Friday, May 25, 2007

Guest Commentary: Roger Lynn, Pastor, United Church of Moscow.

Roger Lynn has been pastor of the United Church of Moscow for the last 12 years. He lives about a mile north of the Latah County Courthouse. Like many of his neighbors, Roger was awakened on the night of Saturday, May 19th, by the sounds which we would come to know the next day, was gunfire issued by Jason Hamilton. More than 125 rounds discharged, and four people dead.

Roger sent in this commentary:

I came awake to what I thought was the sound of someone knocking on our door, desperate to be let in. The next morning I learned that the "knocking" had actually been the first burst of weapon fire at the Court House. And then the thought occurred to me that it had, in fact, been someone desperate to be let in.

He had chosen a particularly tragic and disastrous way of expressing his pain, but pain it most certainly was. And now we, as individuals, as a community, as a nation, as the human race, are left with the challenge of picking up the pieces of our broken world and moving on from here. We are left with the challenge of how to respond to the desperate knocking that persistently disturbs our living. And we have choices in how we will do that.

In his farewell address to the Hebrew people as they prepared to enter the "Promised Land," Moses says, "I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Choose life so that you and your descendants may live." (Deuteronomy 30:19)

As a person of faith it is my strong conviction that God's desire for all of us is full, rich, abundant living which is defined by qualities such as peace, compassion, health and connection.

The path which leads to such life can be difficult to find, particularly since we have frequently wandered so far afield. And, I believe, it is possible to find our way back to the path.

It is possible to remember who we truly are, way down deep in the core of our being. If we will pay attention to the deep longings of our hearts, if we will listen for the quiet whispers of the Sacred Presence, if we will open ourselves to the promptings of the Spirit, we will discover the path to healing and wholeness.

It is a journey that will require the very best of who we are. It will require all our energy and commitment. And it is a journey which we must make together, with no one left behind. We absolutely must begin and end with the firm conviction that every life is sacred, every person is of immeasurable worth, every soul is intrinsically linked to us.

We cannot meet these challenges alone. Together, with each other and with God, there is nothing we cannot do. I do not know all of what must be done to even begin moving us towards life and away from death, and I know that the challenge is overwhelming in its enormity.

I also know that we must begin.

We must begin to transform the personal, institutional, cultural, societal systems which perpetuate our brokenness -- the systems that keep people in poverty, deny them access to health care, devalue and dehumanize them, and so much more. We must begin to reclaim our humanity and the humanity of every person on the planet.

"Choose life," Moses said, "so that you and your descendants may live."

In the darkness of these days in which we find ourselves, as we have wrapped our arms around each other, wept together and reached out in love and support to those around us, we have, indeed, already begun to choose life.

May the ripples of that choice spread and help to heal the world.


Roger Lynn's commentary will air Friday afternoon on Northwest Public Radio.

You can also listen to it here.


Do Cops Really Need Your Help?

When the shots rang out at the Latah County Courthouse on Saturday night, some people tried to help.

One man packed a pistol and rifle into his car and drove to the scene. Officers didn't know if there was more than one shooter at the time, so they packed him in for questioning.

At a house nearby, 20-year old UI student Pete Husmann was watching "Die Hard." He got out his .45 caliber handgun and rode his bicycle to the scene, trying to help.

The UI Argonaut reports Husmann did not have time to draw his weapon before being wounded by gunman Jason Hamilton. The first bullet struck Husmann in the back, passing through his liver and a rib. While on the ground, he was hit twice more. The second bullet entered in the front of his neck and exited through his shoulder while a third bullet struck him in the thigh.

Latah County Sheriff Wayne Rausch characterized Husmann's action as vigilantism. In an interview with the Moscow-Pullman Daily News (subscription required), Rausch said of Husmann's involvement: "we appreciate the thought, but it was foolhardy." He said armed civilians who respond to a crime scene can create the perfect combination for disaster, as was the case in that scene outside the Latah County Courthouse. He pointed out that had Husmann managed to pull out his gun and start firing, police might have mistaken him for the shooter and taken him out.

Let's go back a month, to the days following the Virginia Tech shootings.

Gun advocates weighed in with comments such as:

"Whether or not you believe it's a good idea for the carrying of concealed firearms to be widespread, anywhere in the world, it's absolutely incontestable that less people would have died had a few students in that classroom been armed."(Source)

"An armed citizen could have stopped this guy [Cho Seung-hui] almost dead in his tracks with minimal loss of life. Assuming he wasn't one of the victims caught off-guard in the front of a room before the first shots rang out, an armed citizen would have had their weapon drawn and returning fire after the first few shots. People might have died but it would have been very few."(Source)

In Texas, governor Rick Perry and some Republicans in the Legislature say they are considering repealing a state law that prohibits the possession of firearms on college campuses. "It makes sense for Texans to be able to protect themselves from deranged individuals," Perry said. (Source

Here's a what the National Review's John Derbyshire wrote:

"As NRO's designated chickenhawk, let me be the one to ask: Where was the spirit of self-defense here? Setting aside the ludicrous campus ban on licensed conceals, why didn't anyone rush the guy [Cho Seung-hui]? It's not like this was Rambo, hosing the place down with automatic weapons. He had two handguns for goodness' sake—one of them reportedly a .22.

"At the very least, count the shots and jump him reloading or changing hands. Better yet, just jump him."

Back now to Pete Husmann, who together with his family, appear to share the very same sentiments. The avid hunter took three bullets, and told his mother his initial thought was, "Now I know what a deer feels like." He also told his mother he prayed to God to let him live as he lay bleeding in the dark, bullets flying above him.

Bystander (and very brave soul) Alex Moore ran into the danger and pulled Husmann to safety. (Watch KREM's video) He also used his belt as a tourniquet on Husmann, slowed the bleeding and ulitmately saved his life.

Still, in an interview with KREM TV which aired last night, Husmann said he would definitely do it again, but maybe differently - this time he wouldn't get shot.

His mother Janice says she's very proud of him; father Sam said that if this happened again, he would definitely hope Pete would do the same thing.

I hope that family has good medical insurance.

More on Pete Husmann, from the Spokesman Review. A discussion celebrating his actions, is at

Is ANYTHING from China Safe These Days? (And how do we know what's from China, anyway?)

I've written some posts about the dangers of Chinese food products lately, being appalled by the callousness of some producers willing to compromise safety and even endanger lives, just to make a fast buck.

But how can consumers tell if a product comes from China or not?

A couple of days ago, my friend Jackie told me in an e-mail message that she'd bought a fruit snack mix from Costco, but didn't realize until closer scrutiny of the label that some of the components came from China, mixed in with ingredients from other countries.

A package of frozen wild mahi-mahi in my freezer shows the country of origin as China. But is that China as in Taiwan (Republic of China) - or is it the People's Republic of China, where all these horror stories originate?

Those are just two examples of how labeling is vague, and inadequate. Food producers in other countries including the U.S often purchase Chinese products to manufacture their goods - wheat gluten in pet food, as an example.

NPR explored this topic in-depth on Morning Edition today. Read or listen to Richard Knox's report: As Imports Increase, a Tense Dependence on China. It's a comprehensive page with lots of features: You can see some of the products China has cornered the market on it from
antibiotics to vitamins. And former FDA official William Hubbard explains why melamine got through the FDA's food safety inspection system, and whether consumers should worry about imports.

Here are links to my earlier blog entries on the subject:

Food Safety: So Much More Than E. coli

Another Tale of Food Safety Challenges in China

Deadly Industrial Chemicals from China Landing Up Cough Syrup and Other Products

Trail to Chinese Food Producers Turns Cold