Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Sympathy for Neil Heslin

Neil Heslin is the father of a six-year-old who was murdered at the Sandy Hook school, just before Christmas break. (Funny how a certain political party want to make it "the winter holidays" until it's the occasion of a family tragedy...) Nobody at this web site is personally acquainted with him, and the whole community have received so many condolences and teddy bears and suchlike from around the country that it would probably never have occurred to me to mention his name here, until a certain political party decided to use him for an anti-firearms speech.


The comments on this one flew fast and furious. Mine's buried. So I'll say it again here. For those who wanted to see a pro-firearms-rights statement on the ickiness of heckling a bereaved father, here is one. Anything that adds to this man's grief in any way is beyond tacky. It is obscene.

How bad was the heckling? Doesn't matter. Any heckling was bad. How bad was putting him on the stand in the first place? Ghouls.

A few years ago...actually, as best I recall without losing any online time to look it up, it was May 1987...a father bought his son a new sports car as a graduation gift. It was the Camaro IROC Z-28, the trendy impractical car every teenager was believed to want that year.

A bit of back-story young readers won't remember: The Camaro featured the kind of responsive power steering and transmission that now seem to be standard, but that seemed unsettling to some older drivers accustomed to slower-starting cars. When the same features were introduced on economy and family cars, notably Toyotas, the same older drivers learned to live with them but described cars like the Toyota Corolla my mother and I loved as "darty" and "hard to handle" and "not for inexperienced drivers." Funnily enough people my age described these cars as, well, normal.

There was a cliche of my generation in which a guy bought a Camaro to impress chicks, and the chick who moved in with him enjoyed driving the thing so much that when she left him she packed up all her stuff and all his spare cash and drove away in the Camaro.

This did not happen to the son of the former mayor of Johnson City, Tennessee, Sam Crockett. Instead this young man and a friend went out drinking in the new car. Both young men died; the car was a write-off.

Sam Crockett actually wrote--I forget whether I read the letter in the Kingsport Times-News or the Johnson City paper, now--a letter to local newspapers, inveighing against...drunk driving? Reckless driving? Teen driving? No...against Camaros!

Well, naturally this made an incredibly overpriced and inefficient car even more attractive to my generation. Duh. Despite my natural preference for economy cars and dislike of driving I was, briefly, engaged to a guy who drove a Z-28. I drove it. I was sober, got used to the different shape of the new car in a few minutes, and felt as safe in the Z as in the Toyota, or in the Chevette some poor soul used to pay me to drive. What would any twenty-something have done?

But, would anyone in their right mind have heckled or hassled Sam Crockett in the summer of 1987? I don't know. Maybe somebody was that low, back then. I wouldn't know who it might have been. The man was grieving. If blaming (and thereby promoting) a brand name was not the wisest move he could have made, who'd blame him? After losing a child a parent is not exactly insane, but definitely in a special state of consciousness you don't want to know anything about. You give bereaved parents empathy hugs. You debate with people who are not bereaved parents. Duh.