When we were kids — and because we were kids — we used lots of taunting phrases, the most popular being the chant: “Nanny nanny boo-boo,” or something equally imbecilic.
Every kid I knew was familiar with that chant. We used it too in our Railroad Avenue barrio, and if the recipients could run fast enough, they made us pay. It’s on a par with youngsters engaging in p–sing contests.
Now, several decades later, we’re being exposed to grown-up (although not necessarily “mature”) taunts in which our own president is engaging in verbal jousts with Kim Jong Un of North Korea.
Pardon me for waxing eloquent, but can’t President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un end their “mine is bigger” feud? It’s on the par with two kids in the playground spoiling for a fight, ending each outburst with “mine is bigger,” But we never discover the object of the bigness.
Possibly the “bigger” item is a family, or an older brother, or a gang, or maybe a cudgel.
And speaking of taunting-leading-to-fisticuffs, I saw a brilliant commercial on TV during the height of the Vietnam War that raged in the ‘70s. We were living in a suburb of Charlottesville, Va., not far from our national’s capital.
The black-and-white ad showed two middle-aged men, double-chins-sagging, pot-bellies showing, wearing white shirts and marching into a forested area.
Without speaking a word, the two men faced each other, squared off and slugged away, with many of the blows hitting only air. An off-camera voice uttered something like, “Wouldn’t it be great if wars were settled this easy?” Thoughts of a major escalation were more palpable in that city, a scant 117 miles from D.C.
And even in peaceful Charlottesville, sometime home to Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner and Thomas Jefferson, many people feared war and the ease with which one person could create one. I’d never thought of such a novel idea as demonstrated by two white-shirted men. Why do so many nations need to be involved in every skirmish? And why do so many people need to die?
The recent brouhaha between Trump and Kim Jong Un consists mainly of implied threats. Our president is quoted as boasting that he has “a bigger and more powerful ‘nuclear button’ than Kim Jong Un.” The North Korean leader had previously repeated fiery nuclear threats against the U.S. He also warned that, “The whole territory of the U.S. is within the range of our nuclear strike.”
And this bit of baggadocio comes from two world leaders!
The fear of millions ought to be in the trigger-happy stance of the two leaders. Sure, these are just words, but what if — just what if — one adversary or the other takes the threat a tiny step forward, hoping to show that his side “really means business”? It can happen. In a fit of testosterone-fueled bragging, we could find ourselves in a real war.
• • •
It took several days to settle the torrid senate race between Republican Roy Moore and Democrat Doug Jones.
Jones won in the G.O.P-dominated state of Alabama, but not before myriad threats by Moore to delay the results due to his plans for a recount. More than anything, that race demonstrated the situational ethics some people employ to attempt to justify how they voted.
For example, Moore, a long-time favorite of voters in that deep-South state, lost the election largely because of his past indiscretions. You’ll recall learning about Moore’s improper relationship with a girl many years his junior (she was 14, he a 32-year-old office holder at the time.)
But note how supporters tried to make everything about that weird relationship seem normal. Said Alabama State Auditor Jim Zeigler, a Moore apologist: “There is just nothing immoral or illegal here. Maybe just a little bit unusual.” Other supporters have equated the accusations with nothing more than a religion-tinged “he said, she said” matter.
And topping the list is an addendum by Zeigler, who invoked scripture to justify his position: “Zechariah was extremely old to marry Elizabeth and they became the parents of John the Baptist.”
It’s interesting how some politicians rope in the deity as if Moore’s encounters with a girl in her early teens — a full 18 years younger than Moore himself — were completely innocuous.
• • •
A few days ago, as I was heading home, I came close to snapping a bunch of branches off a Christmas tree lying in the northbound lane of Hot Springs Boulevard, near the Behavioral Health Institute.
My guess is that it slipped off the back of a pickup as the driver was taking the tree to the dump. The driver must have thought: “Should I stop and retrieve it? Nah,” I’m sure he reasoned, “cuz it’s not my problem . . . any more.”
But if that were his or her thought process, shouldn’t the driver stop and pick the tree up? Here’s why: Even an object as small and innocuous as a Christmas tree can loom large for drivers. We wonder what might have happened if another driver may have seen the tree as a much larger object, like another car, or an animal — and swerved enough to collide with another car?
What any driver might have hit could have made the scenario much more serious — even deadly.
But not to worry: A driver I’ve known all my life stopped his car and dragged the tree to a nearby Dumpster.