Quick to criticize, slow to offer praise

I had an interesting chat today with someone who publishes a group of weekly newspapers in North Texas, someone who told me about a reader who took a few minutes to spread the word about the good that comes from one of the weekly newspapers in this group.

Full disclosure: I work as a freelance reporter for this publisher, who runs the Farmersville Times.

A reader took time to post a social media message about all the information contained in a recent edition of the newspaper. My boss was so taken by that response, she reached out to the reader to thank her. “No one ever does that,” my boss told me; actually, someone just did, I said.

My conversation reminded me of what I knew to be true when I worked full time in print journalism. It is that human beings’ impulse to criticize what they read is far more sensitive than their impulse to offer a good word. How do I know that?

I know it because long ago I lost count of the times people would say: “Hey, I really liked what you wrote the other day.” To which I would say, “Oh, what was that?” The person would think for a moment, then shrug and say, “Oh, I can’t remember … but I liked it!”

Compare that with other, more critical, responses to whatever it was that captured readers’ attention. “Hey, that editorial you wrote? It was full of crap!” I would ask, “What was wrong with it?” They would recite it back to me word for word and parse every little point I sought to make and then they would say, “That’s just how I feel about it.”

I learned a long time ago that such responses come with the territory.

I was thrilled to learn, though, from my publisher about the positive feedback she received from a reader. May our weekly newspaper continue to provide information of value to the community. It’s the mission of journalism — and journalists — throughout this great land.


Crowd reaction portends … what?

Donald J. Trump is fond of holding rallies, listening to the noise coming from a sizable crowd … and then using the size and sound of his rallies as a measure of his political standing.

That’s foolishness, to be sure. However, if we apply that metric to the present day, consider this:

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott ventured for the second day in a row to Uvalde, the site of the horrific slaughter of 19 school children and two teachers this past week.

He got a rousing welcome, all right … of boos! The noise was loud and sustained.

The stricken Uvalde residents want the governor to do something to end the violence. They speak for a lot of other Texans, not to mention even more millions of Americans who are shaken to their core by the violence that erupted against those precious children and their protectors.

They blame Gov. Abbott for refusing to act. They are taking their anger out, too, on legislators who continue to dance to the tune called by the gun lobby … and ignoring the cadence set by their real bosses, the voters!

It is long past the time for our elected representatives to “represent” the interests of voters, most of whom favor a legislative remedy to the carnage that continues to cause undue grief and misery.


Honor the fallen

Americans take time each year to honor those who died in battle. They died to protect our freedom at home. I join in honoring their sacrifice and thanking them for the liberty I continue to enjoy.

I was fortunate at many levels. I came of age in the 1960s. My generation faced the prospect of fighting a war in a faraway land. I found myself answering the call to duty in Vietnam, arriving there in the spring of 1969 to maintain Army aircraft in a place called Marble Mountain, just south of Da Nang.

One level of good fortune is that no one in my high school class died in service in Vietnam. We have lost many of them over the years to an assortment of accidents and illness.

Nor did I lose any “buddies” in Vietnam, although one young man with whom I was acquainted died in June 1969 while ferrying soldiers on what intelligence said would be a “routine” troop lift. It turned out to be nothing of the sort. Jose De La Torre died that day in a horrible fire fight.

I honor his sacrifice and truth be told, I am wondering at this moment how his loved ones in California are feeling this weekend as the nation honors his supreme sacrifice.

My hope is that we honor these Americans every day, not just a single day or a single weekend. I try to do my feeble part simply by offering quiet expressions of thanks for the service they performed.

I am doing so at this very moment.

With that, let us all go forward and enjoy the Memorial Day holiday while remembering why we’re still able to do so.


That was then

Ahhh, yes. We remember those days, don’t we. They’re gone forever. As Don Henley once sang, “Don’t look back; you can never look back.”

But this picture does remind me of a more innocent time in the life of our great nation.

I am 72 years of age, which makes me old enough to remember how simple life used to be for all Americans. I remember a time when gasoline sold actually for about half the price shown in the picture attached to this post.

I grew up in Portland, Ore. Dad had this way of talking to gas station attendants — yes, they’re still on the job in Oregon to this day. We would ride in a car he was driving; he would pull up to the gas pump at the station.

