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Archive for January, 2017

We could be headed toward a “Snapchat presidency.”

That’s the view of New York Times columnist David Brooks, who, in a piece on Tuesday, propounded a possible scenario in which the relationship between President-elect Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin degenerates into a “schoolyard fight,” pushing the world toward the brink of a nuclear war.

That’s the kind of thing that kind happen, Brooks said, when a president detaches himself from “the system of governance he’ll soon oversee” and, instead, fires off Tweets that at least appear to represent policy statements.

“His statements should probably be treated less like policy declarations and more like Snapchat,” Brooks wrote. “They exist to win attention at the moment, but then they disappear.”

In that sense, Brooks went on, “Trump is not a national leader; he is a national show.”

It’s a given that Trump has a lot of personality. He can be very charming and entertaining. But think about it…Is that what we’re looking for in a president? What we’re looking for is a person with an even temperament who thoughtfully considers issues that affect all Americans, while getting advice and suggestions from trusted, knowledgeable people around him. And through that process he arrives at decisions that reflect the serious consideration those decisions deserve.

**

As I read that column Tuesday morning, it immediately brought to mind Episode Eight of “The Crown,” an outstanding Netflix series about Queen Elizabeth II’s long tenure on the throne and how she grew into the monarchy from the time she acceded to the throne when she was a young woman of 25.

I had just watched Episode Eight Monday night, and one of its plot lines offers parallels to the troubling signs Trump has been exhibiting.

…In 1954, Queen Elizabeth and her husband, Prince Phillip, were preparing to embark on a trip of many weeks to visit British colonies in an effort to shore up the standing of the British Empire. A sticky problem attending their departure, however, was how the headstrong Princess Margaret, the queen’s younger sister, would handle the royal duties while filling in for Elizabeth.

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Princess Margaret, in 1957

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President-elect Donald Trump

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Their mother, Queen Mother Elizabeth, who was also going to be away from London, had pushed for more exposure for Princess Margaret in order to “give her a chance to shine.”

In a conversation between the sisters, Margaret vows to inject “character” into the monarchy while her sister is away. Elizabeth warns her against displaying “too much character, an excess of character.” This exchange ensues:

Elizabeth: “Just remember who you’re standing in for when I’m gone.”

Margaret: “My character-less sister.”

Elizabeth: “Your queen…not a showgirl.”

Margaret proceeds to do as Elizabeth and others around her had feared, going “off script,” tossing out inappropriate one-liners and offending important people with her loose tongue.

Her performances leave Prime Minister Winston Churchill irate, and he confronts Margaret and dresses her down.

“When you appear in public, performing official duties,” he says, “you are not you…No one wants you to be you; they want you to be it…The crown. That’s what they’ve come to see — not you. The minute you become yourself, you shatter the illusion; break the spell.”

He finishes by pointing out that Henry VIII — Elizabeth’s uncle several generations removed — tried to impose his individuality on the monarchy — “and he almost destroyed it in the process.”

**

It’s becoming very clear that, so far, Donald Trump is more interested in putting on a show than he is in learning the nuances of governance and preparing to accede to the presidency of the world’s most powerful nation.

Consider another passage from David Brooks:

Trump…is a creature of the parts of TV and media where display is an end in itself. He is not really interested in power; his entire life has been about winning attention and status to build the Trump image for low-class prestige. The posture is the product.”

…At a time like this, I sure wish a Winston Churchill was nearby to dress him down and try to set him straight…It’s likely, of course, that not even a Churchill-scale figure could rein in Trump. With each passing day, the run-up to the inauguration is looking more like a Broadway production than a serious attempt to prepare for the heavy responsibility that lies ahead.

As we all know, the most important thing on Broadway is the show must go on.

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Last week, I was talking to the two men — East Side residents named Jimmie and Charles — who cut my grass and mulch my leaves, and I asked them if they had big New Year’s Eve plans.

Almost before I’d finished the question, Charles began shaking his head and said: “July 4 and New Year’s Eve, I’m in bed before the gunfire starts.”

I laughed, but, of course, there’s a lot of truth to what he said.

From celebratory shooting to shooting with malice, New Year’s Eve is a day we usually get a lot of gunfire in the Kansas City area.

The last day of 2016 and the first hours of 2017 were no exception: Three triple shootings occurred between Saturday and Sunday in Kansas City. Fortunately — and I say that loosely — only one of the nine people injured in those shootings died.

But that one death pushed the 2016 homicide count to 126 for last year — the city’s highest homicide count since 2008.

The headline on The Star’s year-end crime story was: “2016: The killing began quickly and never let up.”

That’s a hell of a commentary, isn’t it? To lift a phrase from the Jackie Chiles character on “Seinfeld,” “It’s outrageous, egregious, preposterous.” But in this case, it ain’t funny.

And here’s something that makes me squirm: Of those three triple shootings, only one occurred in what most of us would consider the “inner city.” That was in the 5800 block of Blue Parkway, near Sni-A-Bar Road.

One of the others occurred in the 1700 block of Missouri Avenue, near the Della Lamb Community Center in northeast Kansas City. And the third shooting, in which a man in his 20s died, took place on Ninth Street, between Broadway and Washington, near The Peanut’s downtown location.

I don’t know about you, but I am frequently in the vicinity of Blue Parkway and Sni-A-Bar; it’s my go-to route to Kauffman Stadium. And the Milwaukee Delicatessan, Ninth and Baltimore, is my second favorite pizza place (after Minsky’s).

As much as I’d like to wave off those incidents as not being in my frame of reference, I can’t do that. In fact, there are many places we all go that have been the scenes of shootings and that probably will be in the months and years to come.

The rate of shootings and homicides has to be a major concern for all of us. As Damon Daniel, executive director of the AdHoc Group Against Crime, told The Star: “Today’s shooters are very young and never stop to think about the collateral damage they cause to families and the community at large.”

A shooting might start with the mildest of personal slights; or with revenge in mind and no reflection on the likely consequences; or by accident, with a novice criminal wielding a handgun during his first armed robbery.

And what’s the common thread here? Duh, it’s the guns. They’re everywhere.

I got this from the Washington Post: The United States has the highest gun ownership rate in the world — 89 guns for every 100 people — and the highest per capita rate of firearm-related murders of all developed countries — 67.5 percent.

Think about that: Eighty-nine guns for every 100 people. And I don’t know if that includes the unaccounted-for guns on the streets, the guns that are being used in many of the shootings in the Kansas City area.

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We can be grateful, I guess, that we’re not as bad off as Chicago, which recorded 762 homicides in 2016. That’s the most murders Chicago has had in 20 years and more than New York and Los Angeles combined last year.

A story in today’s Kansas City Star about Chicago said this: “The bulk of the deaths and shooting incidents…occurred in only five neighborhoods on the city’s South and West sides, all poor and predominantly black areas where gangs are most active.”

What a scourge…and not just for Chicago. It’s a pox upon all of us, but particularly on generations of elected officials for allowing this situation to descend to the current, perhaps irredeemable level.

And it’s a rotten shame for the most advanced, most ingenious nation in the world to have to own this problem. All of us, as the saying goes, “have to wear it.”

Obviously, I don’t have the answer…I’m with my lawn guy Charles: It’s a good idea to be in bed before the shooting starts.

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