Thinking back it seems we went from Happy New Year to a gloomy midnight in (an old expression) no time flat.

Certainly, things have changed. I got an extra feel of the new-real the other day. Doing nothing more exciting than weekly grocery shopping I suddenly felt as if I was a player in a spaghetti western. (I imagine it’s been a while since most of you heard that term and for others their first time.) But there we were, an unlikely masked crew of mot skulking slowly down the aisles as if carrying out a desperado act.

Were we cautious masked banditos going to waylay a stock boy as hostage or grab the cashier for ransom after dragging them properly bound and gagged to our hideout in the hills? Why else would a gang spread out masked and creeping in a grocery if not up to no good?

Yes, these are some odd times we’re in.

Have you noticed the infectious agent threatening humans has bred a blossoming of new virals in the internet world of e-mail?

My count is not precise, but I estimate a tenfold increase in spam junk. It’s been decades since I had so many friends in Nigeria (one of the early major sources of spam scam e-mails).

Well, they’re back, and seemingly no longer limited to Nigerian borders. If grammar is any guide the writer sources of heaps of wonderful offers and opportunities coming my way are not native speakers of English, not that unhappy numbers of news people on air are a hell of a lot better. Awkward phrasing and sloppy use seems a badge of distinction among many current commentators who see them themselves above petty distinctions of correctness in use.

Unfortunately this looseness gravitates over to other areas of their work and has the unexpected result of having no impact on their strict observance of correctness in political terms.

Well you need not be a good reporter to be an interesting one, do you? On that leveled field some of the contenders are monumental examples of how so much can be made of so little if you raise your voice and play out a good bluster.

One thing I haven’t done nearly as much as I could and should is express appreciation to and for The Reader as a goodly public forum.

Not once, ever, have I been asked to change wording or back off a phrased position. That’s both applaud worthy and brave in times when speaking of red grapes or white bread can bring on wailings of protest. If it is any comfort to the easily offended I weep for them, but not sincerely or with much actual compassion. In any case a supposed word injury is neither physical nor permanent.

Supposedly harmful speech can be questioned and then be retracted, amended or repeated depending on the speaker. Primarily in dictatorships is the individual compelled to say this and not that.

It’s also worth remembering that misspeaking, bombast, insult and etc. are not criminal. Human changes in views and opinions means lots of false steps. It’s part of the process. In human exchanges chest beating or a growl is not cause for mortal combat.

I think I understand but don’t have much sympathy for presumptions of hate speech. Asserting a claim of speech injury carries some questionable and possibly false beliefs.

Are you responsible for another’s feelings or are they outside your control?

That’s a big question. It gets bigger yet when supposed responsibility for feelings of others outside your control is assigned a burden of guilt. What a bottomless muskeg bog that becomes. Keeping communication clear is often difficult enough without lumbering it with impossible dictates.

A “felt” injury is subject to a person’s mood or bias. How would you know what that was without asking and being at risk of triggering a felt injury doing so? A subjective view may not be valid for others.

What does red mean if you lack color vision?

What’s real when someone miscounts but insists their number is correct?

Small matters become big when people overreact. I think this happens more if we elevate subjectivity to the grand scale of a universal revelation.  

Another area not gaining my sympathy is New York City. Yes NYC has been hard hit by the virus. But after 9/11 were they not made terribly aware of their vulnerability to outside forces which would include biological attack?

If you can be reasonably sure (as is so with The Mall of America, I might add) you are a plum target on somebody’s screen you should take some steps to be prepared.

I’m certainly in no position to lay out steps for NYC to take. The ones who are there are the ones who should figure it out and Be Prepared.

Instead of prudent the leadership of NYC was political and didn’t take steps to be ready. Well we have to agree with NYC politicos that it is easier and more career rewarding to set aside nagging necessities to go along with popular demand knowing you can always duck responsibility and point the finger elsewhere.

Claiming others have failed us is often a sign of having failed ourselves in the first place. This, however, is not the sort of thing politicians do, is it? When is the last time you heard a political leader simply say they were wrong?

Obsession with appearances and popular position may be excellent for a career politico but I doubt that translates favorably as for the public good. Too often public office is enriching, and I don’t mean spiritually.

Lastly, as a former speech and debate coach I cringe at President Trump’s speaking style. It works but is really off putting. I’d give him middlin’ marks.

But in debate you want a team with a distractor, someone attractive and appealing while also good at thinking on their feet. A debate squad also needs an imponderable, someone who keeps the other team off balance.

In that case I can see giving a better mark.