The Other “Cancel Culture”

There won’t be a Kansas State Fair this year, for the first time since 1916, another cancellation caused by the coronavirus epidemic. Fair officials had decided to take the public health risk and go ahead with annual festival of deep-fried food and 4-H exhibitions and farm implement sales and other Americana, but after Texas and Oklahoma and Nebraska cancelled their fairs about half of the food vendors and carnival ride companies that work the circuit decided it wouldn’t be profitable, which led to the cancellation.
The Kansas State Fair traditional happens in early September, when Kansas schools are traditionally in session, and there’s a big debate about whether that should happen this year. Gov. Laura Kelly has called for a delay in opening schools, but that’s ultimately up to the Kansas State Board of Education, which has scheduled meetings about it, and might go either way.
Coronavirus cases are on the rise in Kansas and unlikely to magically disappear by September, despite President Donald Trump’s fondest wishes, but there will nonetheless be a lot of political pressure to reopen the schools. Kansas is still a Republican state, although less so than it was five years ago, and Republicans everywhere are mostly eager to get back to normal no matter how abnormal the circumstances.
There’s an argument that K-12 students are at low risk of being infected and more likely to survive if they do, but low risk isn’t the same as no risk and most of the students’ parents and teachers are at greater risk. The students finished the last school year at home and online, and there’s no reason they can’t start the next year the same way, and although it’s no ideal there’s no chance of catching the coronavirus over the internet. Presumably the Kansas Board of Education will take that into consideration.
In any case of a lot of Kansas parents will send their children back to school when they think it’s safe, and we hope their children aren’t penalized for it. We’re as eager as anyone to get life back to normal, but the way things are going it’s best not to be overeager.

— Bud Norman

Full Facial Nudity is Banned in Kansas

Starting Friday, full facial nudity will no longer be allowed in Kansas, at least for the duration of the coronavirus problem. Gov. Laura Kelly has ordered that as of Friday all Kansans must wear face masks when in public, and it will be interesting to see how that turns out.
The measure is in response to a worrisome increase in the state’s coronavirus infections, especially here in mostly urban Sedgwick County and the suburban Kansas City counties to the northeast, but it’s also happening in the rural counties, which are sparsely populated and as always socially-distanced but have an average age over 65 and scant medical care, so any outbreak would be disastrous. Despite such compelling public health arguments, however, we expect that Kelly will face some harsh criticism.
Kansans tend to have an instinctive sense of civic duty, and come together in a crisis and fill sandbags in times of flooding and refrain from tossing cigarettes out of a car window during times of drought and tak\e up arms in time of war, but otherwise they tend to follow Walt Whitman’s advice to “resist much, obey little,” and don’t care for being told what to do. Which Kansas instinct prevails remains to be seen, but it surely won’t be a unanimous decision around here.
Here, as everywhere else in America, people tend to disregard the arguments and choose sides based on their previous political affiliations. Our liberal Democratic friends all agree that wearing a face mask is the least you can do for your fellow citizens, and far less onerous than what previous generations of civic-minded Kansans have one, but when our President Donald Trump-loving conservative Republican friends complain that wearing a mask in public very much sucks they also make an undeniably damned good point.
To fully confess to any revolutionary cadres out there, we’ve rarely worn a mask when buying beer and other essential groceries over the past many interminable months. We wore one to a small town Church of Christ funeral, where about a third of the mourners wore masks, but only on a couple of other occasions. In our beer and grocery shopping and other occasional appearances in public at an outdoor coffee shop and a beer joint with a small client tell and spacious patio seating, we’ve noticed that only about a third of our fellow citizens have been wearing face masks. We expect that percentage will go up when it becomes mandatory, but don’t anticipate full compliance. It might turn out to be the most widely broken law around here since Prohibition or the 55 mile per hour speed limit.
There’s also a chance it will redound to those liberals’ benefit. This coronavirus problem is undeniably serious, even so serious that the Trump-loving Republican governors of Florida and Texas are bringing back economic restrictions in response to recent worrisome spikes, and the Vice President and Republican Senate majority are urging Americans to wear face masks in public. Even in this traditionally Republican state our Democratic governor won handily against and a very-very-Trump-loving Republican just two years ago and won’t have to run again for another two years, by which time she might look both courageous and smart, and Trump might be long gone. Trump moved the Republican convention from Asheville, N.C, because to Jacksonville, Fla., because of Asheville’s coronavirus regulations, Jacksonville is adopting stricter coronavirus restrictions, and that’s embarrassing.
At this point there’s really no telling how Kelly’s executive order will be enforced, and what legal authority counties have the rights to countermand it, and what the cops can do about it, although she promises explanations about that by Thursday. If the inevitable court battles result in the counties getting their way, the Sedgwick County Commission, mostly comprised of the Wichita metropolitan area, which is currently seeing a worrisome rise in coronavirus cases, would probably vote to damn the face masks and full go speed ahead. The lone hold-out against and pro-business consensus for ignoring the coronavirus is a tattooed folk-singing single mom who represents our inordinately homosexual and lesbian and atypically liberal district of the county.
Once again we’re sitting on the political sidelines with no rooting interest in any of the players. We recognize the dangers of the coronavirus, but damn how we hate wearing those damn masks, and instinctively hate bossy government, and miss enjoying full facial nudity. We don’t regret that we voted for that Democratic governor or that hippy-dippy County Commissioner, and starting Friday we’ll comply with the face mask rule, and hating every moment of it and wondering whom to blame, and keep hoping that curve i flattened and eventually the center will hold and something like normalcy will eventually be restored.

