web analytics

Category: Opinion

Looking for the answers

Maybe, by the time you read this, someone may have discovered a possible explanation. Drug-induced psychosis. Alcohol-triggered mania. One of the multitude of terrors to which the fragile human mind is susceptible.
But, as of this writing, the psychiatrists were still trying to find some hint as to what anomaly in the brain of Carlos Campos Jr. led him to slaughter his parents. And a baby.
Granted, I have seen only the one photo, I have not seen the man in person, but examining  his mug shot, I see someone who looks lost. In those eyes, I see neither rage nor rampant evil. I see bewilderment. As if Campos is as confused as the rest of us who have been trying to come to emotional terms with the horrific murders in Harrison.
Please don’t misunderstand; I am not defending Campos. I have no sympathy for this person. It is just that one is desperate to seek explanations, even for the inexplicable. Perhaps, especially for the inexplicable.
Some reports say the homicides were triggered by an argument Campos had with his father. It would not be the first time lethal violence began with something relatively simple.
But did he have an argument with the baby? A 3-year-old is a baby.
It is thought that the child may have been killed last. She was found in her crib. Had she heard the screams of her grandmother, or had she — pray it was so — been sound asleep? Did the knife pierce her heart before she even awoke?
It helps, a little bit, to think, to hope, that she died quickly, oblivious to the bestial brutality.
What could possibly possess a man to stand over a baby, to gaze at this being of absolute innocence, and to then butcher her?
In today’s world, violence is all around us. Not a day goes by that we don’t hear of some murder, some frightening indication that, to some members of society, human life has lost all value.
But, always, we look for the explanation.
People cannot simply be that brutal, that evil, can they?
Last week, horror visited Harrison. In a typical Harrison house on a typical Harrison street, one that was daily filled with the laughter of children.
Parents are holding their children closer now, keeping those precious lives safe in the arms of love.
And all of us are looking for the answers, for the explanation, for the reason. Because, if we find a reason, as unjustifiable as it might be, perhaps something like this will never happen again.
But, deep inside, we know it will happen. Somewhere, some time.
Sometimes, although there are diagnoses, there are just no answers.

—Karen Zautyk

We’ve got mail

To the Publisher,
The recent recall of 36 million pounds of ground turkey by Cargill proves once again that our meat supply is not safe. The product has been linked to a nationwide outbreak of Salmonella that killed one person and sickened 76 thus far. With $108 billion in annual sales, Cargill is the world’s largest meat processor.
Salmonella bacteria are nurtured in the intestines of animals raised for food, and many strains are resistant to common antibiotics. The bacteria develop resistance through exposure to antibiotics used routinely to speed growth in these animals.
As a first step, the Food and Drug Administration must ban the routine use of antibiotics in raising animals. The European Union has adopted such a ban in 2006. The World Health Organization has recommended a worldwide phase-out.
But, the ultimate solution to Salmonella poisoning and a host of chronic killer diseases associated with meat consumption is to replace animal products in our diet with vegetables, fresh fruits, legumes, and grains. These foods contain all the nutrients we require, without deadly pathogens, antibiotics, pesticides, carcinogens, cholesterol, and saturated fats.
I found the websites www.tryveg.com and www.chooseveg.com most helpful in making the transition.

Kenneth Miller
Kearny

Bank robbers I have known

Well, there was only one actually, at least that I’m aware of.
He was, surprisingly, a gentleman, despite having done hard time. (In my profession, you meet the most intriguing people.)
I was thinking about “my” bank robber this week after writing the story about the desperate man who allegedly had planned to rob a Chase branch in Nutley. The guy I knew had done more than plan,  but he didn’t get very far with the money.  A few yards, maybe.
The story as I was told it:
My long-ago acquaintance and three of his friends, with a history of petty thefts, decided to go big time and hold up a bank in [name of city withheld].
On the day of the crime,  the designated driver waited in the getaway car on a busy avenue in front of the bank,  while the other three members of the crew did the deed.
The hold-up went off without a hitch, no shots fired, no one hurt. The felons ran out and jumped into their car, expecting to speed away in an instant. But the driver, as new to criminal flight as his cohorts were to armed robbery, first carefully checked the traffic so he could safely merge.
What he saw in the sideview mirror was an approaching police car, a couple of blocks away, speeding up the street, lights flashing and siren blaring.
He panicked, floored it, lost control, jumped the curb and crashed into a telephone pole.
This naturally caught the attention of the cops,  who just happened to be on their way to another call and knew nothing yet about the  bank robbery.
They stopped to render assistance to the accident victims.
And then the bank customers came running out and identified the villains who had just robbed the place.
I heard the story years after the fact, when the man I knew (not the driver, by the way) had been out of prison for some time.  He was that rarity: a reformed criminal.  He had earned not only his GED but a college degree while behind bars and was doing well in his new law-abiding life.
Too bad that doesn’t happen more often.
 —  Karen Zautyk

P.S. Some day,  remind me to tell you about my friend the mercenary, who was the only American wounded at the Bay of Pigs – fighting for Castro.  You meet the most intriguing people  . . . .

