Sadly…10 years later and nothing has changed…including my opinion

(Editor’s Note: I wrote this column in 2012, a decade ago, on the day following the shooting deaths of 26 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, Connecticut. In the list of those killed, 20 were first grade students. Reading today about yet another shooting massacre at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, this column came to mind. As I read through these emotional words early this morning I sadly realized that nothing has changed in the past decade. Replace the name of the school, the name of the shooter and the location and everything is exactly as it was 10 years ago. However, as I read the words I wrote 10 years ago I realized my opinion has not changed one bit. Some will read this and agree and some will strongly disagree, but it’s a given and I believe we can all agree that unless something drastic changes across our nation that the “red line of the unthinkable (another school shooting) will be moved again. Thanks for taking the time to read this. JM)

By Jim Muir

“The red line of the unthinkable has been moved again.”

Those 10 poignant and chilling words by a psychologist discussing the massacre of 26 people – 20 of them six and seven-year-old children – at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, sums up the world that we live in nowadays.

This event coupled with a never-ending 24-hour news loop on cable television prompts the same reaction that we have become accustomed to when there is yet another mass killing – revulsion, anger, fear, dread and the inevitable finger-pointing about why.

The bodies of the victims had not been identified on Friday before suggestions on how to prevent another mass shooting started. Talking heads on television, people on message boards and social media and of course politicians always looking to further their cause and re-election all had a variety of answers on how to make life in the 21st Century safe.

And of course passing tougher and more stringent gun control measures is as always at the top of the list. Others want to have an armed security guard at every school and every business in America while some believe that arming school officials, teachers and employees is the answer. Others say add prayer back to our schools and into our daily life and these horrific mass killings will stop.

While all these issues merit discussion I believe attempting to find an answer to what is happening in our country lies much deeper.

Let me explain.

Several years ago I wrote a series of columns about what I called the subtle erosion of America. Certainly, this point of view will be looked at by some as simplistic because I’m from a generation that grew up before Columbine, West Paducah, Pearl and now Newtown. The list of places where a mass shooting can take place has now grown to include any business, any church, any mall, any movie theater and any town, big or small. Close your eyes, point your finger to a location on a map … and that could be the next location for mass murder.

The way this erosion works is a simple two-step process. You see, what once shocked us and made us gasp and recoil in horror now barely merits a raised eyebrow. What once was considered perverse and bizarre is now considered the norm and oftentimes even celebrated. And what once was looked at as outlandish, unheard of and over-the-top is now considered to merely be routine. And this has happened because a silent majority has failed to speak up and voice their opinion and take action when necessary.

The second step in this erosion takes place when every person that does have the courage to offer a differing view is quickly shouted down and labeled as judgmental, moralistic and bigoted … and, of course let’s not forget the pet word of those leading this erosion – intolerant. Not wanting to meet the wrath of this group, who by the way, might be the most intolerant and judgmental crowd that exists, most people do as they’re told and shut up.

And that’s allowed the erosion to take place, one small step at a time. The direct result of this erosion is that we are now a country where God has been booted from the courthouse, the schoolhouse and virtually every other aspect of life. After all, we’ve been told, we must be tolerant and not offend anybody.

Now, here we are in 2012 looking for reasons why a 20-year-old man who has no conscious or value of life could open fire at close range on a group of innocent babies. While all the arguments being tossed out might be symptoms of what is taking place the disease that is causing young men to kill at will I believe, is a cultural issue.

Consider this.

During this erosion we have allowed a culture where a generation of young people have embraced songs that talk about killing, rape and shooting police officers and its celebrated as freedom of expression.

We have allowed a culture of violent video games where people are massacred and slaughtered and these are then gobbled up by parents for their childrens’ entertainment and as a babysitter. Again, freedom of expression.

We have allowed a culture where children think reality television is real, where teen pregnancy is glamorized, where a ‘gangsta’ lifestyle is a goal for some and where 90-plus percent of what is on television is trash and not fit for any eyes, let alone the eyes of troubled young people.

