Wednesday, March 27, 2013

A Life Lived Too Publicly

We learned yesterday of the passing of perennial Oshkosh political candidate John Daggett.  It was a sad ending to a sad life lived far too much in the public eye. When we have discussions about the "failures" of the mental health system in the US, it's not so much the school shooters or serial killers that I think of, it is the people like John Daggett--who live slightly detached from reality--that come to mind. 

Daggett was infamous for educational and work experience claims that could not be verified--and when questioned about those claims he would usually lash out at the reporter.  Mr. Daggett also lived in a paranoid fear of the Oshkosh Police Department--engaging officers in struggles after his bizarre behavior warranted calls to 911.  On at least two occasions officers even had to tazer Daggett to get him to comply with their orders.  In those cases, Daggett (representing himself of course, with books checked out from the Oshkosh Public Library) had resisting arrest and disorderly conduct charges thrown out.  I remember one time, Judge William Carver even admonished the police for being too hard on Mr. Daggett. 

And then there was the endless litany of political candidacies.  In the span of 24 years, Daggett ran for Congress, Winnebago County Executive, Winnebago County Board, the Oshkosh Area Board of Education and the Oshkosh Common Council--often all at the same time.  Back when the League of Women Voters wanted serious questions asked at their debates, I would be a panelist--and there would be John Daggett in all of the three debates.  Usually, making no sense in his answers--leaving us to wonder why he was being allowed to embarass himself in the public eye time and again.  He also wanted to form a Police Brutality Committee--with himself as the chairman of course--to punish officers who gave him a hard time.

And in many of those races, it was only because of Daggett's candidacy that a primary election had to be held--meaning added expense to taxpayers in the form of printed ballots and manning all of the polling places for elections he had no chance of winning.  In this forum I would ask nearly every year "who is signing these nomination petitions--and who are the 800-people voting for this guy every year?"

Rather than clashing with police and running for public office, John Daggett should have been under treatment somewhere out of the public eye.  Yes, that would have given us a lot less to talk about over the years--but sometimes, that is a good thing.

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