A few years ago I saw a close childhood friend for the first time in many years. Time had accumulated heavily upon him, and he looked as though he were carrying 20 more years than his actual age. It was a Sunday afternoon, and I sought him out of a suited crowd. I don’t think he recognized me at first, as his eyes were bleary and bloodshot. And to be honest, not even the hard-coating of hate has entirely preserved my face from the scars of many seasons.
So eschewing a handshake, I embraced him to say how much he had been in my thoughts. He thanked me for coming and led me over to meet his son for the first time. The boy was lying in a coffin.
Funerals make for a bitter reunion. One, in this case, where it was impossible to not vicariously experience the suffering of his anguished family. Even mentioning it now is excruciating, and I’m going to promptly move on to the reason why I did.
His son had been killed in a car wreck. And following the funeral, my old friend embarked on a sort of impassioned crusade against the factors involved. He lobbied auto-makers and government agencies for enhanced safety features and regulations. He railed against what he felt were the crash-site’s too-high speed limits and need for additional traffic-lights, street lights, and officer patrols. In sum, he investigated and scrutinized every cause and contribution to his son’s death, and then went to war on all of them.
Now whether or not public policy is best cultivated in the fields of bereavement is a valid question. But you can be certain that if sons were dying on the same street at routine intervals, the well-known reasons would be resolved in totality or local politicians would have to sleep in bank vaults out of fear of enraged fathers.
What you can also be certain of is the absence of sententious statements such as:
We will always cherish our high-speed values
America was built by vehicles without headlights
We will never tear unlicensed motorists away from their roads
We refuse to live in fear of drunk drivers
All of which are examples of the sophistry and diversion charlatans regularly deploy when they are committed to doing absolutely nothing. And yet you would be amazed at the rapidity with which our values would turn in their mouths at the approach of a Ceausescu moment.
Though in the absence of such value clarification agents the official response to Europe’s ongoing spate of unfortunate vehicular deaths is one of somber-sounding boilerplate that always concludes with a pledge to leave their source entirely intact. It’s so insulting to survivors that heads-of-state could just as well dispatch talking parrots to their lecterns and spare everyone the pretense of concern.
Because pretense is all their people are getting. Leaders who actually care about the stolen lives and shattered bodies of their countrymen would take tangible–even frantic–measures to mitigate the threats. Those who don’t give a defecation for such things instead take the opportunity to deliver lectures on tolerance. Thus it’s fascinating how you can measure a man’s true affection for something by how intolerant he is toward things that harm it.
By that ancient and fundamental metric Merkel, May, Hollande, and now Sweden’s Stefan Lofven spare little affection indeed for the nations they were entrusted to defend. Though they do at least offer the dead a sad face for now. That is until the parrots are brought out.