how many versions are there from the original?

Ekklisiastés is the original Greek (actually Εκκλησιαστές is the original, original) predecessor of Ecclesiastes. Ecclesiastes is the Greek translation of the Hebrew name קֹהֶלֶת–Qohelet. So the path of translation, jagged and fraught with variations and interpretation, of just this one line started with Ancient Hebrew, to Greek, to Aramaic, to Latin, to German, to Old English, to Modern English.

If we do simple math, allowing for fewer numbers of literate people able to do the translating in ancient times, one version in Ancient Hebrew X 5 versions of Greek X 10 versions of Latin X 20 versions of German X 25 Versions of Old English X 30 versions of Modern English means there are possibly 750,000 translations since the original. Mathematical progression is unrelenting.

So those who would argue the Bible is the inerrant word of God might need to revise that view since there are so many versions. If one argues the underlying meaning is unaltered, it still opens much to interpretation.

This reminds me of an old joke. 

A well-respected Cardinal retires. He is invited to an audience with the Pope.

Pope: “So, my son, is there anything I can do to make your retirement more meaningful?”

Cardinal: “There is, your Holiness, I’d like to have access to the Church’s archives so I may spend the rest of my days in deeper understanding of the foundation of the faith.”

Pope: “Then you shall have full access with my blessing.”

Several months later, the Pope wanders into the archive to check on the Cardinal. He finds him in tears, sobbing, an old manuscript beneath his hand.

Pope: “What troubles you, my son?”

The Cardinal looks up from the manuscript, points to a word and says, “The correct translation is Celebrate, not Celibate.”

I’m just saying…


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Why Write? Finding Undiscovered Places

I am often asked why I write. Sometimes, the question is more about the topic or tenor of the writing than that I put these thoughts into essays or pieces. The unstated implication is, please stop, yet I am undeterred.

Sometimes, the questions are less about the topics than about my motivation for writing, and the corollary “why do you want people to read what you write?”

writer working on typewriter in office
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio on Pexels.com

I think the answer surprises most. Those who consider writing a burden, laden with rules and regulations too complex to bother mastering—what is a dangling participle or a split infinitive anyway—wouldn’t understand.

I write because I have to. Something inside me compels me to early every morning get up (there’s your split infinitive, and it makes me cringe to leave it dangling there) and write.

When I first begin my morning writing, I never know what will come forth. I just let whatever has percolated overnight in my sleeping mind come out. Most of the time, these words are never seen by anyone but me (and I am sure many are glad of that). Still, sometimes the magic happens, and a line or paragraph or five thousand words appear on the page that I send out into the world.

It is for these moments, those times where a phrase fairly lifts off the page and takes on a life of its own, that I live.

While I have projects in the works, new books, short stories, blog pieces to polish and work on, they all began with a spontaneous generation of words from deep in my soul.

A (mis)quote oft attributed to Shakespeare says, “there’s nothing new under the sun.” The implication being every story—the hero’s quest, unrequited love, overcoming the monster, and others—have all been told.

The actual quote is from Ecclesiastes 1:9. It might surprise those of you who know my standing on religion that I’ve read the Bible, but you shouldn’t be. Some of the writing in such religious texts often sprung from the same inner psyche’s hidden inspirations as drive my own. Be it religious or secular, coupled with the hard work and rewriting, such inspiration produces the best writing.

“What has been is what will be,
and has been done is what will be done;
and there is nothing new under the sun.”

Ecclesiastes 1:9

To give Shakespeare his due, he also wrote about the same sentiment,

If there be nothing new, but that which is
Hath been before, how are our brains beguil’d,
Which labouring for invention bear amiss
The second burthen of a former child.
Oh that record could with a backward look,
Even of five hundred courses of the sun,
Show me your image in some antique book,
Since mind at first in character was done,
That I might see what the old world could say
To this composed wonder of your frame;
Whether we are mended, or where better they,
Or whether revolution be the same.
Oh sure I am the wits of former days,
To subjects worse have given admiring praise.

William Shakespeare, Sonnet 59

And when I write my last word, I hope I will have found some of those gems of phrase hidden in those undiscovered places.

