Pass the Baton | Private Eye | Salt Lake City | Salt Lake City Weekly
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News » Private Eye

Pass the Baton



For nearly a full six months now, Americans have proclaimed the year 2020 to be the worst year ever. We've read all the memes and tweets about this agonizing year, like "May has been the longest year" or "Is it tomorrow yet?" and so on. No doubt, 2020 has been a bad one, already completing a devastating trifecta of deadly virus, historic unemployment levels and racial, civic and social unrest that teeters on the high wire between getting better and getting worse. The year isn't even half over.

The above doesn't even count an amazing array of sundry third-tier maladies. For the record, there is only one second-tier malady—the stoppage of Major League Baseball, our great American measuring stick. Our third-tier maladies include mad rushes on toilet paper, not wearing face masks as a political statement, the bold emergence from the shadows of armed white supremacists (and the even bolder acceptance of white supremacist mouthpieces like Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson), skateboard park and fishing hole closures, and the discovery that the Food Network's everyman, Guy Fieri, is possibly a member of the Flat Earth Society.

That's right. Guy Fieri introduced country singer Collin Raye at last weekend's controversial and thrice moved concert in Cedar City, which gladly took the event after calmer heads in Kaysville and Grantsville booted the show down the road. I saw Collin Raye back in the 1990s at the Zephyr Club, and the man has (or had) a beautiful voice, a real love-song balladeer. But I had no idea either he or Fieri were willing proponents of a movement that adheres to the notion that wearing masks, avoiding mass gatherings and following science as does the rest of the world are really just pieces of a giant, freedom-restricting government plot.

That was the basis for the concert—to let sane Americans know that there will always remain dullards who see a see a conspiracy under every rock. If only they'd take the advice of the wizened Donald Trump and quit looking under rocks, they'd uncover fewer conspiracies, but no such luck. The crowd was also fed right-wing red meat by gubernatorial candidate Greg "original Trumper" Hughes and Attorney General Sean Reyes who looked ridiculous under his fresh out-of-the-box cowboy hat and who performed a sick (sick as in shitty, not sick as in great) rap. It's a safe bet that Cedar City residents still have no idea what rap is. Fieri then introduced Raye who most likely figured that after the Reyes dud, he'd have the crowd locked up tighter than a heifer on the wrong end of a Honda knot lariat.

Did you know Fieri once officiated at a wedding for 101 gay couples? He's also been strong for the hospitality industry during the coronavirus spread, so it's especially striking that he would lend his Triple D hairdo to the effort that was conceived and constructed by Eric Moutsos—the former Salt Lake City police officer who left the force after refusing to ride his motorcycle with other parading motorcycle cops at the start of Salt Lake's 2014 Pride parade.

Five years prior, Moutsos was an arresting officer of two gay men who were walking through LDS Church-owned Main Street Plaza. One of those men was City Weekly employee, Derek Jones. The claim was Jones and his partner, Matt Aune, were showing too much affection. Yep, they kissed on what was formerly a public thoroughfare. Crazy, huh? Especially since it was only yesterday that the Supreme Court tightened the definitions of the Civil Rights Act and ruled that LGBTQ+ persons cannot be fired on the basis of sex or sexual orientation. So, for anyone thinking 2020 is the year to end all years, just be reminded that ignorance, arrogance, racism, discrimination, bigotry, opportunity and greed adhere to no boundary, social strata or timeline. Much like coronavirus.

That virus crossed my computer screen this way today:

As we look at America, we see cities enveloped in smoke and flame.
We hear sirens in the night.
We see Americans hating each other; fighting each other; killing each other at home.
And as we see and hear these things, millions of Americans cry out in anguish.
Did we come all this way for this?
Did American boys die in Normandy, and Korea and in
Valley Forge for this?

You can add to that last line, Vietnam, Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan—because those words were delivered by presidential candidate Richard Nixon at the 1968 Republican National Convention. We've lost thousands of American men and woman to wars all over the world these past 52 years. At that time Nixon, as Donald Trump is doing today, proclaimed in a time-honored American code to be the "law and order" candidate. Being tough on crime really means to be tough on the disenfranchised and powerless. It's such a powerful message that even the disenfranchised and powerless buy into the ruse.

When Nixon linked his intent—looking strong to middle-America moms and pops—to the notion that we can't have let our soldiers die for nothing, he was talking about our boys dying in Vietnam. That effectively bifurcated American hearts and minds. Although it's been 52 years and not much seems to have changed, much has. The year 1968 was a far worse year for America—look it up—but it was just one leg of a long relay race.

In 1968, America sang, screamed and burned, too. From those hurts and scars, from those blessings and opened minds, teachers were born. The year 2020 belongs to them, the doers—not the talkers—the new generation. Pass the baton.

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