Thursday, August 21, 2014


“Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt”
-          The Roman satirist Juvenal (circa 100 a.d.)

The primaries are finally history. Thank God! No more shameless political pandering for a while. Sadly, though, we’ve only got about a one month reprieve before it all starts up again.

If you’re anything like Nancy and me your days and nights have been interrupted incessantly by politicians violating the sanctity of your homes. One minute it was “Vote the old carpetbagger out.” The next it was, “Have you seen those Facebook photos?”

If I’d gotten one more robo-call I’d have ripped the telephone off the wall. That was about the only way I could stop them. I find it odd that I can keep telemarketers from pestering me, but not politicians. Like so much they do, they carve out exemptions for themselves when they pass laws. Somehow I cling to the hope that justice will someday prevail. Every once in a while I channel my inner Dante and I see politicians stoking the blast furnaces and walking on hot coals in the deepest bowels of hell for all eternity.

About a week before the primary, Pat Roberts sauntered into town, pandering for all he was worth. He hadn’t been in town very long at all when Milton Wolf set up shop not far from him, itching for a chance to have it out, rhetorically speaking. I was hoping for some fireworks, maybe even a Lincoln-Douglas style debate on the street, but the good senator nixed the idea. “Milton, Milton,” he scolded. “This is not the time.”  The surrogates started to circle around one another and I thought we might get treated to a confrontation.  Visions of future dime novels and legends danced in my head. Twenty-second century Emporians might get to see classic westerns like “The Dustup at Dynamic Discs” or “Gunfight at the Granada.” There might even be room for film noir. How does “Catastrophe on Commercial” sound?

But it wasn’t to be. The two camps parted ways and set off for other campaign stops. Apparently, we weren’t the only Kansas town in need of bread and circuses.

Looking back at it now, I think it would have been fun to see a slobber knocker of a debate. If I’d been Pat Roberts, I would have told my surrogates to grab a couple of stools and then instructed the media king-makers to grab their microphones and notepads and pay attention. If I’d been Milton Wolf, I’d have done the debate a la Clint Eastwood.

When I started this essay I cited the Roman satirist Juvenal’s famous words about bread and circuses. I’m sure that when he wrote them he had men like Nero and Domitian in mind. But, Juvenal was apparently a man for all ages, as evidenced by the spectacle of Kansas politics we got to see played out on Commercial Street. It was all very cheap and very tawdry, but I guess that’s the nature of politics in Kansas and everywhere else nowadays. As Libertarian author P.J. O’Rourke once put it, “Politics violates not only the first commandment about who’s God, but it violates the other nine as well. Politics could hardly function without bearing false witness. Likewise, without taking the Lord’s name in vain.”

After all the political posturing and robo-calls, I actually did vote, in part because Nancy insisted and, in part to placate my buddy Tom Haskett, who is forever telling me that if I don’t vote I don’t have the right to complain. Well, Tom, if you happen to read this, I did vote and I am complaining. It’s a right I’ve really earned this year.

About a week after the primary I had a brief conversation with Don Hill, who ran unopposed in the primary and will almost certainly win in the general election. I like Don. Unlike most politicians, he’s not thin-skinned. He’s an all-around nice guy. He makes his constituents feel comfortable and safe. I think if you put a trench coat on him, he’d be a dead ringer for McGruff, the Crime Dog.  I issued a mock threat to chase him around town when the next primary comes around. I think he knew it was an empty threat, because he chuckled a bit in response. Don will keep on running unopposed as long as he wants, and he’ll keep on winning. I’m almost sure it’s got something to do with the Divine right of legislators.

So, the primary season is over and I’ve got about a month to get my mind back on the Celestial City, the place where there are no robo-calls, no pandering, no soliciting bribes on the side, and no bread and circuses. There’s not even a need to wonder who’s running for President up there because the job’s already taken.

After participating in so many earthly spectacles for so many years, I can hardly wait to pass through those pearly gates!  

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