The attendant would approach the car and Dad would say, “I’ll take a buck’s worth of regular.” Yep. One dollar’s worth of gasoline in the car.

Let’s do a bit of simple math. Gasoline sold for about 25 cents per gallon in those days. A “buck’s worth” bought Dad about four gallons of gas. If the vehicle he was driving was somewhat fuel-efficient — bear in mind that “fuel efficiency” was hardly on our minds in those days — he could drive, oh, about 60 to 75 miles on just those four gallons of gas.

I am left to simply sigh wistfully.

Those days won’t return. I find myself at this very moment wishing for “less expensive” motor fuel to drop to less than $4 per gallon.

Today we are grumbling at everyone. The president needs to “do something” to stop the skyrocketing price of motor fuel. In truth, the president is virtually powerless to control these prices. We bitch at the oil companies for price gouging. I am inclined to join that crowd, but I certainly understand there is little we can do to fight against what we believe is occurring in oil-company board rooms.

If they’re all doing it, how do we boycott the oil companies?

We are left to wish for worldwide conditions to change and for the worldwide supply to make it a bit more economical just to pump fuel for our motor vehicles.

If only we could turn back the clock.

— johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Emotional tug-of-war

My emotions are playing a mighty game of tug-of-war with themselves at this horrible moment.

One side has gripped the proverbial rope and is reminding me to “never forget” the tragedy we all saw unfold this past Tuesday morning in Uvalde, Texas. Indeed, my guts are torn by the thought of those 19 precious children and those two educators who were slaughtered by the evil monster.

What’s more, we now are learning almost daily of the failing of law enforcement to act properly to protect the lives lost in that Robb Elementary School classroom. The Justice Department has decided to look deeply into what went wrong; to what end remains unclear.

Pressure on the other side of that tug-of-war match reminds me of the myriad other crises that have been pushed aside: the Ukraine War; the 1/6 investigation underway in Congress; inflationary pressure; the nagging persistence of the coronavirus pandemic.

Well, I am going to concede this fight to the side that insists we stay focused on the aftermath of the Uvalde tragedy. Where should the aftermath take us? I hope it leads to meaningful efforts by Congress and/or state legislatures to do something finally to wage all-out war against this senseless carnage.

Yes, I also have asked, “When is enough to be enough?” I thought we reached that point long ago. After Columbine, or Aurora, or Newtown, or Sutherland Hills, Charleston, or Parkland, or El Paso, or Buffalo, or Las Vegas.

Is Uvalde the tipping point? I truly don’t know. I only can hope it becomes one.


What if the killer … ?

I am hearing from gun-rights apologists who suggest that laws designed to install universal background checks wouldn’t have prevented the lunatic from opening fire in Uvalde, Texas, with an AR-15 rifle.

Hmm. They ask: What laws would work to stem such a tragedy? My answer: I haven’t a clue, which is why I depend on my elected representatives to craft solutions that are too far above my limited knowledge and skill set.

However, in an editorial this morning, the Dallas Morning News is calling on John Cornyn, Texas’s senior Republican in the U.S. Senate, to show leadership, to reach across the aisle to work with Democrats — as he is capable of doing — in finding solutions to this sheer madness. The state’s junior GOP senator, Ted Cruz, is too wrapped up in blaming “Democrats and the media” for “politicizing” this tragic event. What horsesh**!

The DMN poses this: What if their killer, an 18-year-old, had been turned away at the gun store? What if he had just one or two obstacles in front of him on his way to destroying lives and terrorizing our country? Would those children be alive?

The answer is that maybe they would be. Maybe they would be starting summer vacation. Maybe they would be playing with their friends. Maybe their moms and dads would be holding them right now.

It’s John Cornyn’s moment. Reform gun laws and lift up the American middle (dallasnews.com)

Lots of “maybe” to examine, you know?

I want Congress to explore the possibilities of turning “maybe” into commonsense public policy.


What about that war?

Now we know what it takes to push an illegal, immoral and unjustified war off the front page and off the air.

