You may have noticed that I’ve been out of town and out of the paper for three weeks. In hopes of resuming our conversation, I’ll comment briefly on a few of the more outrageous items in the news.
First, the latest outbreak of alcohol-fueled racism at MU.
Kim English has disappointed many Tiger basketball fans with his play this season, but the views he expressed in Tuesday’s Missourian displayed a sense of history and proportion that more than made up for a few off-target jump shots.
“Things like that don’t upset me because I know that people like that exist,” he said.
He added, “We’ve came such a long way and still have such a long way to go. It’s a conservative state, close to the South. I wasn’t blinded to the fact coming out here. I mean, it’s happened two years in a row. … We have a black head coach, a predominantly black team, a black president. Most of the nation doesn’t feel that way, but one idiot did.”
The one idiot in this case has been identified as Benjamin Elliott, a freshman from Rolla. He told police he was drunk when he spray-painted racist graffiti on a statue outside his dorm. Of course he was. So were the two idiots who spread those cotton balls outside the Gaines/Oldham Black Culture Center last year.
I don’t know whether any of the three culprits is really a racist, but I do know that excessive alcohol consumption tends to bring out the worst in the male of our species. Neurological research shows that the rational decision-making part of the human brain isn’t fully developed by the time we reach legal age. Booze seems to retard that development, maybe especially among males.
I’m not trying to excuse Ben’s action. He’ll be punished, as he should be. But racism shouldn’t be the only issue. We shouldn’t ignore the latest demonstration of the harm that comes from too much too early of our deadly legal drug.
George W. Bush has seldom been as eloquent as Kim English. However, his memorable summary of his own growing up remains relevant: “When I was young and stupid, I was young and stupid.”
Most of our legislators don’t have that excuse, which forces us constituents to seek other explanations for the graffiti they’re busily writing into law.
The Republicans who control both houses in Jefferson City entered office vowing a single-minded focus on job creation. A month into the session, I’m not aware of any jobs they’ve created, but they sure haven’t been idle. We could only wish for sloth. Instead, we’re seeing bills in varying stages of approval that would:
- Reverse the public’s will on correcting the abuses of puppy mills (I guess dog breeders and the Farm Bureau count for more).
- Change our state constitution to divert tax dollars to pay for religious schools (Didn’t the U.S. Constitution settle this?).
- Require drug testing for welfare recipients (instead of legislators themselves).
- Replace our slightly progressive income tax with a regressive, inadequate and misleadingly-named sales tax (Rex Sinquefield demonstrates that money does talk.).
- Remove most restrictions on child labor (Jane Cunningham never ceases to amaze).
Maybe at least they’ll create jobs for those kids.
Finally, there’s been another twist in the sad case of Ryan Ferguson, convicted of murdering Columbia Daily Tribune sports editor Kent Heitholt. A new habeas corpus petition reveals that both key witnesses at the trial have now recanted their testimony. There are strong suggestions of police and prosecutor misconduct.
The workings of our legal system remain a mystery to me, but if truth is the goal, doesn’t he at least deserve a new trial?
Thanks for reading.
George Kennedy is a former managing editor at the Missourian and professor emeritus at the Missouri School of Journalism.