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CSotD: We’ll just numb you up a little …

It’s odd — not funny, mostly just odd — that this Thimble Theater from August, 1935, happens to turn up on the Comics Kingdom Vintage page at the same time Virginia Governor Ralph Northam’s med school yearbook page happened to turn up, showing that he had chosen a photo showing a person in blackface and another in Klan regalia.

(Note that this was not his Virginia Tech yearbook, which showed no such photo but identified him as having the nickname “Coonman.”)

Anyway, Popeye set up a kingdom with no women, so Olive set up a queendom with herself at the top and things have kind of gone downhill for him ever since.

But he’s not stepping down. Popeye or Ralph.

 

Call it our “Juxtaposition of the Day.”

And stay tuned to see how the story arc ends.

 

Or don’t. Whatever. As Jeff Stahler points out, we’re becoming numb.

Newsrooms often get calls from people upset that we didn’t cover this or that story, and sometimes they’re right but usually the answer is that it wasn’t “news.”

For local news, that means we wouldn’t cover a minor fender-bender unless it had closed off a major road and inconvenienced a lot of people who would want to know why.

However, if there were serious injuries or a fatality, then it would be news.

But only if it were local, not if it happened outside our distribution area.

On the other hand, if an accident anywhere in the country involved a large enough number of fatalities, we’d run a news story, though, for overseas stories, we’d generally hold off coverage unless a ferry sinking hit triple digits.

That much I can defend, but, as the characters in Stahler’s cartoon suggest, we’re getting to the point where mass shootings are no longer unusual enough to automatically qualify as “news.”

Nor did he pluck the number “five” out of the air: It refers to the five people killed in Sebring, Florida, a shooting that gained such so-what coverage that it was buried on Page 3 in Sarasota, less than 90 miles away.

I don’t know why a mass shooting that happened at midday on Wednesday was covered on Page 3 of Friday’s paper.

But elsewhere in Florida, the Miami Herald’s Carl Hiassen called bullshit on the overall lack of coverage.

Mass shootings occur so often that it’s hard to keep up. Is it still major news when a whack job with a gun walks into a small-town bank and executes five innocent people? God help us if this is what we’ve become — numb to homegrown slaughter, unless the body count hits double digits.

I hope his outrage was not entirely based on his brother having been a victim of the mass murder at the Capital Gazette in Annapolis earlier this year.

I hope that’s not what it takes to keep us from shrugging and asking “Did you see the weather for tomorrow?”

 

Let’s see if you’re numb yet

Clay Jones does a nice job of summing up Mitch McConnell’s objection to making Election Day a national holiday.

In that above-linked op-ed, McConnell clutches his pearls in horror over H.R. 1 and the idea that the Democrats would roll back the restrictions the GOP has placed on voting, and cites the tissue-thin accusations of voter fraud that have accompanied those moves to lower the vote.

But let’s pretend his objection to the Election Day holiday is sincere.

There was a time when Election Day basically was a holiday, without anyone having to call it that. The choice of Tuesday meant nobody had to break the Sunday sabbath to get into town from distant farms, and it was mid-fall, when harvests were in and they could take the time to come vote.

 

When I lived in Maine, folks there told me that Town Meeting Day had been a holiday within living memory, with schools and businesses closed so that people could come voice their opinions, as seen in this classic by New Englander Norman Rockwell, illustrating the First Amendment.

 

I’ve witnessed what he painted: Plain folks standing up amid their neighbors to debate and discuss, line-by-line, the town’s budget.

But few towns close down for Town Meeting Day anymore, though many hold it, instead, on a weekend or in the evening.

Others have gone to a ballot, so that people can drop by anytime during the day to vote on matters they have not heard discussed and don’t fully understand.

But I’ve ranted on this topic too often. Let the young folks take up the banner, if they care.

 

Besides, there comes a point where you wonder why we even bother.

Ann Telnaes offers more of an outraged illustration than a cartoon commentary, to go along with the news that we have begun force-feeding hunger strikers in our concentration camps.

A century ago, women in England who demanded the vote were also force-fed so that their hunger strikes would not result in creating martyrs, while at roughly the same time, the Lord Mayor of Cork, Terence MacSwiney, was permitted to die at the end of a 74-day hunger strike.

And, of course, the Iron Lady, Margaret Thatcher, drew praise for allowing hunger strikers to die during the Troubles in the North of Ireland, though her cold-hearted response increased sympathy for the prisoners throughout the Six Counties and beyond.

A hunger strike is a no-win situation for captors: Force-feeding the strikers is not only a horrifying, brutal process that amounts to torture, but they still become martyrs so long as you refuse to relieve the injustice that could drive someone to such drastic action.

And so we saw hunger strikes among the suffragettes, and with MacSwiney, we saw them in Long Kesh, and we’ve seen them in Australia’s refugee camps and, despite a lack of transparency, we now see them in our own.

Who knows what we might see among the additional children we’ve ripped from their families, if anyone knew where to find them.

And if we had not become too numb to care.

 

Community Comments

#1 Sean Martin
February/2/2019
@ 8:51 am

Part of me is flabbergasted by what’s going on down there, but another part of is, yes, so numbed to it all that I’m no longer surprised or shocked when TurtleBoy says the idea of making it so that everyone votes is a power grab,

:: sigh ::

#2 David Spitko
February/2/2019
@ 9:27 am

Is it numbness or self-preservation to avoid living angry and depressed? I spent two years like that and almost sank into a very dark place. I was thankful for the mid-terms. I am thankful that mainstream media has finally started to figure out how to cover the Dear Leader without just giving him free propaganda time/space. But would my outrage change the Republican majority in the Senate or what the Great Liar can do by executive fiat? Would my anger change the national guns laws, or those in red states one tiny bit? Nope. So, instead I am heartened by what is coming out of the Democratic majority in the House and I hope …

#3 Mary McNeil
February/2/2019
@ 4:47 pm

David: Please hang in there – you have a lot of company !

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