The Local Angle on the Big Divide

Every once in a while in our daily and extensive reading of the national and international news we’ll come across the name of somebody we know from real life, and it’s always quite a jolt. One would prefer to feel somewhat insulated from all that widely covered hubbub about people we don’t know and don’t really care to know, but those occasional names we recognize as people we do know always remind us there’s often far less than seven degrees of separation between us and the underlying reality of it all.
The latest jolt came just yesterday when that Milo Yiannapolous fellow that we don’t know and really don’t care to know was disinvited from the Conservative Political Action Conference’s annual meeting, on account of some surfaced audiotapes that have him sure enough sounding as if he’s in favor of grown men having sex with underage boys, and all the front page stories on all the big papers quoted a fellow we do know named Matt Schlapp. Perish the thought that Schlapp has anything at all to do with grown men having sex with teenage boys, but he’s also quoted in all the next-day stories about how Yiannoplous also lost a big book deal and was fired from the Breitbart News website where he was hired by former editor and President Donald Trump’s top current top consigliere Steven Bannon. Schlapp only figures in all of this because he’s the current chairman of the American Conservative Union, which hosts the Conservative Political Action Conference, and is therefore the guy who stirred up all the hubbub by inviting the notorious provocateur Yiannpolous to speak and then stirred up yet another hubbub by disinviting him after those career-destroying audiotapes were publicized.
There’s no way of spinning that either one or the other of those decisions wasn’t wrong, so Schlapp is currently getting pilloried by pretty much all of the exponentially intersectional sides of the current political spectrum. We’re trying to take a more forgiving stand, though, because we rather like Schlapp. He’s a fellow Wichitan, who we first met a million years or so ago when we were covering the political beat for the local paper and he was a go-to source on the staff of the our district’s congressman, and we’d like to think that despite everything our relationship has always been cordial and mutually respectful. His congressman’s win over a long-entrenched Democrat who seems quite reasonable by today’s Democratic standard was shrewdly predicted by our coverage, which momentarily enhanced our standing at the local newspaper, and despite our misgivings about the rather fire-breathing Republican’s apparent cluelessness we maintained a respectful relationship with Schlapp and the rest of the staff during his long incumbency Over the years the congressman became less clueless and quite respectable, as far as we were concerned, while we were relegated to the theater criticism beat, where we once again rocked, as far as we were concerned, while Schlapp rose through the conservative ranks to the point where he wound up in inviting and then dis-inviting that Yiannapolous fellow to speak at the biggest annual gathering of true-blue conservatives.
Despite a certain affection for Schlapp and his full-throated and formerly old-fashioned conservatism and Republicanism, we’ll go right ahead and say he was an idiot for extending the invitation in the first place. We’ll forgive him for not knowing that Yiannapolous sure seems an on-the-record apologist for grown men having sex with young boys, as we also didn’t know that, and we’ll give him due credit for rescinding the invitation once those tawdry tapes were released. What continues to bother us, though, is that he was apparently well aware of Yiannapolous’ reputation as a riot-provoking provocateur of both the left and the erstwhile right when he extended the invitation. In response to the “tweets” of a stubbornly anti-Trump conservative we don’t know but much respect he tweeted that he “must be doing something right” to have aroused such ire, which despite our hometown boosterism seems quite dumb. He could have just easily as aroused that woman’s ire by inviting the head of the Ku Klux Klan to speak at the nation’s largest annual gathering of conservatives, and that would just as clearly have not proved that he was doing something right.
Alas, the idea that anything you might say or do that offends the sensibilities of the the other side shows you’re doing something right is all the rage these days days on both sides of the political aisle. We run into that all the time here in Wichita, from both the liberals and conservatives that we’re trying to stay friends with, and we try our best to find some common ground. So far we’ll agreed that grown men should not be having sex with underage boys, and even that Yiannapolous fellow no longer disputes that, so we’ll hope that some further common ground can be found. In the meantime we’ll cut some slack for Matt Schlapp, who always seemed a likable enough fellow, and hope that the rest of is more than seven degrees of seperation away from us. The congressman that Schlapp once worked for is long out of office, having been replaced by a brighter fellow of our slight acquaintance who is now the head of the Central Intelligence, the second Wichita to hold that office, and his confirmation featured the testimony of another couple of former and current Senators we personally know, so even here in godforsaken middle of the country the the news seems all too close to home.

— Bud Norman