Why Do We Like The Bogeyman So Much?

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

We claim to want to live in peace, but we really like scaring one another. There is the preacher from the pulpit warning of Armageddon and hellfire & brimstone. There are news reports of latest insect or animal spread virus, disease or illness. There are threats (real and imagined) of financial doom, another depression, crop failure and food shortage, bubonic or black plague or Ebola or Zika or (insert your favorite scary disease).
Do you remember all of the foolishness written in 1999 about the coming Y2K problems when our calendars flipped over to 2000? And do you remember how worried we all were? Did devastation occur? Did the power go out? Did computers quit working?
Nope. The sun even came up the next morning shining brightly on the new millennium.
Then a few years back we were warned that the ancient and wise (and extinct) Mayans had a calendar that only went to 2012. What did they know that we didn’t? Was the world going to end in 2012?
Nope. I rather think the reason their ancient calendar, carved in stone ended with 2012 was because they ran out of rock.
But we just like to scare ourselves…even when there is nothing to be scared about.
Of course the biggest conjurers of the boogieman are our politicians and elected officials.
Some who warned about the ‘war on coal’ was killing jobs, now that they are elected are saying that it was natural gas that was the enemy of coal causing it to lose market share and that market conditions will probably continue to drive down the use of coal and jobs won’t be coming back. That’s not such a big deal here because there’s not many coal mines or natural gas wells in Jackson or Scott County.
Then there is the Evangelical inspired ‘war on Christmas’ where it is claimed the godless are trying to remove all religious references from the holiday. Of course, those who study history know it was the church which took over the pagan Winter Solstice holiday and re-branded it as their own original idea…even though no one is sure when Christ was born…and there is no Scriptural directive for celebrating Christmas. The same believers who want to lighten up Halloween and make it not so scary don’t mind trying to scare others that “them non-believers” are trying to abolish the Reason for the Season.
And we are warned of the latest threat from the extremist (insert your favorite scary group) that could come to America to a city near you to do harm.
It is really easy to scare us when the perceived bogeyman doesn’t look like us, doesn’t dress like us. It’s easier to be afraid of a foreign threat when it is our domestic neighbors that pose just as great a threat.
I find it a typically human response that we are quick to label those of foreign extraction who do harm as Muslim extremists while we excuse a white bread American man who is mentally or emotionally deranged, has the same access to guns as you and I do who shoots up a mall, church or school (not hypothetical as it all has happened) as just an unfortunate, regrettable situation.
WARNING READERS: As we approach the season of “tidings of comfort and joy” we should all be on the look out for the next bogeyman around the corner.
Have you heard the latest forecast for the coming winter?

Thanksgiving: A History & Reflection

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener
Americans don’t know it and children aren’t taught it, but George Washington is responsible for our Thanksgiving holiday. It was our first president who led the charge to make this day of thanks a truly national event—not the Pilgrims and not Abraham Lincoln.
On October 3, 1789, (the same year our constitution was enacted as you constitutional scholars already know) George Washington issued his Thanksgiving Proclamation, designating for “the People of the United States a day of public thanks giving” to be held on “Thursday the 26th day of November,” 1789, marking the first national celebration of a holiday that has become commonplace in today’s households.
The proclamation was printed in newspapers, including the October 9, 1789 issue of the Pennsylvania Packet and Daily Advertiser.
While subsequent presidents failed to maintain this tradition, it was Washington’s original Proclamation that guided Abraham Lincoln’s 1863 Thanksgiving Proclamation. In fact, Lincoln issued his proclamation on the same day, October 3, and marked the same Thanksgiving Day, Thursday, November 26, as Washington, setting Thanksgiving as the last Thursday of November after our first president’s example.
George Washington first mentioned the possibility of a national Thanksgiving Day in a confidential letter to James Madison in August 1789 (just months after taking office), asking for his advice on approaching the Senate for their opinion on “a day of thanksgiving.” By the end of September 1789, a resolution had been introduced to the House of Representatives requesting that “a joint committee of both Houses be directed to wait upon the President of the United States, to request that he would recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving.” The committee put the resolution before the president and George Washington issued the first national Thanksgiving Proclamation within days.
Washington knew the value of a thanksgiving day long before becoming our first president. During the Revolutionary War, he would order special thanksgiving services for his troops after successful battles, as well as publicly endorse efforts by the Continental Congress to proclaim days of thanks, usually in recognition of military victories and alliances. The concept of thanksgiving was not new to the citizens of the new United States. Colonists even before the Pilgrims often established Thank Days to mark certain occasions. These one-time events could occur at any time of the year and were usually more solemn than the Thanksgiving we observe today, emphasizing prayer and spiritual reflection.
Thanksgiving was not made a legal holiday until 1941 when Congress named the fourth Thursday in November as our national day of thanks in answer to public outcry over President Roosevelt’s attempt to prolong the Christmas shopping season by moving Thanksgiving from the traditional last Thursday to the third Thursday of November.
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We received an uplifting note from a subscriber which is passed along for your encouragement.
The day following Thanksgiving is known in the business sector as “Black Friday”—the heavy shopping day that many retail outlets finally get into the black on their financial statement.
The note we received read:
“It was Nov. 29, 1963, the day after Thanksgiving in Youngstown, Ohio where I was managing the Santa Photo Shop at our biggest department store. Soon after opening that morning, we had a long line of harried parents—their faces touched with sadness over President Kennedy’s assassination a week earlier—and their young children, who couldn’t wait for their turn with Santa. The line stretched from Santa’s chair through the toy department and to the elevator doors. The parents were impatient to get on with their shopping, Santa was doing his best, without shortchanging any child.
At one point the elevator doors opened, and a young boy in a wheelchair exited, pushed by his elderly grandfather. The man looked at the long line and asked, “Should we come back another day, Johnny?”
The boy’s disappointment was obvious, but before he could respond, a young girl at the end of the line spoke up, “You can get in front of me,”
The grandfather was touched by the child’s generosity, thanked her and wheeled Johnny in front of her.
Then the next child in line spoke up, “Here, get in front of me.” This happened again and again as one child after another gave up a place in line. I heard no complaints from the parents as their children chose to wait a bit longer for their turn.
I sincerely hope those children got an extra gift from Santa that year. I’m certain they each earned a smile from their God.
Shopping the day after Thanksgiving, you just might run smack up against the Spirit of the Season.”
A simple act of kindness, and yet those are the most memorable.