We live in a culture where small children are routinely given anti-depressants and psychotropic drugs even though the effects of those drugs are many times violent, irrational and unpredictable behavior. We live in a culture where mental illness is still talked about in hushed tones and in many instances completely overlooked. Out of sight … out of mind, right? Well, out of sight that is until a mentally ill person opens fire in a first grade classroom, a church or a busy retail shopping center. Again … any town, any place.

In short, what shattered the tranquil setting of the small New England town of Newtown is a cultural issue caused by the erosion of America and no amount of gun control legislation or armed security guards can protect any of us from a deranged shooter hell-bent on killing. Shootings in malls, movie theaters, crowded street corners and even churches is proof of that. Ironically, the morning after the shooting I read a story in the Chicago Tribune with the headline: 10 people including four teens shot overnight on South Side.’ And Chicago has the strictest gun laws in the nation.

As a footnote, let me add that I think the prayer in school issue certainly adds irony to what has taken place in Newtown. In my life I have watched as God was literally booted out of the schoolhouse by a small minority of people – part of the erosion of America group. And again this erosion has taken place because the majority stood back and allowed it to happen. And perhaps the Christian community is the most at fault because they have sat on their collective hands and ‘shut up’ as they were told.

But, isn’t it ironic that nearly every comment and every plea from everybody involved in the Newtown massacre has asked that the victims of this horrific and senseless act be remembered in prayers. I also found it interesting that when the crazed gunman was in the building that teachers and children turned to God and prayer to protect them and in the days since the killings there have been countless prayer vigils. There used to be a saying that stated ‘there are no atheists in foxholes.’ I guess the 21st Century version of that is that ‘there are no atheists in schools and its OK to pray in the classroom when a deranged gunman is hunting for somebody to shoot.’

Gun control, armed guards, armed school administrators, prayer in schools and beefed up security are all items that merit attention but only after the cultural issue — the root of this problem — is addressed. Because, if this is life in the 21st Century there is no place of safety — let me emphasize that again– there is NO PLACE OF SAFETY — that exists and God help us all.

If we continue on the path we are on, as horrific as it is to imagine, that ‘red line of the unthinkable’ will move again one day – because the erosion will continue.

Career change works out well for Mike Meinert

INA, IL – Mike Meinert was not sure what he wanted to do when he was in college, but a career in education was “the furthest thing from my mind.”

But a part time gig at Rend Lake College turned into a full-time opportunity, and Meinert said he hasn’t regretted anything ever since.

“I was one of those students who didn’t really know what he wanted to do,” the welding instructor said. “But once I did find out, it all clicked.”

Meinert has been awarded the 2022 Rend Lake College Foundation Outstanding Faculty Member of the Year award. He said he was completely surprised and elated to receive such a distinction.

“I’ve never won anything before,” Meinert says after he was surprised by fellow RLC faculty members and colleagues.

Meinert admits that he was not a perfect student his first two years at Rend Lake. He walked on to the RLC golf team but overloaded his semester with 19 credit hours in an attempt to figure out what path he should take. He left the team and took a welding course on a whim. He had first started welding at 16 years old but did not think it was going to be the decision that shaped the rest of his professional career.

Meinert graduated from RLC in 1997 with several certificates in welding. He worked in the field until 2010 when he ran into his old welding instructor. Meinert found out that RLC was in need of a part-time welding teacher. At the time, Meinert was managing a fabrication shop in Christopher, and he was thankful for the opportunity for extra work.

What started as a two night per week stint morphed into four nights.

“I just started doing it and kind of fell in love with it,” he said. “It’s something I liked right away.”

Meinert had to step away from his teaching career in 2015, after the shop he was managing shut down and he took a job working in the coal mines. Still, Meinert said he knew the hiatus was temporary, and in 2018, he returned to RLC when a full-time welding instructor position became available.

Because RLC had since started offering an Associate in Applied Science degree specializing in welding technology, Meinert returned to the classroom as a teacher and a student for one year in order to get those missing credentials. He said the experience gave him a new perspective on what may students go through.