Joe Broadmeadow

While there may be “nothing new under the sun,” there are those as yet undiscovered places. Those things that may have always been, but we have yet to find. Writing can uncover those hidden gems. And thus, I seek them each day.

I use various tools to edit my writing. One such system tracks the number of words I analyze. Over the past nine years, I’ve written over eighteen million words, of which just a small percentage made it to the public eye.

I will continue to write as long as the words remain trapped inside, yearning to come out. And when I write my last word, I hope I will have found some of those gems of phrase hidden in those undiscovered places.

For someone like me—driven to write—there can be no finer path through life.


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Sacrificing Truth for Politics

In the past few weeks, two cases have sprung to the front of the news headlines. One was the fatal shooting of Daunte Wright by Brooklyn Center Police Officer Kim Potter. The other was the Justice Department’s decision not to charge the U.S. Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the riot at the U.S. Capitol building on January 6th.

One common thread, the sacrifice of truth and jurisprudence on the altar of political expediency, links these cases.

In the Daunte Wright case, the totality of the circumstances facing the officers—including Mr. Wright’s attempt to escape custody for an arrest on a warrant that involved the use of a firearm during a robberyseems to be lost in the rage over his unfortunate and unnecessary death.

Had Mr. Wright not resisted, the circumstances would have been entirely different. Before I am castigated for blaming the victim, we all bear some responsibility for our own actions. For those who have never worn the badge or dealt with individuals with a history of violence—something the officers on that scene had every reason to suspect—it is easy to second guess and criticize.

Officer Potter made a grievous and inexcusable error. Mr. Wright and his family deserve our sympathy considering his death. But how this rises to a criminal case of Second-Degree Manslaughter is beyond me.

Minnesota statute 609.205 defines second-degree manslaughter as when a person kills another human being under these conditions

“Creating a risk that has been deemed unreasonable and consciously taking the chance of causing severe harm to another’s body or death to another human being. This risk is considered culpable negligence.”

Minnesota statute 609.205

The operative word here is consciously. The body cam audio supports Officer Potter’s own surprise at her fatally shooting Mr. Wright. Her “conscious” choice was to deploy non-deadly force with the taser. That she inadvertently, in the adrenaline fueled heat of the moment facing a potentially armed and known violent individual, selected the wrong weapon cannot possibly be construed as criminal by any dispassionate examination of the circumstances.

Clearly, there is negligence. Clearly, there is some culpability for what is known as “weapons confusion” in similar incidents. But to interpret her actions as unreasonable and consciously taking the chance of causing severe harm to another’s body or death to another human being is a stretch of prosecutorial discretion.

If we will sacrifice truth, no matter how lofty the goal, we will accomplish nothing.

Joe Broadmeadow

If ever there was a case underscoring the appropriateness of civil litigation—with its lower standard of proof—as opposed to criminal charges, this is it.

The only reasonable conclusion is that the Washington County District Attorney’s office is reacting to the incident’s politics rather than the facts. News organizations imply a racial bias in the incident by including the terms “white suburban officer” shoots “black” suspect. Yet, there has been no evidence of such discrimination.

Now I will be the first to agree that minorities face endemic and widespread racial disparities in their treatment by law enforcement, something this country refuses to address with any consistency or dedication. But that determination to change the climate of minority contact with law enforcement cannot come at the cost of sacrificing truth and adherence to the law.

Officer Potter resigned. She and the city she worked for will clearly face severe civil sanctions in a wrongful death suit, but prosecuting the former officer for the sake of the appearance of trying to change things is wrong.

In the press statement, the Washington County Assistant Criminal Division Chief, Imran Ali, said,

“Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility, and none more so than a sworn police officer. With that responsibility comes a great deal of discretion and accountability. We will vigorously prosecute this case and intend to prove that Officer Potter abrogated her responsibility to protect the public when she used her firearm rather than her taser. Her action caused the unlawful killing of Mr. Wright, and she must be held accountable. County Attorney Peter Orput and I met with the family, expressed our deepest sympathies and assured them we would spare no resources in seeking justice for Mr. Wright.”

