The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Editorials

January 1, 2013

George Hancock | High-priced election and mass shootings mark 2012

— A new year has arrived, replacing a 2012 filled with ambiguous lessons.

Seemingly, every glorious step forward was matched with nervous anxiety, resulting in steps backward. The Newtown, Conn., horror was a giant step in reverse.

Last year began with the hopes and dreams of a vigorous presidential campaign. Nearly $2 billion was earmarked for the campaign. Yet, it steadily descended into a boisterous cesspool.

Many states, many voters were bypassed due to their logistical stature. The safe states were ignored. Certain swing states with lucrative Electoral College votes were contested. Pennsylvania attracted attention about a week before the November election.    

Many voters were appalled at the money consumed by the campaigns. Some $5.8 billion was spent on the presidential, congressional and senate races. With plenty left over, that kind of money could help stock and staff the Highland Community Library, help repair and pave streets across Richland Township and Scalp Level Borough, fund scholarships and work-study programs at Pitt-Johnstown and help strengthen security at our local schools.

But alas, that $5.8 billion was used for other, many would argue nefarious, purposes. My wife, son and I, along with other registered voters, were prime targets of that $5.8 billion. Our mailbox was filled on a regular basis with colorful campaign fliers, ads and brochures. Money was used for nonstop radio and television political ads. Significant sums were spent calling our home. We averaged four calls a night in the days leading up to the election.

Our dog stopped answering the phone during the day. Rocky was peeved.

And then it was over. Most of the incumbents were re-elected. Did anything really change?

The weeks afterward were dedicated to blaming one another for the dizzy fiscal cliff scenarios. The bicker-

ing, the partisanship, the

finger-pointing were relentless.

Solutions by our political leaders are needed for these serious issues. America has quickly discovered that we have few real leaders willing to find credible solutions.

The new year will provide many milestones for me: My 60th birthday in March,

my 20-year work anniversary at Pitt-Johnstown and my 40th year running along Greater Johnstown’s highways.    

I’ve accomplished numerous things during those 40 years. Running is great for one’s self-esteem and confidence. A running program offers numerous physical and health benefits, even psychological rewards.

Looking back, 2012 gave our nation many disturbing issues, chief among them the far-too-many mass shootings:

* On Feb. 21 in Norcross, Ga., three people were killed, along with the disturbed gunman.

* On July 20, 12 people were killed and 58 wounded in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater.

* Innocent bystanders were shot and killed in religious venues, at work, in movie

theaters and, sadly, in elementary schools.

* The Dec. 14 massacre in Newtown was heart-wrenching. Twenty children and six adults were executed in their school. We know how, but the reasons why are vague.

Dr. Matt Masiello of Windber Research Institute said of the tragedy in his Dec. 20 article, “Horror, and hope, from Newtown tragedy,” that “violence is embedded into our culture, our homes, our streets and our games.”

He also wrote that “violence and mental-health disease is at staggering proportions in this country, and we continue to ignore the deadly significance of it all.” 

Why?

Dr. Paul R. Ehrlich offers a scary scenario in his 1968 book “The Population Bomb.” He describes how overpopulation and widespread societal upheavals would result in mass starvations in the coming decades. He further states that our planet needs immediate measures to limit population growth.

These mass starvation projections were inaccurate and never materialized.

Perhaps, however, we need to revisit Ehrlich’s other themes. Has our rapid population growth coupled with instantaneous social media created a new type of angst?

Are some individuals threatened by our changing landscape?

What happens when people are overwhelmed, ignored or intimidated by our rapidly changing world?

Troubled individuals often strike back, creating havoc, horror and then death. What do they have to lose?

Meanwhile, 2013 has arrived.

Happy New Year!

George A. Hancock of Scalp Level Borough is an occasional contributor to the editorial page.

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