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

Let Us All Eat in Peace

As regular readers of this publication are well aware, we’re not fond of President Donald Trump, nor are we fond of any of his administration officials, except for a few who are frequently on Trump’s bad side. Still, we wouldn’t refuse any of them service at our restaurant, in the off chance we had one and the even more off chance Trump or any of his administration officials happened to walk into it, nor would we attempt to boo any of them out of any public space we somehow happened to share.
That’s just our old-fashioned Kansas conservative way, though, and it seems a number of more well-helled and up-to-date liberal types in Washington, D.C., and Lexington, Virginia, disagree. White House senior policy advisor Stephen Miller and Homeland Security secretary Kirstjen Nielsen were both recently heckled by numerous fellow diners and driven from Mexicans restaurants in Washington, Nielsen was later awakened by an angry crowd chanting outside her home before dawn, and White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders and her party were asked by the owner of restaurant in Lexington to leave. In the all the discussion that ensued from all the brouhaha some leftward media expressed solidarity with the hecklers, and California’s Democratic Rep. Maxine Waters got some headlines by urging her followers that no Trump administration be allowed to gas up their car or buy groceries or eat a restaurant meal without harassment.
As much as we dislike Trump for our own old-fashioned Kansas conservative reasons, and have to admit that his urging his followers to punch out protestors and promising to pay their legal bills and other vulgar utterances have also debased the civility of our public discourse, and despite the chuckle we got out of a late-night comedian saying that it takes some serious chutzpah for either Miller or Nielsen to visit a Mexican restaurant, we’d rather both sides of America took time off from these dreary debates for mealtimes and grocery-shopping and theater-going and other previously sacrosanct moments of a human being’s life.
The venerably pre-Trump conservative magazine National Review agrees, and so does the old-fashionedly liberal editorial board of the The Washington Post, as well as most of the the rest of mostly apolitical America. Still, there’s clearly more than a few on both the left and right fringes of the political spectrum who seem to be itching for a fight.
The aforementioned Waters has been a racialist demagogue since before even Trump got into the game, and first became nationally-known by encouraging the constituents in her ever-shifting district to continue the Los Angeles riots of 1992 until some Korean immigrant shopkeepers started effectively firing back with semi-automatic weapons, and after all these years we’re even somewhat less fond of her than Trump. Her more or less clarion call for mobocracy are not uncommon on the leftward edges of the political spectrum, too, and that’s one reason we’re still old-fashioned Kansas conservatives.
Meanwhile, the racialist demagogue Trump has “tweeted” back at the “low-IQ individual” Waters that he’s got plenty of his own supporters who are also itching for a fight. Several of them have already egged the Red Hen Restaurant that denied Sanders service, except that they mistakenly egged an entirely innocent restaurant of that name in Washington, D.C., rather that the admittedly guilty one in Lexington, and one way or another that fight the farthest fringes seem to be itching for will likely end badly.
The good news is that both National Review and The Washington Post are calling for a political time-out during eating and grocery-shopping and theater-going and family and sleep time, and that most Democratic and Republican politicians agree on this point. Somehow, the center might hold.
Still, longtime readers of this publication know our recurring nightmares about the last days of the Weimar Republic in pre-Hitler Germany, when the Commies and the Nazis were brawling it out on the grimy streets of decadent Berlin. We’ve always figured that in such incomprehensibly dire circumstances we would seek asylum elsewhere, but in this mean old world we don’t know where we might have found it. When we challenged a post-Trump Republican friend of ours that he would have defended iconic Democratic President Franklin Roosevelt’s decision to turn back the St. Louis ocean liner full of Jewish refugees, he admitted he would do so even now knowing with the 20-20 hindsight of history that it condemned all the passengers to concentration camp deaths, and that if by historical chance we’d needed the chance we would have also been passengers on that voyage, and given her racialist demagoguery and the demographic make-up of her district we’re sure Waters would have gone along with it as well.
At this point we’re willing to let the “Trumpanzees” and the “lib-tards” brawl it out on the decadent of streets of America, at least as far as possible away from our surprisingly serene streets of Wichita, Kansas, and hope that the center will hold, and our daily meals will at least be peaceful.

— Bud Norman