In 1967, the Beatles released a song about our troubled times. It began, “I saw the news today, oh boy.” I remembered that song Sunday morning while reading the news, especially reports on Israel’s launch of ground attack on Hamas in Gaza, 18 people killed in Maine by a mentally ill sniper shooter, Mike Pence dropping out of the 2024 presidential race, at least 39 reported deaths from the category five hurricane, Otis, that hit Mexico last week, and the death of Friends actor, Matthew Perry. My reaction, “Oh, boy.”
We live in deeply troubled times. Trouble is everywhere. The world seems to be inching towards a world war. The possibility of a third world war was reiterated with the news on Sunday that Israel launched its ground attack on Hamas. I understand why Israel seeks to destroy Hamas after more than 1,300 Israelis were murdered in Hamas’ surprise attack. But I worry that the war will spread. And while I support U.S. assistance to Israel, some Palestinians see that assistance as the U.S. attacking them.
While we can hope that the Israel-Hamas war will be brief, the same cannot be said about climate change, the consequences of which were evidenced again last week in Mexico. We are lucky the hurricane did not hit the Eastern Shore or the United States. But we were saved this time by nothing other than luck. The radical actions needed to decrease the risk of extreme weather have not yet been taken and will not be addressed as long as we have political gridlock.
Last Saturday brought the news of Mike Pence “suspending” his presidential campaign. No surprise here other than that it took him until October 28 to read the writing on the wall: “We don’t want you.” Pence deserves our national thanks for rebuffing Trump’s efforts to use him as a tool to overturn the 2020 presidential race, but that is it. Before his act of courage, he was a mediocre vice president, best known for standing like a manikin behind Trump at public events. Pence was a failure as vice-president, but I forgive him for that because of Trump. I do not forgive Pence for accepting the vice-presidential nomination in the first place. He knew who Trump was and the type of “Christian values” Trump stands for before he agreed to join the ticket. What was his thinking?
Pence’s announcement brought another non-surprise. Donald Trump, complicit in the January 6 riot that featured calls for Pence to be hanged, suggested that Pence endorse his nomination. That will not happen, but the fact that Trump asked tells us a lot about how delusional the ex-president is. And is Trump really one step closer to returning to the White House? Oh, boy.
I was also saddened by the news that Friends actor Matthew Perry is dead. At the time of this writing, the cause is not known, but Perry himself told us that he suffered decades of drug and alcohol abuse. In his 2022 memoir, Friends, Lovers, and the Big Terrible Thing, he wrote that he relapsed 40 or 50 times as he struggled for sobriety. It is likely that Perry’s death was related, if not caused by, his substance abuse. That is sad and reminds us that substance abuse these days is everywhere, including on the Eastern Shore. It is also sad that more is not being done to help those facing addiction here and everywhere else.
Finally, the news of another death was reported. The alleged Lewiston, Maine mass shooter was found dead. Maine residents were freed to resume their lives and the entire country was relieved. The murder of 18 people is reopening, for the thousandth time, the debate on guns. Maine has lax gun laws and, despite the laxity, was not known for its gun violence. And the alleged shooter purchased his gun legally despite documented mental health issues. Dare I say it, had his guns been taken away, 18 people would still be alive.
Although another compelling case for better regulation of guns has been made, it is unlikely anything will happen. Guns don’t kill people, people do. The new Speaker of the House of Representatives, Mike Johnson, said that the problem was not guns, but rather the human heart. He recommended prayer. That suggestion reminded me of another classic rock song, “The Soft Parade” by the Doors. The song, released in 1969, begins:
When I was back there in seminary school
There was a person there who put forth the proposition
That you can petition the Lord with prayer
Petition the lord with prayer
Petition the lord with prayer
You cannot petition the lord with prayer
I am crossing my fingers that lightning does not strike me dead, but petitioning the lord with prayer will not end mass shootings. I have tried, as have many others, most likely including the new House Speaker. Something more is needed and, ironically, if House Speaker Johnson is right that God ordained him to be House Speaker, it will be God’s choice for Speaker that will stand in the way of gun safety legislation getting enacted.
That reminds me of a third (and thankfully final) rock song, in this case “Ironic” by Alanis Morrisette. You can guess where I am going here. Oh, boy.
J.E. Dean is a retired attorney and public affairs consultant writing on politics, government, birds, and other subjects.