— Bud Norman

A Soft Opening in Kansas

Compared to many other places in America and around the world, Kansas has largely been spared the worst of the coronavirus. As we write this there are 4,238 confirmed cases and there have been 129 deaths, which is horrible to contemplate but not nearly so bad as what other states have suffered.
There’s no way of telling for sure, but our relatively good results might well have something to do the measures our governor took early on in the crisis. She was the first governor to close all the schools, and among the first to shut down a variety of businesses and gathering places, and several Kansas county and municipal governments followed with similar restrictions. Many critics call the shutdown an overreaction, and there’s no way of telling for sure if they were wrong, but even in such a conservative and liberty-loving and traditionally Republican state as this our Democratic governor currently enjoys betters approval rating ratings than our Republican president.
The restrictions are undeniably irksome, and have some very outspoken if perhaps outnumbered opponents. Kansas has it share of that Gadsen-flag-waving and gun-toting type of self-described patriots who hate America’s government and many of its longstanding institutions and a vast majority of their fellow citizens, and they’ve been particularly irked. Some of them are our Facebook friends, so we daily read their grousing that the harm done to the state’s economy and the liberty of its citizens cannot be justified by a few thousands sickened people and just over 100 deaths. They’re convince they’re immune to the virus and certainly immune to the argument that the toll has been so low because of the measures that were taken, and given the lack of any way to definitively proof that they’ll forever be convinced they’re right.
We doubt they’ll be placated, but Thursday Gov. Laura Kelly took the rare step of interrupting the game shows scheduled for the state’s television station and announced the was beginning a four-phased “soft opening” of the state in the coming months, with hopes that everything will be back to normal in time for the Winfield bluegrass festival and the State Fair and the statewide elections and all the other traditional early fall activities.
The first step starts today, and it’s very tentative, basically allowing restaurants to once again offer table service if they limit their customers to point they can all be “socially distanced” according to federal guidelines, and to allow churches to resume services under similar conditions. The ban on religious services was especially controversial in this more church-going than usual state, and wound up being bitterly fought in the legislature and the courts, but our very conservative and church most churches in the state stopped gathering on Sundays and Wednesdays even before the state required they do so.
Our church has such a small congregation and a such a big building that we might be able to resume worshipping together soon, and in the meantime we’re getting weekly phone calls and e-mails from our fellow congregants and are scheduled to have a gift package dropped on porch today. It looks like it will be a while longer, however, before we can get together with the gang at the Kirby’s Beer Store and quaff a beer and watch “Jeopardy!” and listen to rock ‘n’ roll and life in Kansas gets fully back to normal. That’s damned irksome, but we figure our chances of surviving that are better than our chances of surviving a coronavirus infection.
Kansas has had “clusters” of infections at the meat packing plants that are a big chunk of the state economy and crucial component of the food supply chain that’s somehow kept America fed, as well as nursing homes and in the Lansing State Penitentiary, where the inmates rioted over a lack of health care and the state’s National Guard is helping keep order and conducting testing and provide care, so we could have done better. There’s plenty of blame to go around, including President Donald Trump and all the national and global institutions he’s trying to blame, but we think our state has done fairly well even if there’s no telling for sure.
For now we’ll try to keep sheltering in place and only venture out for essential supplies and to drive around on inexpensive gasoline and enjoy the gorgeous Wichita and Kansas scenery. We don’t mind risking our lives but don’t want to risk any other Kansan’s, and it seems the patriotic thing to do.

— Bud Norman