Mr. Ali would do well to listen to his own words, “Certain occupations carry an immense responsibility,” and understand they apply to his position as much as any police officer. His choice to prosecute should be based on law and evidence, not the politics of the moment.

Such political pandering even spills over into cases where the officer(s) acted within the law. The United States Justice Department played to the political climate and shirked their responsibility of seeking the truth.

In their decision involving the U.S. Capitol Police officer who fatally shot Ashli Babbitt during the riot at the U.S. Capitol building, they chose weasel words to mitigate the decision, essentially leaving the officer convicted in the press because of “lack of evidence.”

Here’s what they said in the decision,

“Officials examined video footage posted on social media, statements from the officer involved and other officers and witnesses to the events, physical evidence from the scene of the shooting, and the results of an autopsy… based on that investigation, officials determined that there is insufficient evidence to support a criminal prosecution.”

They described the circumstances.

“Members of the mob attempted to break through the doors by striking them and breaking the glass with their hands, flagpoles, helmets, and other objects. Eventually, the three USCP officers positioned outside the doors were forced to evacuate. As members of the mob continued to strike the glass doors, Ms. Babbitt attempted to climb through one of the doors where glass was broken out,”

Yet, despite this documented evidence of a real threat to the badly outnumbered Capitol Police officers’ lives and safety, they choose not to say it was a justified shooting, just one they couldn’t prosecute.

They argued that in federal court they would fail because,

“evidence that an officer acted out of fear, mistake, panic, misperception, negligence, or even poor judgment cannot establish the high level of intent required.”

Once again, abdicating their responsibility for the sake of political expediency.

The use of deadly force by the police should always be the last resort. Thoroughly investigating such incidents and charging officers who act criminally in their conduct must play a crucial part in the Justice Department’s responsibilities.

Equally important is the decisions about charging officers involved in incidents where an individual is killed need to be based on evidence and the law, not the moment’s politics.

In Officer Potter’s case, should the evidence show a racial bias or actual criminal action in her decision to use force, then charge her appropriately. But what it would appear we have here is a rush to judgment for the sake of appearances.

Every officer-involved shooting where a life is taken is regrettable, but they are not all criminal or racially motivated.

In the case of the U.S. Capitol officer, the Justice Department should have been willing to stand behind the officer’s actions, not kowtow to political pandering.

In both these cases—call it blaming the victim if you like—but if Mr. Wright hadn’t committed the offense resulting in the warrant and complied with the officers or if Ms. Babbitt hadn’t joined in the violent mob on January 6th, both of them would be alive today.

If we will sacrifice truth, no matter how lofty the goal, we will accomplish nothing.

Guns, Germs, and Science: (Re)Thinking Ways to Prevent Mass Casualty Shootings

The debate over what to do about mass shootings generates heated extremes on both sides. While there is no consensus on what defines a mass shooting we will use the Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012 standard of three or more victims in a public place.

On one side are those who would do away with all firearms, seeing that as the only solution. On the other extreme are those who see the Second Amendment as inviolate imbuing a constitutional right to possess and carry a firearm anywhere they so choose.

They base both more on emotion than rational argument.

If we “must do something” to prevent mass shootings, we should act with data and deliberation. Doing something with no idea of whether it will work, and may cause more harm, is as dangerous as doing nothing.

If we “must leave the Second Amendment untouched” without similar deliberation, this is equally dangerous.

My perspective on this comes from two almost diametrically opposed positions. First, as a retired police officer, I recall the heart-pounding adrenaline rush of gun calls. Those moments of fearful uncertainty as you walked up to the driver’s side of a car you just stopped. The controlled terror working undercover buying illegal guns—often automatic weapons with silencers—from individuals who faced long prison terms if convicted. This terror is something no one who hasn’t experienced it can ever understand.

I spent twenty years wearing a ballistic vest, hoping to go home every night, as do officers today. There is no way I would have ever worked such a job without the reassuring feeling of a weapon on my hip or in a shoulder holster—both on and off duty—ready if the need arose.

