I am of an age that my first reading lessons involved the funnies or comics in various New York City daily newspapers. My mother would sit me at the kitchen table and go panel by panel through various strips pointing to and sounding out the words scripted in the balloons floating above the characters heads. Sunday’s edition was especially awaited because it was printed larger and was in glorious color. To this day I still read the funnies. With time and, ahem, maturity, there are fewer that I follow. These still bring chuckles, provide agonizing groans and surprise with poignancy.
I have been asked where I get the ideas for my essays. They come from so many different sources. A well- turned phrase in a novel, an editorial, a conversation, a reflection, a photo, a comic strip. On Thursday, May 30th, I was taken by the Wizard of Id strip. It was a three panel strip that had only one drawn character, the Wizard. If you didn’t see it, I’ll describe it for you: The Wizard is walking along a street. He is passing a sewer or storm drain. A balloon is floating above the sewer with its attached string leading down to the sewer grate. The Wizard produces his magic wand, points, touches the balloon. Zap! The balloon is destroyed. In the last panel he says, Not in my neighborhood, Chuckles!
This set off various threads of thought in my mind. My mind filled with many recollections: to Stephen King’s It; to the incredibly nasty, evil Pennywise feeding on the fears of children; to King linking the worst desires of this frightening villain to where he lives in the sewers; to Neighborhood Watch signs I see posted throughout American locales; to the See something. Say something! Campaign publicized on TV.
We are all ready to be savage in some cause. The difference between a good man and a bad one is the choice of the cause American philosopher William James said. Count the Wizard as a good, good man. Sets a great example, he does. Mason and Marc Mastroianni, the team responsible for the current run of the comic strip, deserve our thanks for making such a brilliantly succinct point about what evil still lurks out there in the world. Additionally, you can check out the recent PBS Frontline documentary from May 28, 2019, Sex Trafficking in America. It is not an easy watch.
In a beautifully tender essay in the New York Times, Sunday June 2, 2019 Amber Scorah wrote about loss. The essay concerned her coming to grips with the unexpected death of her 4 year old son at a day care center. She wrote the child was a means of capturing immortality …I would die first and that made him immortal for me. Further, I will never know who my child would have been, but I know his love.
All this leads me again to the reason our foundation exists, the loss of a child through violence. We are diminished as John Donne would say. That bell is tolling to ask us to remember and to discover a connection between ourselves and those who surround us with their love in this time of loss.
As John Lennon wrote, There’s nothing you can do that can’t be done. Nothing you can say but you can learn how to play the game. No one you can save that can’t be saved. It’s easy. Would that it would be easy! Here’s to the ongoing task of keeping our children safe in this day and age. It can be done. It isn’t a game. Save one child then another. Surely worth doing no matter the effort! See you around the neighborhood!