We’ve Got Mail

To the Publisher:
Regarding the column “At cross purposes with nonbelievers” (Aug. 3): Karen Zautyk probably would not like having all Christians tarred with the radicalism of Timothy McVeigh or the Westboro Baptist Church. So why does she do it to atheists?
People who do not believe in a supreme being are not non-believers. We believe in love, kindness, generosity, service, compassion and all the virtues that people call good.
We also believe in reason, and in drawing conclusions based on facts. That is why belief systems that are based only on wishes concern us. Religions shape cultures. The more seriously you take any theology, the more dangerous and less responsible it becomes. Making God separate from us disconnects the vital connection between God and human values.
By contrast, living as a disciple of values that are common to us all checks excess and abuse. In other words, if we want a world in which people honor and love each other, we must act like it, whether we believe in a god or not.
If Ms. Zautyk wishes to criticize any group for pushing its beliefs on others, she should look in the mirror. In this country, theists have plastered their god on our money and inserted it into our pledge. Some Christians would like to place their nativity scene on every public lawn in the country.
People who honestly disagreed fought against some of these things, and won. Other cases will lose, deservedly. Just because there are radical atheists, just like there are radical Christians, is no excuse for bigotry.

Paul L. LaClair
Kearny

Purple prose and vile puns

The 2011 Bulwer-Lytton prizes have been announced! This is something to which I look forward every year because 1) they are hilarious, and 2) they allow me to fill this space other people’s wretched writing instead of my own.
The awards, launched in 1982, are sponsored by San Jose (Calif.) State University and are named for 19th century British author Edward George Bulwer-Lytton, who was the first to pen the immortal words, “It was a dark and stormy night.”
Contest entrants compose an atrocious opening line for an imaginary novel.   The grand prize winner for 2011 is  . . . Sue Fondrie of Oshkosh, Wisc., who wrote:
“Cheryl’s mind turned like the vanes of a wind-powered turbine, chopping her sparrow-like thoughts into bloody pieces that fell onto a growing pile of forgotten memories.”
Runner-up, from Rodney Reed of Ooltewah, Tenn., is:
“As I stood among the ransacked ruin that had been my home, surveying the aftermath of the senseless horrors and atrocities that had been perpetrated on my family and everything I hold dear, I swore to myself that no matter where I had to go, no matter what I had to do or endure, I would find the man who did this . . . and when I did, when I did, oh, there would be words.”
And my personal favorites, in no particular order:
“As his small boat scudded before a brisk breeze under a sapphire sky dappled with cerulean clouds with indigo bases, through cobalt seas that deepened to navy nearer the boat and faded to azure at the horizon, Ian was at a loss as to why he felt blue.” – Mike Pedersen, North Berwick, Maine
“Wearily approaching the murder scene of Jeannie and Quentin Rose and needing to determine if this was the handiwork of the Scented Strangler – who had a twisted affinity for spraying his victims with his signature raspberry cologne – or that of a copycat, burnt-out insomniac detective Sonny Kirkland was sure of one thing: he’d have to stop and smell the Roses.” – Mark Wisnewski,
Flanders, N.J.
“The Los Angeles morning was heavy with smog, the word being a portmanteau of ‘smoke’ and ‘fog,’ though in L.A. the pollutants are typically vehicular emissions as opposed to actual smoke and fog, unlike 19th-century London where the smoke from countless small coal fires often combined with fog off the Thames to produce true smog, though back then they were not clever enough to call it that.” – Jack Barry, Shelby, N.C.
“Monroe Mills’ innovative new fabric-dyeing technique was a huge improvement over stone-washing: denim apparel was soaked in color and cured in an 800-degree oven, and the company’s valued young dye department supervisor was as skilled as they came; yes, no one could say Marilyn was a normal jean baker.” – Marvin Veto, Greensboro, N.C.
And my very favorite:
“Detective Kodiak plucked a single hair from the bearskin rug and at once understood the grisly nature of the crime: it had been a ferocious act, a real honey, the sort of thing that could polarize a community, so he padded quietly out the back to avoid a cub reporter waiting in the den.” – Joe Wyatt, Amarillo, Texas

