Between Brawls and Debates

On an otherwise slow news day, a couple of stories in The Washington Post caught our eye. One was about a brawl that broke out between some parents at a Little League baseball game in Lakewood, Colorado. The other was about a supporter of President Donald Trump allegedly assaulting a newspaper reporter outside Tuesday’s big reelection announcement rally in Orlando, Florida.
The stories might well strike you as entirely unrelated, and perhaps they are, but we read them as just two more in a daily diet of tales about America’s gradually slide into trash-talking and sucker-punching incivility, which seems to have picked up pace over the past few years. There’s no blaming Trump for human nature’s most savage impulses, of course, but we can’t say he’s done much while in office to encourage what President Abraham Lincoln called “the better angels of our nature.”
Which is not to say the damned Democrats are any better, or aren’t arguably worse. The left includes the black-masked Antifa and other gangs that often smash both windows and heads during otherwise peaceful protests, and for all its good intentions the Black Lives Matter movement against police brutality has led to deadly attacks on blameless law enforcement officers. The equally well-intentioned Me Too movement against sexual assault and harassment has harmed the reputations of celebrities whose only crimes seem to be acting like slightly less than perfect gentleman, and conservative youngsters are being kicked out of fancy colleges for some stupid things they said on the internet in their high school days.
There are also plenty of pundits on the left, not just on the far fringes of the vast internet but also in the mainstream media, who encourage such behavior by casting their ideological opponents as spiteful enemies of the common good for their insistence on such radical notions as property rights and individual liberty and low taxes to pay for a limited government. Many high-ranking Democratic office-holders use the same extreme and provocative rhetoric, in some cases as they pursue the highest office in the land, and they’re not setting a good example for Little League parents anywhere.
Alas, neither is the current President of the United States. Trump refrained from urging the crowd to beat up protestors, as he repeatedly during the ’16 campaign, but he goaded the crowd into once again chanting “lock her up” about his vanquished and currently irrelevant opponent Hillary Clinton, and as always he stoked the crowd’s already red-hot hatred of those “enemies of the people” in the free press “fake news” media who were then broadcasting his remarks to the nation. The guy who is charged with assaulting the reporter from the Orlando Sentinel was also charged with public inebriation, and seems to have been kicked out of the rally for that offense, but the Orlando Sentinel’s editorial board had endorsed anybody but Trump that same day, and we guess that the alleged and caught-on-video assaulter been emboldened by what he’d heard before being kicked out of the rally.
Some Trump apologists we know and love tell us he’s the leader they’ve longed for who fights fire with fire, and punches back ten times harder, as it’s come down to street-level and existential battle with these damned America-hating Democrats. They hear it on the eight straight hours of talk radio that a local station broadcasts, in most of the evening opinion shows on the Fox Network, and on Tuesday night they could have turned to any news channel and hear Trump accusing his opponents of “un-American conduct” and warning “they want to destroy you and they want to destroy our country as they know it.” We have to admit it’s frightening stuff, even a call to arms, but we find it unpersuasive.
There are indeed some dangerously deranged people out there on the left, but most of the damned Democrats we drink beer and do business with and encounter in our neighborhood walks are patriotic and well-intentioned people who happen to have some very stupid ideas about certain things. Lately they’re all talking about whom to choose from a very crowded field of contenders for their Democratic presidential nominee, and they all seem to be weighing who’s mostly likely to beat Trump with the most leftward platform. In these strange times, we find ourselves wishing them the best in figuring it out, along with the advice they choose the least stupid and most electable of the candidates. We’re urging such centrist candidates as Colorado Gov. John Hicklenlooper and Minnesota Sen. Amy Klobuchar, and despite being a Democrat from California with some very stupid ideas the Democratic California Sen. Kamala Harris impresses us with her calm demeanor and carefully parsed answers in every interview. In any case, we don’t expect Trump will once again have the good fortune to run against Hillary Clinton and her long-forgotten e-mails
Many of the Democratic presidential candidates want to impeach Trump, others want to impeach him but only after a fair trial, while some want him to face federal and state charges after he’s removed from office next election, and at this point any of these options would be agreeable to our formerly Republican selves. They’re all running on specific policy positions, however, and although most of those stands strike us as damned stupid we have to give them credit for that. Any candidate of either party who wants to return to debating policy matters rather than questioning the other side’s patriotism and calling for them to be taken out on stretchers will earn our consideration.
Our mostly civilized experience of American life tells us that in a civil and carefully deliberated debate property rights and individual liberty and low taxes to support a limited government would prevail over some of the stupid socialistic ideas so many of the damned Democrats are currently peddling. Infuse that with the idealism of the party of Lincoln’s call for “malice toward none and charity towards all” and we think a Grand Old Party would be cruising to an electoral victory. It’s hard to imagine such words coming from party of Trump, though, so we’ll hunker down here at home and see how it all plays out on the streets, and await a president who appeals to the better angels of nature.

