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Saturday, July 9, 2022

Wilmette Notes: Can’t Fix Stupid

Photo by Caren Jeskey

     Seven people were gunned down at the Fourth of July parade in Highland Park on Monday. Everyone I know feels terrible about it—I find myself growing more and more horrified as the shock wears off and the details filter in. For me, it was that 8-year-old boy having his spine severed by a bullet. Just the awfulness of that. Of course North Shore correspondent Caren Jeskey, rather than merely feeling bad, did what she could to help. Her Saturday report:

By Caren Jeskey 

“I can fix almost anything that runs on those presses but I can’t fix stupid.” 
                      —Shoe Comic Strip by Jeff MacNelly
     Folks on neighborhood social media groups in the North Shore are plotting a mission to buy out gun companies and put a stop to this nonsense, or at least a finger in the dam. A pipe dream that I will try to have tonight instead of the nightmares of last night— snarling German shepherds the size of ponies skulking around my house in the middle of the night, shadowy vehicles the size of tanks with tinted windows trailing them. Unknown faces planning unknown things behind the wheels.
 Part of me believes that mass shooters can and should be stopped, and perhaps even rehabilitated, with early intervention into their predilection for violence.
     When the news rolled in about the Highland Park massacre I was at home in Wilmette, having just seen my one 4th of July holiday client on Zoom. Little did we know that as we spoke about improving life, a reminder that a better tomorrow is not guaranteed for any of us had just played out.
     Like you, I am still reeling and processing this most recent horror. As I listened to live news coverage on WBEZ on Monday, I could not just stay at home. As a volunteer professional, I drove to the Highland Park hospital where FBI agents sent me to the Police Department. I checked in with my name and professional license number and waited to be called upon to provide crisis counseling. Decades of crisis work in hospitals has prepared me for this, and I had to at least offer my services.
     A local man walked up as I hunkered down outside of the station to wait, and we entered into an animated conversation about the need for action. A ridiculously sized (considering the terrain) black pickup truck rolled by slowly. Expertly affixed flag poles hosted American flags flapping in the wind as the driver carefully surveyed the area, bearded men in Harleys slowly following behind. Vigilante justice at its finest. Amerika as in the 1987 ABC miniseries where the result of political strife resulted in the Divided States of America. Prophetic, as many things are.

     “It is organized violence on top which creates individual violence at the bottom.”
                        — Emma Goldman, 1917

     Outside of the police department that day, I met friends of victims and provided an ear because they needed to vent. 
As TV vans rolled in and the area started to get crowded, I headed home to await next steps. A colleague linked me with a small group of therapists who had set up a counseling outpost at the local high school. Thursday evening I spent nearly five hours at Highland Park High School with nine other professional volunteers.
      Audrey Grunst of Simply Bee Counseling had generously taken it upon herself to spearhead this effort. They funneled us through a well organized process, which linked us to those in need. No person or family had to wait more than a minute or two for help. We were provided with therapeutic tools for all ages—stuffed animals and crayons, sparkly balls to squeeze for comfort, and even donated wearable TouchPoints. These devices work "by altering the body's stress response with BLAST (Bi-lateral Alternating Stimulation Tactile) technology. BLAST uses gentle, alternating vibrations on each side of the body to shift your brain from your default ‘fight or flight’ response to your calm and in-control response.”
     The people I treated walked in with pinched expressions, cried while they shared, and walked out feeling reassured and less scared, even laughing and smiling. Counseling can and does work.
     On my way home I turned the wrong way and came across the memorials that had been created in downtown Highland Park with hundreds of people lighting candles, or in quiet contemplation, or gathered around a rabbi who spoke words of comfort. Nestled amidst hundreds of bouquets of flowers were messages written on poster board and in chalk on the sidewalks. “Enough. Ban Assault Weapons Now.”
     It wasn’t until I stood before the life sized images of the seven lives we lost that it really hit home. I am, you are, we are all one fanatic away from being touched by tragedy if we have not yet been. Many have mentioned that since the violence has affected an affluent community, perhaps this means that change will really come. We shall see.
     As I left the area I found my eyes peeled to the top of the office building near my car. Just in case. Yesterday, during a client session, I jotted down a sentence they had said. “I put a deposit down on an engagement gun.” I noticed right away that the word ring was not where it was supposed to be. Later as I played my flute I heard a car drive by with thumping music and briefly wondered if a shooter had arrived. This too shall pass, I tell myself. Over and over.
     According to the National Center for PTSD, 60% of men and 50% of women experience at least one trauma in their lives and about 8% of women and 4% of men develop PTSD sometime in their lives. This data is outdated, however, so I will have to do some digging to find out more. Even if people are not diagnosed with PTSD, they very well may have lingering effects after having been targeted and seeing others fall.
     I will try to remember that there is more good in the world than bad, most people are not violent, and that right will one day win over might.
"Violence can always destroy power; out of the barrel of a gun grows the most effective command, resulting in the most instant and perfect obedience. What never can grow out of it is power.”    —On Violence, Hannah Arendt 1970
Photo by Caren Jeskey