“That was a rough while,” he said. “I felt the pain that some of these students go through with having to work and go to school at the same time. It was something I took for granted.”

Meinert has developed his teaching philosophy after much thought about what kind of instruction best suits his students.

“One thing I like to tell my students is that I want to be the type of instructor that you have never had,” he said. “I try to make a bond with those students and make it fun, but still remain some sort of authority.”

Meinert said the most rewarding about being an instructor is the chance to witness firsthand how education can positively change the lives of his students even years after they have completed their programs.

“The best part about my job is watching a student who comes in and is not sure that this is the path that they should be taking,” Meinert explains. “Then, it’s watching them complete the program and ultimately running into them a year or two down the line, and you see them succeed. They got the truck they wanted or bought the house or got the job they were after. Seeing them years later after they leave is just as enjoyable as seeing them succeed here.”

“The students have taught me as much as I’ve learned,” he said. “They will teach you what you need to excel at. That right there is an asset.”

One example of the great report that Meinert has with his students includes his unconventional ways he motivates them. One year, while his dual credit students were preparing for the high school welding competition, Meinert gave some extra incentive to place in the top five. If one places, then he would let them shave his head.

More than one student rose to the occasion, Meinert said his students placed first, third, fifth and eighth in the contest. And the next day, the winners spent the class period discussing what type of haircut their mentor should receive.

Meinert, who has also trained Labradors for the past 11 years, said both patience is an important virtue to have inside the classroom. Students, like puppies, learn at different ages and stages, and the more willing he is to teach the basics and build from there, the more receptive they are going to be to learning.

“It’s worked for me,” he said. “I know exactly what to do, what we’re going to work on and what we are not going to do. Each semester it’s getting easier and easier.

Never once in all the years I have worked here have I thought, ‘Ugh, I’ve got to go to work today.’ It’s the only job I’ve ever had that’s like that.”

Meinert lives in Benton and has two children, Henry and Vada.

Denzil Stubblefield named Old King Coal for 2022

The Southern Illinois Old King Coal Festival is proud to announce Denzil Ray Stubblefield of West Frankfort has been selected as 2022 Old King Coal. Stubblefield will reign over the festival May 12th thru May 15th in downtown West Frankfort.

Stubblefield, a 27-year veteran of the coal mines, will be crowned along with 2022 Princess Flame at the Princess Flame Scholarship pageant, Saturday, April 9 at 3PM at the Benton Civic Center. Tickets for the Princess Flame pageant are available on the Benton Civic Center website or at the door.

Stubblefield is a veteran of the United States Navy serving from 1960 to 1964. His coal mining career began in 1967 as a laborer at Freeman United Coal Mine #5 in West Frankfort. Over his 27-year career in the mines he held many positions such as roof bolter, continuous mine operator and repairman. He attended Freeman Repair School where he learned hydraulics, electrical repair, cutting and welding to become a repairman. He also worked as a mobile equipment surface operator at Old Ben Zeigler Mine 25 from 1981 to 1992. He retired in 1994.

Larry Morris (left) congratuates Denzil Stubblefield on being named 2022 Old King Coal.

During his career Denzil was often recognized by management for his extra effort and quality of work. One former manager of maintenance at Old Ben #25 stated that his workmanship was as good as he had seen in the industry. On days there were no was no supervisor on top, he would work and take complete responsibility for the surface. It was common to find Stubblefield performing regular maintenance on equipment without being asked. The same manage stated “Many times, we take men like Denzil for granted. He is never in the office, never creates problems, shows up for work and does his job to the best of his ability.”

When Denzil was 9 years old, his father was killed in the Orient 2 mine explosion in West Frankfort on December 21, 1951. In the letter nominating Stubblefield submitted by his daughter Tracey Stubblefield, she said of her father, “My dad being a young boy went to work to help support his mother and brothers. The fact that he was the youngest didn’t’ matter to him. He saw a need and stepped up to provide for his family”. Denzil’s wife of 49 years, Gloria, passed away in 2010. He also has a son Ricky, 3 grandchildren, 1 great grandson and 2 great granddaughers. Another daughter Amy passed away in 2009.