Nawww… Did They Really Say That?

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener

The election is over and many of us have already offered up a sigh of relief and a pre-Thanksgiving prayer of gratitude.
But campaign promises and rhetoric oft carry over into elected officials’ misspeaks, verbal faux pas, or proof that we don’t elect the smartest people.
According to my Bathroom Book of Lists here is what some politicians really said…really.
“When a physician removes a child from a woman, that is the largest organ in a body,” according to Rep. Mary Sue McClurkin, a Republican from Alabama.
“Men often do need maternity care,” said Kathleen Sebelius, Health and Human Services Secretary.
“The earth is about 9,000 years old,”said Rep, Paul Brown (R-GA) who at the time was a member of the House Committee on Science, Space and Technology.
“The Internet…has not done well, just like when Google started doing all their things, it didn’t work out well,” said Sen. Harry Reid (D-NV) on the technical difficulties of the rollout of the Affordable Care Act.
“Presidents Washington, Lincoln and Roosevelt have all authorized electronic surveillance on a far broader scale,” said Republican Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez.
“Every month that we do not have an economic recovery package, 500 million Americans lose their jobs,” said Democrat Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. (The current US population is less than 325 million.)
“The temperature on Mars is exactly as it is here. Nobody will dispute that,” according to Republican State Senator Brandon Smith of Kentucky.
“My concern is that the whole island will become so overly populated that it will tip over and capsize,” said Rep. Hank Johnson (D-GA) in voicing his opposition to stationing 8,000 Marines on the island of Guam.
“Just because the Supreme Court rules on something doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s constitutional,” proclaimed Rep. Jim Bridenstine (R-OK) who apparently failed his high school government class.
“We’ve lasted 400 years, operating under a constitution that clearly defines what is constitutional and what it not,” said Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) who apparently failed her high school government and history and math class as the constitution was enacted in 1789, just 227 years ago.
And showing that mistakes can be made at the top: “We’re the country that built the intercontinental railroad,” said President Barack Obama speaking about the transcontinental railroad.
And finally, something from former Republican Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich on which we all should be able to agree, “It is perfectly American to be wrong.”
And, my friends, we are frequently good at it.