The rest can be found at www.bulwer-lytton.com

— Karen Zautyk

We’ve Got Mail

To the Publisher:
A week before Christmas I received a call from one of my oldest and dearest friends Frankie Ferriero.  When I heard his voice, I knew something wasn’t right.  He said, “Jack, our Friend Mickey D passed away.” We both cried a little but laughed a lot thinking about our times with Mickey when we were kids and later coaching with him in the Harrison Little League and Harrison/ East Newark Junior Football League. I’m writing this letter now as I remember Mickey’s  birthday in July.
Mickey was my first soccer coach when I was 7 and he continued to watch out for me (and many others) as we grew up.  Mickey was a very generous man who gave freely to the kids without asking anything in return.  He was basically like a father to me for a long time.
As I grew into adulthood, Mickey and I remained friends. I would call him or stop by the high school at a game and sit and talk to him and catch up on life.
I just want to thank Mickey for his almost 40 years of service to the children of Harrison.  Mickey loved the kids like they were his own.  To his children, Deirdre, Michael, Catrina and Nicholas,  I want you to know I miss and loved your Dad very much. As a former Harrison Little League president, and on behalf of all the players and coaches who worked with or played against you, Mickey,  I want to thank you for all that you did for the children of Harrison.  I love and miss you!

Jack Thompson
Rockaway
Former Harrisonian and East Newarker!

At cross purposes with nonbelievers

What is it with atheists and symbols of faith—particularly, it seems, symbols of Christianity?
Not content with their ongoing crusade — one abetted by the ACLU — to ban Nativity scenes from every piece of public property, some atheists last December spent good money, money that could have been used to feed the hungry or, for some other act of Christian or non-Christian charity, to post a huge billboard outside the Lincoln Tunnel.
“You know it’s a myth,” read the sign, referring to Christmas.
If we already know that, why the need to tell us?
In fact, why the need to continually confront people of faith? If we are as misguided as the atheists say, they should have pity on us and leave us alone to stumble blindly through our lives of delusion.
But no. They’re always looking for a fight.
The latest is over the Ground Zero cross.
Last week, that cross, formed by two steel beams of the World Trade Center, was returned to the site of the 9/11 attacks to become part of the 9/11 Museum.
The beams in the shape of a cross had been found in the mountain of wreckage during recovery operations and stood for months at Ground Zero as a symbol of hope to those who labored there. Not all of whom were Christian.
It was, and is, one of the iconic images of the tragedy and the aftermath, and as such deserves its place in the museum.
But a group called American Athiests is suing to have it removed. Apparently, their sensitivities are offended.
According to a statement issued by the organization’s president: “The World Trade Center cross has become a Christian [our capitalization] icon. It has been blessed by so-called holy men and presented as a reminder that their God, who couldn’t be bothered to stop the Muslim terrorists or prevent 3,000 people from being killed in his name, cared only enough to bestow upon us some rubble that resembles a cross.”
Don’t know about you, but I feel sorry for a guy who thinks like that. I will say a prayer for him.
In any case, American Atheists say the inclusion of the cross in the museum is unconstitutional. If the cross stays, then all faiths, and no faith, must be equally represented.
I have no problem with that. But it does present a quandary.
Atheists don’t believe in anything, so how to represent them in the 9/11 museum?
Obviously, by absolutely NOTHING.
— Karen Zautyk

We’ve Got Mail

To the Publisher,
As a Kearny resident since 1986, and avid Observer reader, I would like to make a couple of suggestions to both the Kearny Police Department and The Observer.
These suggestions will lower crime, and improve the quality of life for all residents.  They will also send an important message to the criminal element that the residents and police in Kearny will work together to prevent crime, and to locate and apprehend wanted persons.
1. All arrests of criminals occurring in Kearny and published by The Observer shall include a photograph of the subject, along with his name, street address and pedigree.
2. The KPD will furnish The Observer with “Wanted” posters of individuals currently being sought by the KPD.
All of the above is public information. The Observer can print a disclaimer indicating these individuals are all presumed innocent until convicted.
How will this help?  As we travel around Kearny, we see people walking up and down the various streets and avenues.  We pay attention to strangers we see near our homes and our neighbors’ homes.  If we see a stranger walking around our neighborhood, and realize that this individual was recently arrested for criminal activity by the KPD, we could contact the KPD.
A large part of (former New York) Mayor Giuliani’s crime-fighting strategy centered on outstanding warrants.  These people were already wanted by the police for criminal offenses, and until apprehended would continue committing crimes.  Publishing “Wanted” posters of  offenders would add several thousand sets of eyes looking for such individuals.
I believe both suggestions are doable with very little cost.
Brian Gaven
Kearny

’Scuse me while I kiss this guy

Today’s column is about mondegreens. These are not vegetables. “Mondegreen” is the term for a misheard lyric.
The other day, I bought a CD of  ’60s hits and found myself singing along in the car with Percy Sledge: “When a maaaan loves a wal-nut . . . .”
I never actually thought that’s what Sledge was saying (I didn’t!).   But “When a Man Loves a Walnut” is the title of a favorite book, a hilarious collection of misheard lyrics compiled by author Gavin Edwards.
I used to have one of the book’s illustrations posted over my desk. It showed a covey of cute little owls upchucking on a mattress, this, to portray a mondegreen from “Help Me, Rhonda.”
What the Beach Boys sang was, “Well since she put me down, I’ve been out doin’ in my head….”
What some people heard was: “Well since she put me down, there’ve been owls pukin’ in my bed.”
Hey. I didn’t say the mondegreen had to make sense. Although some do.