This leads me to one of the most controversial misconceptions about the job. Whenever my previous life as an officer comes up, I invariably hear, “you must be glad you’re not a cop today.” The implication being the job is inherently more dangerous today than in the past.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

The fact is the job has always been dangerous. In fact, in 1978, the year I went on the job, 100 officers died from gunshots. In 1998, the year I retired, 64 were shot and killed. In 2008, 42 died because of gunshots.

These numbers, while tragic, are meaningless out of context. In 2018, 52 were shot and killed in the line of duty, while 172 current or former officers committed suicide. If we just look at numbers, cops are more likely to die by their own hands than by any threat on the street.

This underscores the challenges of measuring threats and risks exclusively by numbers, ten second video clips, or perceptions based on anecdotal evidence at best or baseless assumptions at worse. While any death of a law enforcement officer related to the job is a tragedy, addressing the problem cannot even begin until we get to the fundamental basis and cause. 

The fact is, we may be imbuing officers with an unrealistic impression of the threat level through training that compounds the risk on the street despite evidence to the contrary. The reality is, we simply do not know.

The public is getting misleading information as well. This threat perception gets carried out to the general population which perceives an increasingly threatening world necessitating arming themselves. The threat perception becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

The average citizen is now getting a bit of a peak into the daily life of cops on the street through cell phone video and so-called “reality” TV. The perspective is skewed and distorted at best, because the “reality” shows condense what may be a single incident in a week long tour of duty and combine it with others to give the impression of non-stop violent confrontations. These scenarios, particularly cell phone videos, are repeated ad nauseum. While it is in many ways enlightening, it lacks context. 

News headlines are equally deceptive and skewed. Headlines of “Another Police shooting” scream repeatedly from websites, news stations, and talks shows giving the impression it is a daily event. This is because the reality headline most days could be, “700,000 cops worked yesterday and shot no one, again” but no one would pay attention.

My other perspective—developed with the benefit of separation from the insular world of law enforcement where every person you meet is considered a threat—makes me question the necessity of carrying a weapon even though, as retired law enforcement, I can do so anywhere in the country.

I own weapons and belong to a firing range, so it is not that I have any objection to target shooting. Nor do I object to hunting. Of course, with very few exceptions, people hunt because they want to, not because they have to and people carry guns because it makes them feel safer, whether is actually makes them, or others, safer is the question.

The idea of the average American carrying a weapon because they believe it makes them safer seems counterintuitive to me as a societal benefit. It may also be fueled by misconceptions and distorted perceptions of the threat level. Most police departments allow officers to choose to carry off-duty weapons; they do not require them to because of the inherent complications of “friendly fire” incidents and liability.

Yet what I may think or believe may not be valid, and thus the need to approach this in a logical and scientific, data-driven manner.

First, let me make it clear I believe every American citizen should be able to own a firearm. While I may not see the need for anyone to own military-grade weapons (assault weapons are a misnomer, any gun is an assault weapon, it is inherent in their design), the choice is personal.

As a way of comparison, I see no need for anyone to have a vehicle capable of traveling faster than the US’s maximum speed limit, which, believe it or not, I learned in researching this piece is 85 MPH. Why we have vehicles capable of twice that velocity is beyond me, but we do. We depend on personal responsibility and, absent that, law enforcement to ensure compliance.

Thus it is with weapons. While I may be satisfied firing my Glock 45, others may need the thrill of an AR-15, AK-47, or other weapons. It is a matter of preference, also controlled by personal responsibility and enforceable laws.

I do not see restricting or limiting firearms ownership, regardless of the nomenclature assigned to amplify their inherent danger, as either practical, workable, or effective.

I also have an innate sense that unrestricted access to weaponry and the option to carry weapons—concealed or otherwise—is either irrational or unnecessary and certainly not in keeping with the “original intent” of the Second Amendment to the Constitution.