The Old King Coal Festival officially kicks off in downtown West Frankfort at 5 PM Thursday, May 12 with family night on the Midway. All rides take 1 ticket. The Hollerboys will take the main stage from 7 to 10:30. On the main stage Friday evening will be Hoot and Holler Band at 6:30 and Johnathan Len at 9. The Coal miners Memorial Service will be held at 10am at Coal Miners Memorial Park Saturday morning, midway opens at 1pm with the Grand Parade beginning at 1pm also. Saturday night Brat Pack takes the stage at 6:30 with Rockin’ Terry Lee following at 9:30. The festival continues Sunday with the midway opening at 1pm. All main stage concerts are free. Bring your lawnchair for all the fun.

Come enjoy the rides, food, games, parade and free entertainment at the Southern Illinois Old King Coal Festival, May 12th thru the 15th in downtown West Frankfort. For more information like us on Facebook and visit www.oldkingcoalfestival.org.

Man charged with gun theft in Franklin County

ZEIGLER – One man has been arrested and charged after allegedly breaking into a gun safe to steal firearms and ammunition from a Zeigler home.

Here’s the link to the story in the Southern Illinoisan.

Rend Lake College seeking public input for future plans

INA, IL — What do you see on the horizon for Rend Lake College?

That’s what college leaders are asking the public this month through an online survey and two community forums in Jefferson and Perry counties. Input from the public will allow RLC to prepare a framework for future growth and development of major campus projects for the next 10-15 years.

“We are seeking input from staff, students, and the community,” said RLC Vice President of Finance and Administration Angie Kistner.

The college is specifically looking for what its district would like to see in:

New programs and training
New spaces to meet future needs
Ways that current facilities could be better utilized to meets the demand of the district
The college has developed an online survey at https://www.rlc.edu/masterplan.

In addition to seeking input the through the survey, the college will host a couple of town-hall meetings where members of the community can offer input.

Thursday, April 7 from 5 – 6:30 p.m. at the RLC MarketPlace, 328 Potomac Boulevard in Mt. Vernon.
Thursday, April 14 from 5 – 6:30 p.m. at the RLC Murphy-Wall Pinckneyville Campus, 5680 IL-154 in Pinckneyville.
“The college needs the help of all those who we serve,” Kistner added. “With your help, we can shape the future of our campus to better meet the needs of our students, our staff, and our district.”

For more information, contact Kistner at (618) 437-5321 Ext. 1221 or kistner@rlc.edu.

Franklin County Sheriff and Circuit Clerk offices now offering free app

Staff Report

Two Franklin County offices are taking a giant step into the 21st Century.

In an effort to utilize technology that is available and to keep the public better informed the Franklin County Sheriff’s Department and the Franklin County Circuit Clerk’s office have both added separate apps that are specific to each office.

Captain Kyle Bacon, who has handled the project for the Sheriff’s Office, said TheSheriffApp.com serves more than 500 public safety agencies throughout the US and Canada.

“Now more than ever, apps are used to communicate information,” Bacon said. “We are very excited to utilize the Franklin County Sheriff’s App to better communicate with the communities that we serve. This new app will provide an avenue for the Sheriff’s Office to increase transparency by utilizing technology for public awareness and information regarding public safety.”
Bacon said the app is being paid for through funds from the jail’s commissary and will not be any cost to taxpayers.
The Sheriff’s App is a free download on both iPhone and Android phones. Simply go to your App Store and download Franklin County Illinois Sheriff.

Features to be utilized on the Sheriff’s app include:

Push Notifications (weather, events, immediate public safety issues)
Tip Submission
Most Wanted / Warrants
Sex Offender Searches / Mapping
Press Releases
Info Regarding Sheriff Sales
NWS – Weather Integration Services
Recruitment
Contact / Directory
Inmate Commissary Services

Franklin County Circuit Clerk Jim Muir said the Circuit Clerk app will be an invaluable tool to help residents who utilize the office and court system.

