This week there was more bewildering nonsense than usual taking place throughout the nation. From airline brawls to controversy in the halls of government, the country seems to teeter on the edge of sanity.
The following is a sample of some of the more bizarre recent happenings. Like the first entry below, these developments in our popular and governing cultures should have us seeing red:
- The Maine Legislature is debating a bill that would allow hunters to wear red, rather than only blaze orange. The measure is an effort to appease those, namely the Amish, who have religious objections to wearing bright colors. First of all, this kind of bill makes me realize just how all-powerful our government has become that those in Augusta can determine what we wear in the woods. Of course the Amish and anyone else should be able to wear whatever they want while hunting. If they get killed by a colorblind hunter, that’s their fault. (I for one am red-green deficient and can’t see a red spot if surrounded by green. So all Amish hunters religiously opposed to blaze orange should beware if I’m in your neck of the woods with my trusty double barrel. But, hey, being shot isn’t as bad as violating 17th-century German color codes, I guess.)
- A view of what’s coming next in our over-computerized world happened last week in Britain when the National Health Service’s computers were hacked with ransomware. Hospitals as hacking targets is scary but what’s scarier is the thought of hackers infiltrating the machines keeping people alive. Hackers really are taking over our modern digital system.
- Barry Hobbins, the former state senator from Saco, was approved last week by the Legislature as the head of the Public Advocate’s Office. I am impressed with Hobbins’ no-nonsense bipartisan approach but that doesn’t make up for the drunk-driving offense that legislators conveniently failed to mention at his recent confirmation hearing. State government, via highway signs at least, likes to say Maine is tough on drunk drivers. Apparently not. Here they can become public advocates if they’ve been in politics long enough. What happened to high standards for public officials?
- I heard a radio ad for a Windham-based cleaning company last week that intrigued me. It was a catchy help-wanted ad that ended by warning all applicants that they’d be subjected to a “thorough” background check. I hope teenagers pay attention to such ads since lawbreakers may not even qualify for a cleaning job. Of course, if your police record disqualifies you for a janitorial position, you could still become the state’s public advocate, I guess.
- The wife of a Naples man deported to Guatemala has been in the news lately trying to guilt the federal government into bringing her husband back to Maine. The immigration laws, this story reveals, have been viewed as mere suggestions for the last eight years under Obama. And now that we have a self-described law-and-order president who actually wants to follow the law of the land people are surprised. The husband was in the country illegally for more than a decade. He had time to apply for citizenship but didn’t. Now, he and his wife are paying the price. It’s sad, but it’s his fault. She has a right to petition her government for leniency but shouldn’t be surprised if there’s an unhappy ending. We’re a nation of laws, and a foundational one is that only citizens can live here permanently. Pretty simple stuff, really.
- My take on Trump’s firing of FBI Director Comey is as follows: First, I’m sick of hearing about it, but I am happy the media is back after a long absence. We had eight years where they wouldn’t do any investigative journalism because any critical story of Obama would have been seen as mean-spirited or racist. Now we have a blond-haired, orange-skinned, blue-blooded white man in charge and the media can finally do their job again. With their chains unshackled, they’re jumping on any and all possible scandalous behavior in their attempt to become another Woodward and Bernstein, the patron saints of modern muckraking journalism. When they come up with some actual evidence of improper behavior, I’ll be the first one to call for the wrong-doers’ heads. Until then, the media’s “rough draft of history” is making me think they’re the boy who cried wolf.
- Last, but not least, the Opium Bar in Portland has to be the stupidest business name ever. Opium dens in Victorian England aren’t to be praised; the opium drug trade has fueled terrorist cartels like the Taliban in Afghanistan, and the bar’s owner has been justifiably blasted for making light of the opiate crisis. Shame on him.
John Balentine, a former managing editor for Sun Media Group, lives in Windham.