Lately, when I'm reading the paper or watching the news, I find myself, invariably, shaking my head in disbelief. It's as if "News of the Strange" has replaced the stories we normally anticipate. In a sense, if we look at the news historically, there's a certain statistical expectation: Every day there will be a few murders and rapes, a few high-living Ponzi-schemers moving to their new digs at the state prison, another kid shot by his brother with what was thought to be an unloaded gun, a rogue-state leader carrying on yet another atrocity, another missing woman. Though the names are always changing, the stories have an echo of déjà vu—you're going to find all the stories are there when you dive into the pulp or watch your favorite anchor doing his daily refrain.
As for my head shaking in disbelief, it's partly due to my realization that even those I assumed had some integrity and sense are constantly demonstrating the opposite. And, while many of the worst don't live in our state, it's disconcerting to know that Utah has a few of them, too.
With a night-and-day opposite of Mr. T-rump now at the helm of our nation, I had naively presumed that, somehow, the lost humanity and decency of the Obama era had emerged from its four-year hibernation. And, Biden, bless his heart, does seem to have his heart in the right place. No more name-calling, no more insulting America's heroes, no more hatchet jobs on those who rationally disagree and no more demands for loyalty oaths. It is a giant leap toward catching up with where we were before. But a kinder president isn't a one-felled-swoop solution; it's just a start.
Well, just a few days ago, 30 house Democrats, led by Rep. Jimmy Panetta, D-California—who's the son of a former Defense Secretary—petitioned President Biden to relinquish sole responsibility for the big red nuclear button, warning that such a scary power should not be at the discretion of a single person. Such a move would presumably make it impossible for a deranged or demented commander in chief to use his index finger to destroy the entire world. Now, doesn't that idea appeal to your own sense of what's prudent? As I read about it, I said a silent, but resounding, "Yeah!" Who could possibly disagree with such a brilliant idea? But my head shaking was about to start.
Utah's own "hey-look-at-me" guy, Sen. Mike Lee, never allows an opportunity for publicity to slip by. He immediately chimed in on the button issue, saying that making such a decision belongs to the commander in chief and requiring another person to validate the move would be a "horrible policy" and "wildly unconstitutional." That's when I started to shake my head. After the nightmare accident of Trump becoming president, we should be concerned about giving that horrifying nuclear power to any single person. It makes total sense, but Lee, after experiencing the whacko-in-the-White House abomination, couldn't seem to see the sense in the petition. Yes, I'm still shaking my head. Who the hell is Mike Lee?
About the same time, I noticed an article on the COVID vaccine in Israel. It seems that country has a generous supply of vaccine and has already vaccinated about half of its population. In fact, the country is confident enough about its own people's health that it's been shipping thousands of doses to the Czech Republic, Hungary and Honduras. (Yes, you read that correctly.) Israel's vaccine diplomacy seems to have one inexcusable flaw. At the same time that it's sending doses of vaccine around the world, it's withholding vaccine from much of its Palestinian population. That news makes me shake my head once more, though Israel's violations of Arab human rights are nothing new. Could it be Israel's latest stab at ethnic cleansing?
Recently, Utah's Legislature took up the debate over concealed firearm permits. Now one would think that there are good reasons to bar our citizens from carrying hidden guns. Just imagine the U.S. Capitol insurrection mob, armed to the teeth; how would it have played out; how many more could have died? Nevertheless, Utah's now made hidden personal arsenals legal—with only a few exceptions.
Perhaps the worst failure of the new concealed carry law is the government's loss of control over much-needed firearms training; it's something any gun-toter needs in order to carry a gun responsibly. Unregulated covert gun carrying seems to be some carryover from our cowboy past, and it's going to end up with scores of Utahns shooting themselves in the foot (ouch!) or, even worse, the violent dismantling of the "family jewels." Sadly, it will also put our law enforcement folks at greater risk. I don't know about you, but I am, once more, shaking my head.
It's going to be interesting to see where it all goes. Will sanity return to our world, or will we always be faced with the reckless and often-irrational behavior of our legislators and leaders? That remains to be seen, but, in the meantime, my head will continue to shake.
The author is a retired businessman, novelist, columnist and former Vietnam-era Army assistant public information officer. He resides in Riverton with his wife, Carol, and the beloved ashes of their mongrel dog.