A Matter of Values

Do you know the name Charles Poland?  I believe you should.  And that you probably don’t, or at best know the name only in passing is why I’ve put Sunday’s sermon on hold and have spent the morning doing some digging on the web.

Charles Poland died on Tuesday, January 29th.  So what, you may ask?  Surely lots of people died on January 29th.  People die every day.

Charles Poland was murdered on January 29th.  Tragic to be sure.  But, unfortunately, a lot of people are murdered.  What’s the point?  What makes Charles Poland different?

Ok.  Charles Poland was a bus driver.  He put himself between a deranged man (whose name will not appear here) and a busload of kids and was shot to death for his efforts.

What continues to sadden and, I will confess, anger me, is that his assassin has gotten endless press coverage.  “Who was he?”  “Why did he do it?”  “How did he do it?”  You may have followed this in the news, because the deranged man was able to spirit one child away and then held that child hostage in a bunker for days.  Finally, law enforcement was able to rescue the child while killing the deranged kidnapper.

Yet even when “covering” the funeral of Charles Poland, which many did not, most of the media spent most of its time talking about the deranged man.

What about Mr. Poland, the man who laid down his life to save the children in his charge?  “Who was he?”

What does it say about our media that these questions, if asked at all were asked only in passing?  And what does it say about us that what we want to hear about is every morbid detail we can about the deranged man?

Charles Poland was 66 when he was shot to death.  He was a vet, having served as a mechanic and then helicopter pilot in Germany and Korea.  He was married for 43 years to Mary Janice Poland, had two children and two grandchildren.

Charles Poland had a sister, Patti Hook, who now lives in Deer Park, WA.  His mother had been the postmaster of Athol, near Spokane.

After his service, Charles Poland worked as an auto mechanic.  But after he retired he began driving school buses.  For him it was the perfect fit.  He loved being around the kids, and driving supplemented his income.  He also gardened, had a shop where he spent time tinkering, and he kept a few chickens.

On January 29th, a deranged man got on his bus and demanded two children.  Charles Poland refused.  He opened the emergency door and then put himself between the gunman and his kids.  For his efforts his was shot four times and killed.  One kid, a boy named Ethan, didn’t clamber out with the other kids.  He was taken and held hostage.

This is as much as I can distil from what little there is available on the web about the selfless hero, Charles Poland.  I wish I knew more.  I pleaded with the NY Times to do a follow-up about him.  They weren’t interested.  No one seems interested.

The media tend to give us what we ask for.  So I can’t help but believe that the reason we haven’t heard more about Charles Poland is that there has been no outcry, demanding his story.  That says much about us.

And it says much about our culture that we give such notoriety to deranged people.  It’s not surprising to me that the assassin of Charles Poland had plans to talk to the media about his “grievances” with society.  Why not?  Look at how much press we gave to the mass murderer in Oklahoma who blew up the Mura Building.  Look at how much press we give to all mass murderers.  Has it not occurred to someone that this kind of notoriety actually encourages deranged people to murder?

I would ask us, we the people, to demand to learn more about our Charles Polands, to hold them up and recognize them for the heroes that they are.  And I would ask our media to sit down and develop a code of ethics for dealing with publicity-seeking deranged individuals.

In the meantime, thank you Charles Poland, for your life and your kindness.  Thank you Mary Janice Poland for sharing your hero with us.  Mary Janice, our prayers are with you and your family.

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