“Statistics show that 80 percent of people have a smart phone, so to me it’s just a matter of common sense to utilize technology that is available to us,” said Muir. “The Circuit Clerk App will allow users to check for court cases on Judici, pay on a fine or traffic ticket from their phone, get Zoom court information, check the daily court docket, check jury information and many more things. It’s just an unbelievable asset that folks can have on their phone all in one place.”

Muir said the Circuit Clerk App is being paid for through interest from bond money that was invested and will be no cost to taxpayers.

Features to be utilized on the Circuit Clerk’s App include:

Push Notifications (weather, events, immediate public safety issues)
Judici to search court cases
Daily court docket
Pay a fine or ticket electronically
Inmate search and inmate release notification
Zoom Court instructions
Link to the Franklin County website
Downloadable court forms
E-File information
Jury Duty Information
Online resources for self-help litigants
Women’s Advocacy information
Filing fees

The Circuit Clerk App is a free download on both iPhone and Android phones. Simply go to your App Store and download Franklin County Illinois Circuit Clerk.

Comedy Improv Night back at RLC on Jan. 27

INA, Ill. — Looking for a night of laughs? Or maybe you want to test your own comedic skills? The Rend Lake College Thespians Club will host its annual Evening of Comedy Improvisation at 7 p.m. Thursday, Jan. 27 in the RLC Theatre.

The event — similar to the show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” — will be performed by the RLC Thespians along with audience members. Theatre director Tracey Webb said they are looking for a large turnout of people who enjoy comedy without the safety of a script and who would like to try their comedic chops on stage with the RLC Thespians. The event is about 90 minutes long and is suitable for junior high students and older.

The Thespian Troupe began in 2002 as a club for students to practice their comedy skills and this annual event has been running for more than a decade. The Thespians work on comedy throughout the semester at meetings, as well as at local events, schools, nursing homes, and hospitals.

Services set Jan. 30 for Gene Alexander (Mr. A); dedication ceremony of bronze statue to follow

Gene Ramon Alexander, more affectionately known as “Mr. A”, passed peacefully into God’s presence at 86 years of age on December 8, 2021, at 9:17 PM in Deaconess Midtown Hospital of Evansville, Indiana after suffering a stroke at his home.

A Celebration of Life will be held on Sunday, January 30, 2022, at 3:00 p.m. with Rev. Kurt Sanders officiating. At 3:30 p.m. the Dedication Ceremony of a new bronze bench with a statue of his likeness will be held. Both services will be in the Doug Collins and John Malkovich Event Center located at the Benton Grade School Complex in Benton.

In lieu of flowers, Mr. A has specifically requested that donations be made to the Mr. A Memorial Fund Rend Lake College Foundation, Benton Ministerial Alliance, First Christian Church Fellowship Hall, or the SICF (Mr. A Fund). Marty Leffler at Leffler Funeral Home in Benton will accept and direct all donations.

To leave online condolences to the family, or to share memories of Mr. A, visit www.lpfuneralhome.com

Celebration of Life Services are through the Leffler Funeral Home of Benton.

20-year-old Rend Lake College grad secures patent — an enormous feat for his age

At age 20, recent Rend Lake College graduate Dakota Tate has received a patent — for his invention of a way to use discarded automotive, truck and implement tires as drainage culverts.

Here’s a link to the story at the Southern.

Gov. J.B. Pritzker urges hospitals to halt nonemergency surgeries amid record-breaking COVID-19 spike; lieutenant governor infected and driver’s facilities to close

The effects of Illinois’ most recent COVID-19 wave were varied and widespread Thursday, with new daily cases breaking another record, the lieutenant governor announcing she has tested positive, the state shutting down in-person services at driver’s license facilities for more than two weeks and the governor urging hospitals to halt nonemergency surgeries.

Here’s a link to the story at the Chicago Tribune.

Benton, West Frankfort, Illinois News | Franklin County News