Codger column: Stop the bleeding


Codger was in a room of the Shelter Island school stuffing gauze into a gaping wound, hoping to staunch the gush of blood before the victim’s life ran out. Was this after another mass shooting?

No, thank goodness, just a training exercise, but still chilling. The program, called “Bleeding Control,” was initiated by the national Joint Committee to Increase Survival from Active Shooter and Intentional Mass Casualty Events.

Intentional Mass Casualty Events. That’s where we are now, taking courses to prepare for the unthinkable, yet seemingly inevitable. A wise precaution, of course, designed for school kids and open to the public. Watching the fake blood bubble through his fingers, Codger was alternately grateful for the chance to expand his first-aid skills and angry that it was necessary. A four-letter word bubbled out of his mouth: VOTE.

For starters, says Codger, vote against Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), enough of a Trump acolyte to campaign with the likes of Steve Bannon and Sebastian Gorka. Zeldin co-sponsored the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would make it easy for out-of-state shooters to bring their guns here. It’s as good a reason as any to vote for his challenger, Democrat Perry Gershon.

While Codger can come up with more reasons, that was the one he was fixed on as he stuffed a dummy’s wound. American democracy is bleeding out, he thought. Time to stuff that wound, too.

Codger thinks this election may turn out to be the most important of his lifetime. For the first time in their lives, Codger and Crone don’t feel safe in America. They are both old enough to remember “duck and cover,” the school kids’ drill to protect themselves from a Soviet Russian nuclear strike.

But that attack would come from outside their borders. The danger is from the inside now, from a government led in a divisive, lunatic, self-serving way. Mass shootings are only a part of the danger.

Some people consider the mid-term elections in two weeks as a referendum on President Trump and as a chance to bolster or reduce his power. Codger agrees with that but also thinks that voters need to concentrate first on their own towns and regions. Zeldin’s record stands on its own enough for voters to make an informed decision despite his avoidance of being pinned down by media interviews and town hall meetings.

The congressman has voted against same-sex marriage, funding Planned Parenthood and the Dream Act, which would provide tuition assistance to undocumented immigrants. He voted to slash the Environmental Protection Agency budget despite the East End’s vulnerable environment.

He voted against hurricane relief (he must figure the East End is immune) and against curbing the international violence of the Saudis (those wonderful folks who brought us 9/11). He voted to permit Americans to deny services to same-sex couples on religious grounds and to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act.

Shelter Island is an eldorado of pre-existing conditions among its aging population and its aging infrastructure, both victims of at least a dozen years of town government neglect. The Island is a medical desert and its roads and water quality have not gotten the kind of Town Board attention they need. Sure, it’s about money, says Codger. So go figure it out, Gary Gerth. You asked for the job.

But it was the Shelter Island presentation of the “Stop the Bleed” program, with its endorsements from Homeland Security, FBI, and the American College of Surgeons, among others, that really set off Codger’s alarms. The establishment obviously thinks that all school kids need to know how to treat bleeding wounds in preparation for all the shootings to come.

Codger found that thought depressing but the first aid course, supervised by school nurse Mary Karnarvogel under the auspices of Stony Brook Hospital, was first rate and even inspiring.

Students had already taken the training during school hours and now a dozen adults learned to compress wounds, apply tourniquets and pack gauze or a clean cloth into a gaping wound.

What else are we doing about potential domestic terrorist attacks, Codger wonders, and do you think we need a change of political leadership before the country bleeds out?

The Island’s warm-up vote is next Saturday, on the library budget. Codger thinks the library is a community cornerstone, its ready access to print and online information, its interesting and relevant programs and panels critical to public involvement in democracy. Tonight’s panel on the First Amendment is a good example. Vote for the budget!

The big vote is in two weeks. On Election Day, Codger expects to be handing out those “voted” stickers supplied by the League of Women Voters (Crone is the local chapter president.) Voting is first aid, too.

Codger will be looking to stick it to you.