Random Thoughts And Observations

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener’s Mom

This week’s offering is “Mom Approved”. Or, I guess it is, she sent these to me.
•The location of your mailbox shows you how far away from your house you can be in a robe, before you start looking like a mental patient.
•My therapist said that my narcissism causes me to misread social situations. I’m pretty sure she was hitting on me.
•My 70 year kindergarten reunion is coming up soon and I’m worried about the 200 lbs I’ve gained since then.
•I always wondered what the job application is like at Hooters. Do they just give you a bra and say, ” Here, fill this out?”
•The speed with which a woman says “nothing”, when asked “What’s wrong?”, is inversely proportional to the severity of the crap storm that’s coming.
•The pharmacist asked me my birth date again today. I’m going to be sure I pick up a prescription on my actual birthday. I’m pretty sure she’s going to get me something.
•I can’t understand why women are okay that JC Penny has an older women’s clothing line named, “Sag Harbor”.
•I think it’s pretty cool how Chinese people made a language entirely out of tattoos.
•What is it about a car that makes people think that we can’t see them pick their noses?
•Money can’t buy happiness, but it keeps the kids in touch!
•The reason Mayberry was so peaceful and quiet is because nobody was married. Andy, Aunt Bea, Barney, Floyd, Howard, Goober, Gomer, Sam, Earnest T. Bass, Helen, Thelma Lou, Clara, and of course, Opie— all single. The only married person was Otis, and he stayed drunk
•Marriage is like a deck of cards. In the beginning all you need is two hearts and a diamond. By the end, you wish you had a club and a spade.
•And God promised men that good and obedient wives would be found in all corners of the world. Then He made the earth round… and laughed and laughed and laughed.
•I’m suspicious of people who don’t like dogs. But I trust a dog when he doesn’t like a person.
•You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.
•Show respect even to people who don’t deserve it; not as a reflection of their character, but as a reflection of yours.

I’m Voting “NO” On Question No. 1

Curt-lineby Curt Kovener
If you haven’t already voted, there’s a question on your election ballot next week wanting your decision on a constitutional question
Indiana voters will have the chance to decide if people’s right to hunt and fish needs to be declared in the state constitution.
Hoosier lawmakers, following the lead of the National Rifle Association, have gotten this public question to next week’s ballot:
“Shall the Constitution of the State of Indiana be amended by adding Section 39 to Article 1 to provide that the right to hunt, fish and harvest wildlife shall be forever preserved for the public good, subject only to laws prescribed by the General Assembly and rules prescribed by virtue of the authority of the General Assembly to: (1) promote wildlife conservation and management; and (2) preserve the future of hunting and fishing?”
Those who want voters to pick “yes” for this question say this change will forever enshrine hunting, fishing and harvesting wildlife as a valued part of Indiana’s heritage. But with or without this amendment, those things will remain a valued part of the state’s heritage.
So will the right to play basketball, grow tomatoes and sweet corn, race dirt track cars or ride bicycles.
The state constitution needn’t be amended to protect those last two. And it needn’t be amended to protect the first three, either. And those are all a part of our Hoosier heritage as well.
Before readers begin calling, writing, emailing, or tweeting me (good luck with that last one) thinking that I am anti-gun, anti-fishing, anti hunting, anti-outdoors you haven’t been reading this column very long, have you?
I live…in the broadest definition of the word…in the wilderness surrounded by Hoosier National Forest. I have written about my hunting and fishing exploits and want you to have your own outdoor stories to tell, too.
My experience with putting the right to hunt and fish in the state constitution will risk causing some unknowing, uninformed ‘outdoorsmen’ to begin trampling on farmers and woodland owners private property rights claiming their state constitutional right to hunt & fish trumps a “No Trespassing” sign. That is not true now and won’t be true should the constitutional question be approved.
But it doesn’t mean that there will not be occurrences of those instances. Private property boundaries could easily be ignored by unknowing (I am refraining from using the inflammatory word ignorant) gun-toting hunter who thinks the constitution is on his side.
There were times when I hunted (for the first and only time) with some unethical outsdoorsmen who said those ‘No Trespassing” signs meant “Be careful. Don’t get caught.”
What does the Indiana Department of Natural Resources, the agency charged with protecting the outdoors and enforcing hunting, fishing and trapping laws, have to say about the constitution question?
The DNR does not have a position on the proposed amendment, according to Phil Bloom, communications director for the agency. Bloom explained that the statutory authority of the state’s DNR would not be affected by the amendment because Indiana Code 14 gives the agency the right and authority to manage wildlife in Indiana.
And let’s be reminded on the last constitutional amendment we approved: placing property tax caps into the law of the land. It was marketed to us that it would be a way to keep our individual property taxes from increasing. But the law of unintended consequences has determined that mayors, town councils, county councils, school boards, library boards across the state have had to deal with decreasing revenues for police, fire and ambulance protection because of the property tax caps amendment we voted to place into the constitution.
But I don’t think lawmakers will be passing any measures to overturn the amendment that will result in increased taxes. And I don’t think the voting public will be approving a raise of their taxes either. So we’re stuck with it.
I voted ‘No’ on that tax cap amendment and I will be voting ‘No’ on the hunting & fishing constitutional question next week.
Voting ‘Yes’ on the question makes an unnecessary political statement and truly degrades the sanctity of what should be the state’s most treasured governmental document.

