It's hard to decide whether Missouri or Kansas had more reason to be ashamed of itself. Kansas might have made national news more often, but after downing a few ice cold ones contemplating the question, the Strip has concluded that in 2006, we were all hurled into a dark age in which superstition prevailed.
Our first clue was obvious all the way back in January when, in its first column of the year, the Strip felt compelled to perform the important public service of providing tips to help rural Kansas men figure out whether their wives are really pregnant.
The Strip thought about that a couple of weeks ago, when it read about how friends and loved ones of Bobbie Jo Stinnett were holding a vigil up in Skidmore, Missouri, to celebrate the first birthday of the baby who survived after being cut out of Stinnett's womb. Stinnett wasn't so fortunate, though, and Lisa Montgomery is awaiting trial for the baby-stealin' that resulted in Stinnett's death. We're not so sure about the status of Montgomery's husband, Kevin, of Melvern, Kansas, who apparently believed that his wife was pregnant when the only thing really gestating was her alleged plot to kill Stinnett and claim the baby as her own. But the Strip couldn't help having a little sympathy for Kevin. After all, as this pontificating porterhouse wrote at the time, "In Kansas, where we don't feel comfortable discussing certain things with our children and certainly don't want them absorbing those things in the public schools, it makes sense that a grown man might not be completely familiar with what a female human being goes through during her pregnancy."
After all, this past September, the meddlin' schoolmarms at the state board of education came within a sperm's width of requiring students to have permission slips from their parents before they can take a sex education class. Fortunately, saner heads prevailed. However, the Strip continues to worry, given that certain members of the school board seem content to cling to the superstition that if kids don't know anything about sex, they won't have it! These particular school-board members (we're looking at you, Connie Morris) are the same ones who keep trying to tell us that the well-established scientific tenet known as evolution is actually an "age-old fairy tale."
Rational thinking can't possibly account for Kansas in 2005, so we might as well all just believe, along with ...
... Phill Kline, who wants us to think that child molesters are lurking everywhere and that our neighborhood abortion clinic offers them safe harbor, so we better turn over our own private medical records right now.
... the Blue Valley School District parents who challenged English-class reading assignments and chronicled their efforts at ClassKC.org. They claimed that books with passages describing "heterosexual sex, oral sex, homosexual sex, anal sex, rape, and incest" would help "develop an appetite for more of the same." Apparently Blue Valley high school reading lists are filled with de facto pornography, and these parents adhere to the superstition that, as they put it, "WHAT YOU LET YOUR MIND DWELL ON, YOU BECOME."
... partisans in the Kansas Legislature, who think that if you gripe hard enough about the state Supreme Court being a bunch of traitor activists, you won't really have to figure out how to fund public education for little Kansas kids, who'd all just be better off if they were home-schooled anyway.
The Strip knows there are plenty of reasonable, mainstream, free-thinkin' citizens of Kansas, and this proteinaceous prognosticator is a little concerned about them. You see, the Strip fears they may falsely believe that if you ignore the crazies, they'll eventually go away.
But the Strip also can't be too hard on Kansans not when plenty of Missourians also operate on blind faith. And we aren't just talking about the poor saps of Jackson County, who find themselves on course to cough up $425 million for Truman Sports Complex upgrades, an arrangement County Executive Katheryn Shields described as a "Christmas present." Some present. The county's $250-an-hour attorneys bargained a deal with the Chiefs and the Royals that puts taxpayers on the hook for 82 percent of the cost of the repairs. Please, someone tell Grand Jury Katie that Santa ain't real before she finds more gifts to give!
In Missouri this year, rumor worked well for Gov. Matt Blunt, who magically turned neighbors against one another by claiming that the state was crawling with people who commit Medicaid fraud his justification for taking away poor people's health insurance and afterward, he claimed that he didn't have one bit of trouble sleeping at night. It only took The Kansas City Star until the end of the year to report that surprise, surprise! the big Medicaid abusers are actually the ones providing the health care, not the average folks who need it.
But Blunt and his followers dwell in an alternate universe, one where there's absolutely nothing strange about cutting 90,000 people out of Medicaid to save money and then spending $90,000 on a special session of the state Legislature simply to pass a couple of abortion-restricting laws, just to keep the anti-abortion base happy.
Dear readers, sometimes this cutlet wonders whether it's the one that's really crazy. But the Strip never loses hope, because it regularly hears from plenty of you out there who still live on planet Earth. May we all survive in 2006.