It takes a madman who walks into an elementary school and slaughters 19 third- and fourth-grade children and two of their teachers. Yes, the Uvalde, Texas, massacre has dominated the news and yanked our attention away from that war in a faraway place called Ukraine.

To be candid, I don’t yet know which story depresses me more.

The Ukraine War was doing a nice of job of sending me into prolonged periods of funk. The Russians invaded Ukraine intending to drive out the government and installing a puppet regime to do Moscow’s bidding; it hasn’t worked. Indeed, the chatter now is beginning to telegraph a different sort of message, that Ukraine actually might win the battle on the field.

Weird, man.

Meanwhile, a grieving United States of America is coming to grips with the Uvalde tragedy and our citizens are now asking pertinent and legitimate questions about whether the police responded properly to prevent further carnage.

All of this is enough to tax anyone’s emotional strength.

We all need to remain strong.


Don’t stop trying, governor

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott decided to stay away from the National Rifle Association annual convention in Houston, but he delivered a piped-in message from Uvalde, where he was visiting with the grief-stricken community seeking to recover from the rampage of a madman.

He then said something to NRA conventioneers that I found a bit disturbing. Abbott said the laws we have on the books already would not have stopped the shooter from killing those 19 children and two teachers. “They don’t work,” he said.

Oh really, governor? Here’s a thought: How about continuing to look for legislative solutions that would work?

Gov. Abbott seemed to my ears to be waving a flag of surrender. As if to suggest there isn’t a legislative solution to be found. What nonsense!

There’s a bill called House Bill 8, which the U.S. House approved a couple of years ago. It calls for mandatory background checks for every firearm purchased, even those bought at gun shows. It has been stalled in the Senate. Indeed, Golden State Warriors head basketball coach Steve Kerr aimed his barbs this week at the 50 Republican senators who refuse to enact the bill. His frustration is visceral … and I feel the same way.

That’s one piece of legislation that needs to become law. Would HB 8 solve the issue once and for all? Oh, probably not. However, it well might deter someone from committing a heinous act. Isn’t there value in that?

Yes. There is. Therefore, I refuse to accept the notion put forth by Gov. Abbott that gun-control laws “don’t work.”


Unspeakable horror?

Ted Cruz stood before the National Rifle Association faithful and proclaimed that there are “no words” to explain the unspeakable evil that befell the students and teachers in Uvalde earlier this week.

Yes, Sen. Cruz, you are right.

There also are no words to explain another phenomenon that is getting the short shrift at the NRA convention underway in Houston.

No words can explain to me and many millions of other Americans the cowardly inaction by politicians — chiefly Republicans such as Cruz — over searching for legislative remedies to curb this kind of insane gun violence.

Poll after poll say the same thing: Most Americans favor stricter gun control legislation. We live in a “representative democracy,” a nation that is governed by those we elect to “represent the interests” of the governed.

These politicians are not beholden to the big-money interests of the powerful lobbies, such as the gun lobby. They work for you and for me.

I say this once again understanding the sanctity of the Second Amendment to our Constitution. I support the Second Amendment. I also believe in my heart that there is a legislative remedy to be found to keep firearms out of the mitts of those who have no business carrying them.

The moron who slaughtered those children and their teachers in Uvalde was, as Ted Cruz said, the personification of evil … but dammit, evil also exists in the refusal of our elected officials to listen to the pleas of those of us they represent and act to end this senseless violence.


‘Solipsistic?’ Wow! Cool word

Occasionally, I have to look up words to find definitions with which I am unfamiliar.

Former Trump administration senior policy adviser — and one-time 2016 campaign manager for Donald Trump — Kellyanne Conway dropped a word on me that forced me to crack open by dog-eared American Heritage man-cave dictionary.

She writes in her new memoir about Trump that his 2020 re-election campaign was “more solipsistic than scrappy.”

Hey, I know what “scrappy” means. The “solipsistic” term got me scrambling. It refers to one’s fixation with one’s self. Gosh. Do you think that fits Donald J. Trump to the proverbial “t”? It damn sure does!

It’s quite a term that I want to nominate for the glossary of cool words that we might hear repeated by media talking heads as they discuss recent political history.

Solipsistic? Yeah, I’m down with that.