In the period leading up to the Revolutionary War, the armaments available to the King’s Army and to the colonists were, with few exceptions, comparable. The British Army carried muzzle loaded muskets known as the “Brown Bess.” They were inherently inaccurate (rifled barrels, which improved accuracy, although dating from the 1500s, were not commonly used until the 19th century) thus the skirmish lines where the British would line up and fire volleys of rounds, increasing the likelihood of hitting the enemy.

They also had cannon, which were devastating weapons but slow to load and cumbersome to move.

The Revolutionary soldiers had much of the same armament—locally produced muskets were known as Committee of Safety weapons and bore no makers mark to avoid prosecution by the Crown prior to the start of the war—and used captured cannon to balance the battlefield.

In essence, the weaponry used by the “government” and that used by the colonists were the same. It was a level playing field. After the war, there was much concern about the keeping of a standing army (many of the founders opposed such a policy) out of fear of similar government suppression.

Thus, the Second Amendment and its reference to a “well-regulated” militia. They never expected the change in weapons, from inaccurate muskets to full automatic, highly accurate shoulder arms all the way to man-portable surface-to-air rockets. How could they? No one had even flown yet, let alone at supersonic speeds carrying sophisticated, self-guided fire and forget weaponry.

So one fairly logical conclusion is, assuming some dystopian future where the government convinces the Joint Chiefs of Staff to attack the general population, no matter how many weapons are in the hands of civilians, they wouldn’t stand a chance against a Marine Division, a Mechanized Army Tank Corps, or a squadron of F-117 or B-52 bombers.

The balance of power between the weapons in the hands of the people and those controlled by the “standing army” was long ago tilted in the government’s favor.

I would contend that those who argue the Second Amendment affords them protection from the actions of a tyrannical government are suffering delusions. They might inflict some casualties, but their success would be beyond a Pyrrhic victory.

I think that argument can be put to rest. They would be better protected from tyranny by paying attention at the ballot box and to the daily activities of government and those who serve in it.

A second argument, one that I believe is more convincing in its logic, is that most Americans who have weapons never use them to break the law. And, on those rare occasions when faced with a threat to themselves or others, actually do something of benefit to society.

If I own and use my weapon(s) within the confines of the law. If I threaten no one. If I assault no one. If I never use the weapon outside of the firing range or hunting except in an instance of self-defense or the defense of some innocent victim of crime, why should it be any concern of yours what I have, how many I have, or why I have them?

Such an argument focuses us on the real problem; those who use firearms to commit crimes and those who, through some debilitating psychological condition, need be prevented from possessing firearms.

The question then becomes two-fold. Who should not be allowed to possess weapons and how do we accomplish this goal?

The answer, to this point, eludes us. We are either unwilling or incapable of dedicating the resources to exploring the facts behind the phenomenon, committing ourselves to developing data-driven research into the causes and societal costs, and demanding that Congress and the President take immediate action such as creating a 9/11 style commission to develop solutions based on peer reviewed research.

The NRA, now diminished by its own resistance to reality, through its prior political influence, prevented such institutions as the CDC or the National Institute of Health from even studying the problem of guns as a health issue.

This lack of foundational data to measure the problem, the cost to society, and the dearth of possible solutions merely perpetuates the misconceptions on both sides of the issue. The reality may be that the overall security benefit of carrying a weapon is unjustifiable by the actual threat. It may be that carrying a weapon makes one inherently safer. It may be that the proliferation of firearms has nothing to do with the incidents of mass shootings. The simple fact is, we don’t know.

Therein lies the problem.

On the other side of this debate, is the one proffered by those who would eliminate all firearms or, failing that, limit access to what they classify as “assault” weapons. They have a compelling argument in the sense of the bloodshed and carnage which seems unique to this country.

While there have been mass shootings in other countries, none come close to the number which have happened—and likely will continue to happen absent an effective solution—here.

The cost to society is something we must consider in crafting a solution. It is not an either or/zero sum game where either we ban guns or everyone carries guns. These are not solutions, they are reactions to a problem we don’t understand.

We need turn to science and rational analysis to craft options and solutions.

Much like our determination to put a human on the moon or, more recently, to develop not only effective vaccines to treat and prevent Covid-19 but to unleash the power of an entirely new approach to anti-viral medicines through mRNA, we need a national commitment to solve the problem.