Thrills, Chills And Cast Iron Cats

by Becky Killian
(We turn over this space this week to an award winning writer, photographer and journalist to share with you a Halloween story. Just keep saying, “I ain’t afraid of no ghost.”)
Before sitting at a desk last week at the newspaper office where I work, I had to move a rat off the chair.
Of course, the rat was a plastic Halloween decoration that fit well with the office’s October décor, which includes spiders, spider webs and pumpkins.
It’s strange but I was better with the rat than I was with the preferred décor at my last daily newspaper office: scarecrows. Lots of them. It didn’t matter where you looked while on the first floor of the building, your gaze was also greeted with the lopsided grin of a scarecrow.
Please understand that there were days when I worked long hours and it wasn’t uncommon for me to be the only one in the building at 2 a.m. It also wasn’t uncommon for me to see shadows seemingly pass behind me, their images reflected on my computer screen, while I diligently worked to get the paper paginated by deadline. When I saw those shadows, I was always alone in the building and nothing was moving in the newsroom that could account for them. Yet, they were there.
Normally, that would freak me out, but I was always so much more freaked out by the looming deadline that I just let the ghosts pace around the room. Maybe they were as worried about deadline too… but of a different sort.
But it was after making deadline and seeing those shadows that I left the building and had to walk through the gauntlet of grinning scarecrows. Those grins seem ominous at night, let me tell you.
It also didn’t help that I recalled some horror movie about a deadly scarecrow come to life that I saw during my misspent youth.
I tried to gently tell the front office ladies, who were the primary downstairs decorators, about the scarecrow creepiness, but they just looked at those grinning scarecrows, looked back at me, and blinked.
It’s hard to describe nighttime creepiness to someone who works an 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule.
The scarecrows, and maybe even the mysterious shadows, aren’t the strangest encounters I’ve had. While working my own 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. schedule in an office long ago, I was taking advantage of some quiet time that found me alone in the office to get some paperwork done. As I focused on my work, a thought entered my mind as clearly as if someone had spoken it: “Someone’s here.” I managed to keep my focus on that paperwork as I walked to the back of the office to my desk. As I rounded a corner, I still was looking at the paperwork when I “saw” a misty, human-like figure ahead of me.
I guess you can’t say it was “out of the corner of my eye” since I walked right toward it. But it was like that – I didn’t look directly at it, but I saw it. I didn’t have enough time to process it, so I just kept on walking. Right through it. I remember sensing the spot was warmer than the rest of the office (I thought ghosts were supposed to be colder?). I also thought the figure was male.
Despite these impressions, I walked into my office, sat at my desk,  and finally looked away from that paperwork long enough to wonder, what just happened?
I got up, walked to the doorway and peeked around the corner. Nothing was there. Whatever it was, was gone.
The next oddness I remember also happened around that same time of my life. I was married but home alone in the evening because my ex was working a 16-hour day and wasn’t due back until the next morning. It was October and, to honor the spooky side of Halloween, a couple of special shows were airing that night that I foolishly chose to watch. One was some show about houses reported to be haunted. The other, I’m deeply ashamed to admit, was Geraldo’s “Satan special.” If you missed it, please don’t go looking for it. It just involved Geraldo Rivera and an hour of drama in which “evidence” was presented showing the looming presence of demonic evil in our day-to-day existence. If you want a clue as to how bad it was, he interviewed Ozzie Osborne. The seemingly bewildered Ozzie answered questions as best he could, using the same garbled Ozzie-speak we all came to know and love during the reality show that aired later and featured his family.
Being younger, and alone in the country in a dark house (why didn’t I turn a light on?) I freaked myself out. As part of this, I kept looking at the fireplace. Specifically, I kept looking at a cast iron doorstop that is fashioned to look like a cat…a very, very lifelike cat.
Understand that I love this doorstop. I bought it while in downtown Indianapolis at Union Station when they still had shops there. It’s beautiful. And lifelike, did I mention that?
Well, anyway, I spent the whole evening looking at the cat and remembering a scene from “The Amityville Horror” where a lion statue comes to life and bites the homeowner’s leg.
Eventually, I dragged myself away from the TV and went to bed. I really didn’t seem to think about it anymore until the next day when I got a call from my now ex-husband while I was at work. He was angry and confused. Why, he asked, had I moved the cast iron cat doorstop to the middle of the living room? He could have tripped over it.
I think I stammered a bit. I had walked right by that doorstop that morning while I got ready for work. Nothing was out of order in the living room.
My ex reassured me he had to move the doorstop back to the fireplace hearth.
I couldn’t explain what happened then any more than I can now. But I can tell you I’ve still got that cat doorstop. It sets on my new hearth. On occasion, I look at it and wonder. But I don’t pay it too much attention because I don’t want to get another call about someone in my house almost tripping over it.
And I sure don’t want it coming for me.
Have a happy, safe and relatively spook-free Halloween.