Hey, kids, Jimmy the Fetus here, your guide to moral values in the Midwest, helping everybody see that what we learned in Sunday school really matters.
This kid Trevor says the Bible proves that UFOs exist, but the born-agains at school tell him he's full of it. Which of them is right?
Undoubtedly, your friend Trevor is referring to biblical passages such as this one: "As they continued walking and talking, a chariot of fire and horses of fire separated the two of them, and Elijah ascended in a whirlwind into heaven." Now, I can understand why this might set the flying-saucer crowd into orbit, but as with all Bible excerpts, one must remember the context. Here, we're getting Elisha's remembrances of how he and his father Elijah were walking around, parting water and doing other rock-star things, and after they'd been out in the desert alone together, Elisha came back alone. You gotta figure if you were itching to take over your dad's megachurch and wanted him to, um, vanish, you'd need a pretty good cover story for the hayseeds back home. So, just as in our own time, it turns out that a report about celestial fireworks says a lot more about the person telling the tale than the lights in the sky themselves. And if Trevor wants proof that space aliens walk among us, he should put down his Bible and pick up some George Clinton, because even a heavenly father rides the Funkadelic mothership once in a while.
Got a moral quandary? E-mail Jimmy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Set Phrase to Stun
How does Missouri State Sen. Matt Bartle of Lee's Summit make his positions seem like good ideas? By incessantly referring to them as "common sense."
Judging by his weekly columns, Bartle has learned well from Newt Gingrich, the former U.S. House speaker whose skillful use of language helped Republicans become the dominant political party. The pedantic Gingrich instructed his fellow Republicans to deploy certain words to strengthen their stances (preserve, initiative, duty) and denigrate their opponents' (sick, lie, pathetic).
For Bartle, the Gingrich-approved phrase common sense has an apparent resonance. Behold recent sentences from the senator's pen.
From a March 28, 2005, column about changes to the workers' compensation system: "In response, and in an effort to keep this fund a viable safety net for injured employees, the legislature moved to restore some common sense [emphasis Backwash's] to this system."
April 4: "We in the legislature have expressed to MODOT officials our wish that they proceed with these necessary improvement [sic] with common sense."
April 11: "Now, as the economy begins to revive, the time is ripe to add fuel to this recovery by offering common sense incentives to businesses to add high-paying jobs in Missouri."
May 16: "This week I want to focus on one of my priority pieces of legislation, a proposal imposing common sense regulations on sexually oriented businesses, smut shops and adult cabarets, across Missouri."
June 13: "Not only is this [the Legislature -- rather than the courts -- determining the appropriate levels of funding for schools] a matter of common sense, it is a matter of constitutional importance."
Language tricks aside, Bartle at least takes meaningful stands in his columns. Sam Graves, the lightweight Republican who represents northwest Missouri in Congress, addresses such controversy-proof subjects as Amber alerts, meth production and veterans' benefits in his (anything but) "Straight Talk With Sam" newsletters.
Calls for Clem
We were clearing out voice mails recently when we found some heartfelt messages that were intended for "Clem Bradshaw," the fictional Confederate-heritage leader who, in our June 23 satire "Rebel Hell," was behind proposed changes to the downtown arena. Clem was the character who wanted the arena redesigned as a shrine to Confederate war dead after construction crews supposedly dug up the remains of six soldiers during excavations for the $250 million sports palace. The article included a telephone number for Clem's nonexistent group, "Friends of the Confederacy," and when readers called, they heard a recording of "Dixie" in the background as Clem asked that callers leave a message. Of the many messages he received, these were the most coherent and titillating:
· "I want to commend you guys on doing the great job here where the city wants to build this arena, which should be hallowed ground for the Confederate soldiers.... Thanks for taking care of part of our history and doing what's right."
· "I support you and some of your ideas about what to do about the Confederate battle flag flying permanently over the arena. That would be fine by me."
· "While I understand the importance of honoring heritage, it would seem to me that these were six whoring idiots who were killed by women. And maybe we should not honor them in the same way as other soldiers. Thank you."
· "Fucking go die, cracker bullshit. Hope you secede and leave us. Why don't you just fucking go away? Your bullshit confederacy is a bunch of shit, OK? And so are you. We know what you're doing, and you're full of shit. We will not bow down to these fucking crackers, just so you know. Bye bye. Have a good night."