The first step is getting to the heart of the problem.

Joe Broadmeadow

The human side of this story, those who are the victims in these matters—the dead and the wounded—need be heard as well.

Elisabeth Rosenthal, MD worked as an emergency room physician at a Level 1 trauma center in New York City. She wrote an op-ed piece in the Washington Post about her experiences and the changing nature of the type of wounds she treated. 

Dr. Rosenthal wrote,

“In the 1990s, by which time I was an emergency-room doctor at a Level 1 trauma center in New York City, I became acquainted with the damage that small-caliber handguns could cause. When I started treating gunshot victims, I marveled at how subtle and clean the wounds often were, externally at least. Much cleaner than stabbings or car-wreck injuries.

We searched for a tiny entrance wound and the larger exit wound; they were often subtle and hard to locate. If you couldn’t find the latter, you would often see the tiny metal bullet, or fragments, lodged somewhere internally on an X-ray — often not worth retrieving because it was doing no damage.

These were people shot in muggings or in drug deals gone wrong. Most of these patients had exploratory surgery, but so long as the bullet had not hit a vital organ or major vessel, people survived. No one was blown apart.

Guns and the devastating injuries they cause have evolved into things I don’t recognize anymore.

Certainly, many American gun owners — maybe a majority of them — are still interested in skill and the ability to hit the bull’s eye of a target (or a duck or deer if you’re of the hunting persuasion). But the adrenaline in today’s gun culture clearly lies in paramilitary posturing, signaling to the world the ability to bring mayhem and destruction. Add a twisted mind with the urge to actually bring mayhem and destruction, and tragedy awaits.  

Before Congress passed an assault weapons ban in 1994, Americans owned about 400,000 AR-15s, the most popular of these military-style weapons. Today, 17 years after Congress failed to reauthorize the ban, Americans own about 20 million AR-15-style rifles or similar weapons.

Why this change in gun ownership? Was it because 9/11 made the world a much scarier place? Was it NRA scaremongering about the Second Amendment? The advent of violent video games?   

Now, not just emergency rooms but also schools and offices stage active-shooter drills. When I was an ER doctor, we, too, practiced disaster drills. A bunch of surrogate patients would be wheeled in, daubed with fake blood. Those drills seem naïve in 2021 — we never envisioned the kinds of mass-shooting disasters that have now become commonplace.

And, frankly, no disaster drill really prepares an emergency room for a situation where multiple people are shot with today’s semiautomatic weapons. You might save a few people with careful triage and preparation. Most just die.”


Now before you jump to the conclusion that Dr. Rosenthal is just some bleeding heart liberal anti-gun nut listen to this. She began shooting when she was 8 or 9 years old, taught by her father who was also a physician.

For her 13th birthday, she received a Remington.22 rifle which she carried on her shoulder to school for practice on the riflery team. She enjoyed shooting.

Her time in the ER taught her this,

“…the United States has undergone a cultural, definitional, practical shift on guns and what they are for…Once mostly associated in the public mind with sport, guns in the United States are now widely regarded more as weapons to maim or kill — or to protect from the same. Guns used to be on a continuum with bows and arrows; now they seem better lumped in with grenades, mortars and bombs.

My Remington .22 has about as much in common with an assault-style weapon as an amoeba has with a human life. The injuries they produce don’t belong under one umbrella of “gun violence.”

Though both crimes are heinous, the guy who shoots someone with an old pistol in a mugging is a different kind of perpetrator from the person who, dressed in body armor, carries a semiautomatic weapon into a theater, house of worship or school and commences a slaughter.”


Dr. Rosenthal depicts the tragic, gory, bloody underbelly of gun violence and the changing nature of such in the US over the past few decades. 

I think she makes one of the most salient points when she theorizes that the increase on both the number and firepower of weapons owned by Americans may be based on two false perceptions.

  1. The world is an increasingly dangerous place and crime is increasing
  2. Guns offer improved protection

The reality is violence, in particular criminal violence in the US, has decreased for the past several decades. The reason behind this decrease is complex, yet it has been studied. We at least have some idea what works in reducing crime—economic opportunity and education being a big part of it.  