On a website devoted to misheard lyrics,  www.kissthisguy.com, there’s a post from a Canadian woman who notes that her 4-year-old son thought their national anthem ended not with “Oh Canada, we stand on guard for thee,” but “Oh Canada, we stand on cars and freeze.”

Not that farfetched.
As for our own anthem, consider “. . . Pilgrims bursting in air.”
Then we have classic Dylan: “The ants are my friends, they’re blowin’ in the wind, the ants are a-blowin’ in the wind.”
Or Simon and Garfunkel: “Captain Picard’s on the New Jersey Turnpike.”
Patsy Cline: “I call for pizzas.”
Johnny Cash: “I’m stuck in a wholesome prison.”
Or U2, “Where the sheeps have lo mein.”
Titles can also be misheard.

I was in a NYC pub where someone asked that the band play Paul McCartney’s “Mulligan’s Tired.”
As for why “mondegreen,” here’s the story: The term dates to the 1950s and was coined in an essay by author Sylvia Wright, who told of how, as a child, she had misheard a line in an old Scottish ballad, “The Bonny Earl o’ Murray.”
The song begins:

Ye highlands and ye lowlands,
Oh, where hae ye been?
They hae slain the Earl o’ Murray,
And laid him on the green.
She thought it referred to a double murder: “They hae slain the Earl o’ Murray and Lady Mondegreen.”
Considering that the ballad is written partially in Scottish dialect, I’m surprised that’s all she misheard.

— Karen Zautyk

P.S. One free copy of The Observer to the first person (NOT from the Woodstock generation) who can identify the headline on this column. No googling!
P.P.S. On another matter entirely: During this sultry weather, please provide a dish of water for the wild birds. The poor things are hopping around with their beaks open. Birds get thirsty, too.

Advice about (and for) carjackers

In light of the report of two “bump and run” carjackings in Kearny within 24 hours [see p. 1 story), I decided to do a little research on the crime. Like, what do you do if you get “bumped” yourself?
One officer we spoke to suggested that, rather than getting out of your vehicle,  you drive slowly to a gas station or some other well-lit place where there are plenty of people.
And call 911.
Surfing the web, we found an abundance of info on the Pittsburgh Police Department site, which notes: “Most carjackings happen in as little as 15 seconds, when the thief (generally armed) suddenly appears and demands that the driver surrender the car.”
Fifteen seconds!
It also notes: “The FBI reports that the primary motives for carjacking are to secure transportation . . . to commit another crime, such as drug trafficking.”  Which likely explains why the two Kearny vehicles were so quickly abandoned: The culprits may have  used them for  some other felony and then dumped them.
The Pittsburgh cops warn that carjackers “attack motorists at traffic lights  [and stop signs], gas stations, parking lots, fast food drive-thrus and in other areas where they are stopped or exiting their vehicles.”
And, as happened in Kearny: “. . . thieves in one car pull up behind an unsuspecting driver and bump the driver’s car. When the driver gets out to inspect the damage, the thieves forcibly take control of the car.”
The Pa. police advise always locking your car doors and suggest driving in the center lane on highways to reduce  chances of becoming a bump-and-run victim. But I wonder: In the dead of night, when traffic is light, would that really matter?
In any case, we need to note that the Internet offers advice not merely to potential victims. We also found: What to Do If You Are Caught Carjacking. This is, of course, from the website of a lawyer.
He begins a July 4 blog post by noting that “some people have not had such a good weekend so far” and details a gunpoint carjacking/abduction in his neck of the woods. He then offers: “If you have ever been charged with robbery, burglary, or theft (especially carjacking), you need a criminal defense lawyer who’s going to be aggressive when fighting for your legal rights. [Yada, yada, yada.] Have a fun and safe holiday.”
No, you can’t make this stuff up.
— Karen Zautyk

P.S.  At the bottom of the blog is a comment  from a woman who calls the lawyer’s post “opportunistic and despicable” and who asks, “Why don’t you just say, ‘Go ahead and rob and terrorize victims to your heart’s content. I’m here to defend you’?”
Her name is Karen.
It wasn’t me. Although …