Total Pageviews

Friday, January 19, 2018

Ode to a Public Servant

Dear Commissioner,

It has been one year now since I first brought my concerns to you, my elected representative, about my nephew's tragic death as it relates to County Medical Examiner Dr. Joyce deJong.

At that time, you may recall, I was urged to back off and keep quiet and let the attorneys work the problem. We did that. Nothing changed, except for the County Corporation Counsel, which gave us a fresh round of empty promises last November... And she even told us that you, Commissioner Hall, were "not at liberty" to discuss this issue with Theresa, my sister, Charlie's mom.

Not at liberty.


Now that you've waited us out, I assume this means you are still not at liberty to discuss it with her, me or anybody else, and this breaks my heart not just as a grieving person, but as a citizen... I'll tell you why, if you have a free moment.

In 1976, in the South Westnedge Elementary School's Bicentennial Parade, I proudly pushed my parents' old lawnmower along, decked out with red, white and blue ribbons. That's also about the time you start learning about George Washington and the cherry tree. And, from there, the American Revolution.

It all clicked for me. Patriotism. I put my hand over my heart and pledged allegiance to the flag. I sang the dusty old songs about our sweet land of liberty. It made perfect sense. I love my Mom. I played baseball. I ate apple pie... Hook, line and sinker: I believed.

This belief carried on throughout my schooling - history, government, political science. I delivered the Kalamazoo Gazette for years, and read it every day. I wrote Letters to the Editor, most of which were published in the paper. My folks would cut them out and magnet them to the refrigerator door, where they fluttered until they were brittle and tan.

If I had never lived anywhere else, this entire horrific experience would lead me to believe that it was all merely another myth designed to make me behave. Liberty... Poof. I might suppose the same thing about Justice, too, since they go together like peanut butter and chocolate, like Santa Claus and the Easter Bunny.

But I didn't stay here, thank God... I went off and lived in Phoenix for 15 years, during which I watched Maricopa County government writhe and squirm in its own soilbed of corruption. Blogged about it in real time. Trust me. I know bad government when I'm looking at it.

Then I came back home, to enjoy my extended family. You know. Before the little ones grew up.

And amid the worst circumstances you can imagine - assuming you are at liberty to do so - through my tears I recognized it in Kalamazoo County: Bad government, whether you were willing to acknowledge it, to stop it, or go along with it because that was the path of least resistance.

As a citizen, I don't have to beg for representation, Tracy. I get to demand it. I live in District Three and you are my elected official. Mine, as John Taylor was before you, and whoever will be after.

As a citizen, I refute what my other public employee, the County Corporation Counsel, said about you. I am the one who gives you that liberty through the Founding Fathers before me, and every soldier who fought and died in between their day and ours.

As a citizen, my will should have superceded any supercilious attempts to strip you of your right to speak freely to us, your constituents. You lost sight of the fact that your responsibility is to the voters, not to some bureaucrat named Amber, who clearly has no understanding of her place in the political food chain.

Let this serve as a reminder.

As you did not uphold that which you have sworn to, please tell me when the County Commission meets in a setting in which the public may address the Commission. As your constituents, I guess we have to represent ourselves.

pH o1.19.18


Sunday, January 14, 2018

To End All Wars

On Sunday, December 7th, 1941, a day that will live in infamy, my Dad, Dr. Charles F. Heller, Jr., had just turned ten years old, growing up in Kansas City, Missouri. He heard an important news bulletin come in over the radio, and he ran out to the backyard to tell his folks what he had heard:

The Japanese had bombed Pearl Harbor.

He didn't know where Pearl Harbor was, didn't know who the Japanese were... But it was bad, he could tell, from the alarming voices coming through the speaker. His parents didn't make a big deal out of it, he said, but the war was on.

By August of 1945, three and a half years later, the Emperor of Japan (thought by his people to be a god) shuffled out onto the deck of the USS Missouri and signed the surrender papers. This forever set the benchmark for American exceptionalism and established the United States as a Superpower.

Three and a half years. By that time, my dad had grown up quite a bit. Boys really do between the age of ten and almost 14 years.

This was my nephew Charlie's last video. My sister found it quite awhile after her son passed away having just barely turned 12 years old.

It shows his state of mind pretty accurately, not much different from other kids at that age. A couple of years older than his Granddad was when he heard about Pearl Harbor, couple years younger than his Granddad was when President Truman (another great Missourian) wrapped things up with those two A-Bombs.

World War II... Huh. Over and done with, all sides of the globe, three and a half years. And not just Japan, but Hitler, too. Quite a bloody feat.

Of course, wars can go on forever, if neither side has an advantage, but both wish to continue fighting. Later on, the historians enjoy the luxury of calling it madness.

Our struggle with Kalamazoo County, and the Medical Examiner (among others), in a spat about nothing like the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, well... It's only been two and a half years now.

And grinding on.

So like the boy at the end of the video says: "Let's get started, shall we? Thank you... And I will see you again soon."

pH o1.14.18