Mass shooting events are an outlier, occurring with more and more frequency, yet we cannot even agree on what constitutes such an incident let alone study with any deliberate purpose its underlying cause.

This leaves us wailing and gnashing our teeth in the dark. The emotional roller coaster climbs the incline of fearful anticipation, an incident occurs, then some in the car careen over the top screaming to ban all guns while others hold their weapons high in the air more determined than ever to hold on to them.

It is these emotionally driven extremes which clouds any solution.

First, we need to define the problem and it is not as simple as too many or too powerful guns in private hands. Then we need to determine the underlying cause of such violent behavior. We can accomplish this if we are determined enough to force those in the position of power to move forward with a concerted effort.

As long as the debate is driven by hysteria, by both the pro-gun and anti-gun factions, nothing will change. People convinced that guns make them safer and need to carry a concealed weapon will continue to do so which may compound the problem. People convinced that every gun, or at least those they perceive to be “assault” weapons, need be banned, may be ineffective in eliminating the problem.

Abraham Lincoln, in an open letter to the New York Tribune, said this about the most pressing issue facing his administration,

If I could save the Union without freeing any slave I would do it, and if I could save it by freeing all the slaves I would do it; and if I could save it by freeing some and leaving others alone I would also do that.

Abraham Lincoln

If such an approach getting to the heart of the matter, which at the moment was saving the Union and not abolishing slavery, could be turned towards the matter of eliminating the scourge of mass shootings perhaps we need to model our commitment on Lincoln’s words.

If we can prevent mass shootings without banning any weapons, we would do it. If we can prevent mass shootings by banning all weapons, we would do it. If we can prevent mass shootings by banning some and permitting others, we would also do that.

The first step is getting to the heart of the problem.

The fact is, we know we need to do find a way to prevent, as much as possible in a free society, incidents of violence. Yet the reality is we have no idea what the answer is, barely comprehend the problem, and we seem to be afraid to even ask the question.

A Place in the Sun

Like a long lonely stream
I keep runnin’ towards a dream
Movin’ on, movin’ on
Like a branch on a tree
I keep reachin’ to be free
Movin’ on, movin’ on
‘Cause there’s a place in the sun
Where there’s hope for ev’ryone
Where my poor restless heart’s gotta run
There’s a place in the sun
And before my life is done
Got to find me a place in the sun

Stevie Wonder, A Place in the Sun
beach during sunset
Photo by Bella White on Pexels.com

Finally, after what seems like a year that lasted a decade, we have enjoyed the first hints of warmer weather.  Our normal winter isolation, compounded by the draconian—but necessary—restrictions of the pandemic, seemed never ending.

But hope springs eternal and I have enjoyed those first glorious moments when one can sit back in a chair, close your eyes, and just feel the warmth of the sun massage away those winter blues.

At these moments—eyes closed, the orange-red-yellow patterns of light through my eyelids dancing before me, the warmth soaking in—I am brought back to the many similar past moments in the sun.

Days when the end of the school year came in sight with its promise of long, care-free summer days at our leisure. Or, as we migrated through the different stages of life, times spent at the beach—courtesy of the freedoms of a car and part time job—where we would gather whenever time allowed.

Long walks along Scarborough Beach in Rhode Island or Horseneck Beach in Massachusetts where sunscreen was for sissies and we wore our sunburnt skin like a badge of honor.

Or solitary moments, fishing pole in hand, standing on the shores of a lake or in a trout stream where, as long as the sun was on you, catching fish was a bonus not the goal.

It is these fleeting moments that often make the most lasting memories and illuminate a host of others.

It is also something we need to embrace with every opportunity for like the relentless continuity of time, clouds will come and cover the sun, robbing us of its comfort.  As long as we understand these dark moments are temporary, that they too will pass, we will be fine.

But we also must remember those warm moments in the sun are equally fleeting.

Next time you find yourself standing in a bright sun, take a moment, close your eyes, and absorb that warmth…find your place in the sun.


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