Alone With J

    It’s impossible to begin today’s entry anywhere other than with the tragic death of Spc. Nick Taylor, the young man who gave his life in Afghanistan and will be laid to rest next Tuesday in his native Berne.
    This country’s foreign policy decisions that have placed young American men and women in harm’s way in lands far away is certainly a topic that should — no, must — at some point be debated in earnest. But not here. Not now. A young man from our county — the second in as many years — has laid down his life for his country. A simple “thanks” hardly seems sufficient.
    Most impressive has been the way the Berne community has rallied together around one of its own in the 10 days following Taylor’s death. “It’s going to be a challenge, but we’ll get through this, because we’re a strong community,” said Berne City Councilman Ron Dull.
   Indeed, it is.
   I have to admit, the sense of “community” is a little foreign to me. For several reasons, some professional and others a personal choice to remain somewhat reclusive, I have never felt strong ties to any one geographic area. Perhaps that’s my loss. Berne is a close-knit community, and its collective combination of grief, compassion and strength has been truly inspirational.
    City Council President Gregg Sprunger fought back tears earlier this week as he prepared to read a council resolution honoring Spc. Taylor. Then, in an attempt to lighten his own mood, Sprunger smiled and said he was sporting a Green Bay Packers’ tie that evening “in honor of Nick. He was a big Packers’ fan.”
    You don’t know that kind of stuff without truly knowing members of your community.
    While those of us outside Berne may be unable to share such personal remembrances, we nonetheless can share in that community’s grief and help honor the life and service of Spc. Taylor. His body will pass through Decatur at approximately 3:30 p.m. Sunday on its way home to Berne.
    It would be nice to see 13th Street lined with well-wishers to offer the fallen soldier one final salute as he passes by on his way home.

• Penn State pays the price
    Were the heavy sanctions and fines levied this week by the National Collegiate Athletic Association against Penn State University in the wake of a sexual abuse scandal there too heavy? Too lenient? We’ll leave that debate up to others.
    But make no mistake — while the dateline on this continuing saga reads State College, Pennsylvania, it just as easily could have been Ann Arbor, Michigan; Columbus, Ohio; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; or any one of five dozen towns across the country were college football has gotten too big for its collective britches.
    Some have argued that the NCAA — itself a greedy and money-hungry organization if ever there was one — stepped beyond its scope of authority in handing down the unprecedented sanctions against Penn State. But if there ever was a time for setting new precedents, in hopes of avoiding future abuses and arrogances that seemingly were rampant on the Penn State campus, that time would seem to be now.
    Money, regrettably, will continue to be the driving force in college athletics, but now institutions are fully aware of the ramifications of allowing athletic programs and those who run them to rule the roost.

• Guns, death and America
    Following the senseless mass murder in a Colorado movie theater, respected Washington Post columnist E.J. Dionne demands that Americans to “have the debate the NRA doesn’t want” by exploring “sensible solutions” to gun laws which have gone horribly wrong in this country.
    In the wake of similar tragedies, Dionne wrote, “The gun lobby goes straight to the exploitation argument — which is, of course, a big lie. We never allow an assertion of this kind to stop conversation about other issues. Nobody who points to inadequate flood-control policies is accused of ‘exploiting’ the victims of a deluge. ... No, it’s only where a gun massacre is concerned that a gag rule is imposed on any thinking beyond the immediate circumstances of the catastrophe. God forbid we question a tenet of the theology of firearms.”
    Where does gun violence end? Just over half-way through 2012, Fort Wayne has already seen 21 homicides. Twenty-one! Enough already.
    The time has long since passed to continue to ignore the NRA’s role in weaking gun laws in this country, to the detriment of its citizens, and stand up for once on the side of common sense.

• Columnist will be missed
    Syndicated columnist Donald Kaul, whose work appears regularly on these pages, sadly has written his final column, which is elsewhere on today’s page. I will miss his humor and wit, perhaps because I agreed with him more often than not. I believe most readers of this page will miss him as well.
While he didn’t (doesn’t) dislike Republicans, per se, he largely loathes a GOP ideology seemingly based entirely of late on obstructionism and xxxxxx
    I like that in a man.