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Daily Pilot

Smith: Debate should focus on life control

By Steve Smith

2:21 PM PST, December 20, 2012

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The notion that cancer is a good way to die provoked only one e-mail that disagreed. All of the others I received privately had no problem with the concept.

In case you missed it, I declared last week that if it is age appropriate, cancer is a good way to die. Properly managed, as was my late wife's brain cancer, the loved one is out of pain and is able to ease out of life instead of departing suddenly as one would via a car crash, a fatal heart attack or being shot by a gunman at an elementary school.

Unfortunately, the most important lesson we should all be learning from the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting is being lost on our so-called leaders. From President Obama on down, elected representatives all over the country and the narrow-minded media pundits are debating the wrong issue. They want or do not want gun control, but that's not the challenge.

The challenge we have as Americans is that we are forgetting the fragility of the lives we live. We work too much and don't spend enough time enjoying our time on Earth. That's not just me talking, that is supported by statistics from several reputable studies, including a 2010 study by the International Labour Organization found that "Americans work 137 more hours per year than Japanese workers, 260 more hours per year than British workers, and 499 more hours per year than French workers." OK, so using stats from the French isn't a good comparison, but you get the idea: We work too much.

Working a lot can be admirable and in a few cases it's actually beneficial. But for the rest of us, those with growing children, it's terrible. Too bad, though, that many of us think that everyone else is working too hard but that the time they are putting in is justified. Those of us who work more than 40 hours a week and those of us who are part of a working parental couple feel justified putting in the extra time. After all, without that second 40-hour per week shift, who is going to pay for day care for the kids?

Then, along comes a Sandy Hook, or a shooting like the one at the mall in Clackamas, Ore., earlier this month and all we can talk about it gun control when we should be talking about life control.

Ask any relative of any of the victims of the Clackamas or Sandy Hook shootings, or the loved one of anyone who has died from any of the shootings in the U.S. over the years and their first response to the tragedy is not whether we should control guns but how the victim's life was cut short. What they are really saying is that they did not have a chance to tell the victims how much they loved them or how thankful they are that they knew them or, worst of all, how they did not even get a chance to say goodbye.

Politicians are wired to react politically, so it is no surprise that the president or any of the members of Congress cannot get past a political solution to the problem. Real leadership, however, would have them elevating the discussion to talk about our lives; about how it is important to do work that we enjoy, to make sure we have a proper balance between work and family and that there is no better time than today — right now, in fact — to tell others how much they mean to us.

But we don't tell them because we've got to prepare for a meeting in 15 minutes.

STEVE SMITH is a Costa Mesa resident and a freelance writer. Send story ideas to smi161@aol.com.