— Bud Norman

Down at the Mall in the Debit Card Age

Post-Christmas brawls have been breaking out at various shopping malls around the country, according to The Washington Post and the social media cell phone videos that sure seem to verify its account, but we’re pleased to report that the Towne East Mall here in Wichita was eerily placid on Tuesday afternoon. At this point in this modern age, we found it strangely comforting.
Some years have passed since the last time we found ourselves at the place, which is way the hell over on the east side and was the first big newfangled shopping mall that started the decline and fall of our nearby and old-fashioned and much-beloved downtown, which we’ve always resented, and it was one of those modern hassles that drew us back into its automatically opening doors.
An Automatic Telling Machine in the parking lot of the ghost mall that was once the fashionable Twin Lakes Mall had swiped our debit card, so we got on the internet and found a number at what used to be the local bank downtown but has long since been bought out and re-bought out by a huge national bank where at least we could gripe about it to someone even after the old-fashioned banking hours, and the nice enough guy who answered the phone was profusely apologetic about it, after a series of questions regarding Social Security numbers and other passwords and a couple of security questions we’d forgotten our flippant answers to, and we were assured that a replacement would arrive in our old-fashioned mail box within five to six business days. Although we expressed our gratitude for the profuse apology, we also pointed out that five to six business days is an awful long time to go without with a debit card in this modern age. Given the difficulty of writing a check these days we envisioned ourselves diving into the local dumpsters for food and other sustenance, which seemed all the more grim after hearing a radio report about some local dumpster-divers who reported a human corpse they’d found in the back of a south side drug store, which the local police have deemed suspicious, but the nice guy on the phone at that late hour told us we could obtain a temporary replacement at any local brick-and-mortar branch during the old-fashioned banking hours. By early the next afternoon we were diligently at the task, but the branch downtown — not in the fancy glass building with the Sandy Calder mobile that the local bank built in the heart of downtown, but in the ugly little just-brick-and-mortar one a few blocks south that the big national bank uses — had run out of the plastic pieces. The nice enough lady at the bullet-proof window we eventually reached was also profusely apologetic, and offered to set an appointment about an hour later at the branch way the hell over on the east side in the Towne East Mall’s parking lot.
So with time to kill and a sociological interest at heart, we killed 40 minutes of a reasonably warm post-Christmas afternoon walking around the mall. We walked through those automatic doors with a Zen-like freedom from any faint to desire to buy something, and we didn’t possess a debit card even if we were somehow tempted, but we thought it was worth a look. The place seemed in good shape, clean and bright and well heated and filled with a variety of clean and bright and well heated businesses, including a few that even we recognize as being at least slightly fashionable. Business appeared brisk, too, as the foot traffic was heavy.
Post-holiday bargains are still on and school is still out, so the moms on a budget and the kids who like to hang out at the mall were in full force. The kids seemed alright, as The Who might have put it, and at least none of them were brawling. Many were wearing t-shirts proclaiming some state championship or another that their schools had won, and almost all of them were wearing sneakers that we noticed in a shop window are far more expensive than the old-fashioned Chuck Taylor Converse All-Stars that we were sporting. We couldn’t help noticing that almost all the girls were either worrisomely skinny or worrisomely fat, and that darn near every last one of them had jeans or black pants of some sort of fabric that tightly fit to their worrisomely skinny or worrisomely fat legs, and that most of them and their young male companions looked pretty dorky to our jaded eyes. A few of the bargain-hunting moms seemed to hit that sweet spot somewhere between fat and skinny, and let an appropriate but intriguing amount of fabric come between it and the passersby at the mall, and with all due apologies to modern sensibilities that’s just the kind of thing even our jaded eyes can’t help noticing when walking around to kill 40 minutes or so at the mall.
As always we took great care not to give any offense to any passersby, and everyone seemed to respond in kind. Business was clearly brisk, and at this point we’ll leave it to the partisans to decide if President Barack Obama or president-elect Donald Trump deserves credit for it, although we’ll note that those nice enough people behind the counters and in small stacks of goods in the middle of the hallway at the mall surely deserve some recognition. They conversed with one another in a conspicuously wide array of languages, and their skin tones ran the same dark-to-pale gamut as the customers, and there were a couple hijab-clad women and even a burqa-wearing woman pushing strollers up the escalators, and everybody seemed to be doing commerce and social intercourse about as well as can be expected by global and historical standards. It wasn’t like downtown back in the old days, but we suppose it could be far worse.
After waiting another interminable 15 minutes or so in the ugly little bank branch in the parking lot, behind a young Latina woman who was trying to open a joint checking account with her mother, who needed translation for all the difficulties involved, along with some more questions about Social Security number and addresses and security questions and all that, we did get that temporary debit card. We activated it in the ATM that you have to walk through a couple of doors to reach, and it purchased us some Kung Pao Chicken from the drive-thru at the Eggroll King over on the nearby westside and a six-pack of Coors from the Delano Liquor Store across the street, and for now our dumpster-diving days seem forestalled. We sure do hope that the police can figure out what happened to that dead body in the dumpster behind that drug store, though, and that the rest of us can continue to more or less get along.

— Bud Norman