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Frankly My Dear...
By Jim Kent

I’m tired of it. It’s not that I don’t give a damn, or that I’m giving up, exactly. I’m just tired of it.


Everybody has known for a long time that M. Petits-Doigts is not educable or even trainable, and that nothing he says or does is surprising or even interesting. Everybody has known for a long time how the press of all persuasions and the politicians of all leanings will react to the most recent outrage. 


Increasingly I blame the press for much of our current madness. This is not my custom, because I think for the most part journalists have historically done an admirable job of keeping us on our toes.  But surely they learned in J-School that it’s not news if everybody already knows it.  


I propose that every news publication run four small boxes on the back page in each edition. One would be labelled, “Anything New From Trump?” and another “Anything New About Trump from Democrats?” and the third, “Anything New About Trump from Republicans?”  The fourth would be “Any Actual News About Trump?” The electronic media could do a similar thing with their blocks of time. These spaces would almost always be empty except for “No.” 


His getting arrested would be actual news, but there would be no need for anything in the other three blocks, since everybody would already know that there would be no new information in any of them.


This would have two salutary effects: Nobody would have to read, hear or see the same nonsense (well, okay--bullshit) constantly; and the newly available time and space could be reallocated to real news about events in the world. 


Remember the world? It radiates out from Florida, Maine, and California, with branch offices off Alaska and Hawaii. It used to be in the news all the time, but got engulfed by celebrity gossip, sports results, and fact-free political polemic from all points on the craziness continuum.


This is not entirely the fault of Republicans or Democrats or socialists or video game designers or gun manufacturers. It is probably not even divine retribution for allowing the Dodgers to move to L.A., although the jury is still out on that one. The people who run the news media decide what to cover and how to cover it, and they have not been very helpful of late.


So, what’s a mother to do? One does not wish to turn the country over to the looniest common denominator, but you and I are probably not going to reform everything all at once. Unlike that woman with the initials from the New York 14th, we know better.  


Some thoughts that may help us retain our sanity even if we can’t restore that of others:  


First, there is no point in arguing with people. Almost everyone has already got a pretty firm idea what they think and why they think it. Instead of arguing, ask questions. Ideally but not inevitably this will nudge them to think a bit more about things.


  • “Which is more important: The right of kids to live or the right of mentally ill people to own guns?” 


  • “Which is more important: the right of children to be born or the right of children to stay alive after they’re born?”


  • “How do you think we should run elections so nobody can ever cheat?”


“Which government services that you personally benefit from are you willing to give up?” is especially fun, because many people say they don’t benefit from any government services.  This allows you to ask where roads come from, or air traffic control, or health inspections in restaurants, or police and fire protection, or physicians’ licensing. 


Turns out that the programs people are willing to do without are those that they don’t see any direct benefit from. The most egregious example of this is people who have no kids in school and think they shouldn’t have to pay school taxes. You get to ask them, “Would you rather have the little bastards in school all day, or wandering around loose and breaking into your house?” 


Second, don’t fight the culture wars. Nobody on any of the teams wants to admit it, but these are really hard questions and nobody is either all the way wrong or all the way right. This stuff will work itself out over time with or without you.


Third, try to remember that everybody who disagrees with you is not necessarily evil, stupid, crazy or even misinformed. This is very difficult. As one of my late friends never tired of pointing out, we must try hard not to confuse our love of the truth with our need to be right.


None of this will help the overall situation, which is dismal at best. It may, however, keep you from getting shot. This seems worthwhile.

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