  1. Bless your heart for your positive, nurturing reaction. Ubiquitous battlefield weaponry, mass shootings, abortion ban, rigging the electoral process, violent attempt at sedition. I just read an article about how Florida has set up a system for students to video record their professors and turn them in if the students think they are too liberal. This is the world the GOP has created for us. We have a lot of work to do.

    1. What would that work consist of, Dennis? I find most of those who take the trouble to comment here congenial, congenial and laudable, even when they're just blowing off steam. However, I'm far from thinking that the point of view I share with others of my ilk is the only genuine way to look at the world. Certainly, there are many who sincerely, if at times hypocritically, think they have the answer to solve all the world's problems. And, left or right, they are willing to take serious risks to apply that answer, whether it consist of compassion or ruthlessness, love or hate, rationality or true belief. Which is to say that I am not willing to take those risks because I'm not that sure that my ideas will or should prevail. Which is not to say that Caren's efforts to ameliorate pain and further mutual understanding should not be applauded. They should and I join with you, Dennis, and with all others addicted to this blog to congratulate Caren and hope that she continues her good work for a long long time.


    2. What Dennis said is true but worse. Governor Desantis signed HB7, formally called the "Individual Freedom" measure, that bans educators from teaching certain topics related to race and is designed, in part, to prevent teachers from making students feel guilt or shame about their race because of historical events.
      As I've been saying, this guy is scary and can't be stopped in Florida due to the GOP majorities on both state chambers.

    3. "What would that work consist of, Dennis?" - Our democracy is at risk. The work we have to do is protecting that democracy by supporting and voting for people who think the second amendment cancels the first amendment. I'm puzzled why you would feel the need to be critical of someone's heartfelt act of bearing witness - which is what we do in a forum like this.

  2. Thank you for always helping those in need - you are one of the good ones among many more as we look away from those who have helped create minority rule by extremists in all areas of the world we live in. No civilization ever learned this approach would not work in the long run - it was always too late when they finally awoke. I have faith in the future because of people like you who works for positive change through your actions. Thank you for your contributions.

  3. Thank you Caren for stepping up in a time of great need. My sister-in-law lived in an adult group home in Highland Park for many years just blocks away from the shooting & attended the 4th of July parade every year with her nurses & housemates. (My in-laws moved her out just a couple of years ago to another location to be closer to family.) And my boss & I would go into Bob’s Pantry & Deli in 2017 when we did a construction job just blocks away & now I wonder if the shooter may have been there when we were. As for the thought that a mass shooting in an affluent community is going to bring about change, my thought is no. If the mass murder of school children like Sandy Hook & Ulvade doesn’t bring change, nothing will. Thank you again for your service to people’s mental health Caren. As someone who has a mental illness & has a strong medical team, strong family support & all the resources necessary, I live a great life. God bless you Caren for your work & shining a light on mental health issues.


  4. It wasn't your jurisdiction, and it wasn't your town. You could easily have stayed home and listened to the radio, or stuffed cotton in your ears. Instead, you ran to the scene of the carnage instead running of away from it and offered your services as a crisis counselor. That's what the helpers do. Kudos to you, Caren. Thank you for being there when it counted.

  5. Thank you for reading, and this discourse. Next step is to help the right campaigns and lobbying efforts.


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