STRAIGHT TALK: When political satire goes too far

Steve Stefanides

I know every generation has gone through the challenges of caring for a family member or other loved one. If you haven’t, you are blessed, for the pain of losing one you care for is one of the toughest times you’ll ever experience.

It seems our generation has been tasked with a number of challenges, but none so heartbreaking or emotionally wrenching than the effect dementia or Alzheimer’s has when it strikes a family member. To watch oneyou love and respect be trapped inside a perfectly good body, but with no sense of who they are, what they have accomplished in life and recognition of those closest to them is heartbreaking.

My parents both passed too early in life; my dad at only 45 years when I was 16, and my mother at the young age of 66. My dad suffered for nine months as cancer ravaged his physical being, but never affected his mind. He fought a determined battle with good humor and a great spirit. My mom would pass shortly after her diagnosis with cancer due to complications and congestive heart failure. She passed only seven days after a diagnosis of the presence of lung cancer.

We were spared the agony of the years of blank stares, confusion, delusional episodes, paranoia and memory loss that accompanies this cruel and debilitating disease that seems all too prevalent in society today.

I have a wonderful friend in New Hampshire who is suffering from this terrible affliction. I met and became friends with him over 46 years ago through the fire service. He was what we referred to as a “call man” with the Concord Fire Department, where I had become a fulltime firefighter. We also belonged to a volunteer rescue squad in our small community and would run on calls far out into the country, which had no such services.

I considered him a big brother of sorts and we became best friends, and I would have the honor of being considered a member of his extended family. When I left the fire service and began my career in sales and marketing of fire apparatus over the next four decades, it wasn’t unusual to have him travel with me, as we shared so much in common in the emergency-services fraternity.

I never thought of him as being “older,” just a lot wiser than me. I would even turn to him for advice when I was elected to serve as a city councilman in Concord or as a member of the New Hampshire House of Representatives and the county delegation. We shared a relationship of respect and brotherhood that I will always be grateful for.

My friend Weldon is now 91 years of age. He doesn’t know me anymore, nor does he understand who his wife and children are. I wish I might have one more night at his kitchen table to swap stories about our many trips and experiences so I could hear him laugh about some of those adventures we shared and see him recognize his wife, children and grandkids.

I wish the same for my roommate from college and his wife, Donna, for her dad, and for my good friends, Sara, and her sister Cindy, as they remember their dad. In fact I wish that for all the families that are dealing with this terrible condition affecting someone they love.

What I don’t want to see is someone make a film that minimizes the contributions of any person and makes light of a malady which is tearing apart the lives of so many in this country today. For Hollywood and the actor Will Farrell to consider making a comedic film that trivializes this disease for cheap political satire and box office profits is wrong.

This is America, a nation that comforts those in need and dedicates time, treasure and talent to soften the impact that this disease has on so many we may know and the thousands we don’t.

In 1947, we launched the USS Hope, a hospital ship that became a beacon of hope for many around the world and pride here at home. We should relaunch an effort to comfort those in need, while restoring the American values that made us such a “Shining City on a Hill,” as so often referred to by President Reagan, while not mocking his memory or the effects of that terrible disease.