This is one of the biggest weeks of the year in Twin Falls, Idaho. It’s “Fair Week.” Idaho is one of those states where county fairs are still a big deal.
Just about every Idahoan has cable or satellite TV. We watch our favorite sports, sitcoms, “Game of Thrones,” etc., on big high-definition screens. We get a lot of our mail and news from the internet and even do a good chunk of our business from our pickup trucks on laptops or smartphones. About as many of us work at high-tech jobs as time-honored labors like carpentry, plumbing and of course agriculture (which isn’t exactly low-tech anymore).
But fair week has a way of bringing the entire lot of us together under the simple auspices of having an “old fashioned” good time. Sure, there’s the midway and some glitz. But there are also 4H exhibits, animal judging, rodeos, antiques, home skills, arts and crafts, hobby displays, music and tons of glorious fair food.
And let’s don’t forget ourselves. We. Us. “The people.” Friends. Neighbors. Relatives. Seniors. Kids. Teenagers. Visitors. Locals. Newcomers. We congregate, converse, cajole, commiserate, communicate and plain old connect. Sometimes it’s reconnecting after separations of time or distance. Sometimes it’s establishing a bond with strangers-turned-acquaintances over a picnic table snack of an elephant ear, taco or ear of corn. We care about seeing one another and checking with each other on everything else that we care about.
Having a good time is one of the few things in life that provides universal satisfaction to almost everyone. With minor exceptions it bridges most social, political and religious barriers. It’s an uplifting aspect of life because it reminds us when we gather for such good times that we are indeed a community of people with more in common than what separates us.
If Anne Frank could write in her diary “In spite of everything I still believe that people are really good at heart,” I have to believe annual rituals like our county fairs validate that perspective, even in these contentious times in America. It is, after all, the goodness of all our hearts that prods us to collectively take care of what we love and what we are responsible for.
Idaho is a stunning state. Our nickname “The Gem State” has two meanings. We are famous for the valuable ores and gems the earth yields up to us. But, more importantly, the state is itself a true “gem.” Its beauty and natural wonders are tonics to the eyes and spirit. Merely opening one’s eyes across our gorgeous vistas, inhaling our crisp clean air or drinking our refreshing waters sustains, energizes and refreshes us to our cores. It’s something urbanites pay big bucks to experience for a handful of days on their vacations. We get to have it all 24/365.
While at the fair we exist in a kind of benevolent cocoon that generally eases our differences and allows conversations (discussions?) on a wide range of topics with a bit more geniality than normal. Even when bantering about politics, the environment seems conducive to settling for “participation trophies” rather than having to declare definitive winners. We can usually find common ground on what we care for and care about, even if we aren’t on the same page regarding how to best exercise or accomplish that care.
I’ll bet we can all agree we care for our families, their health, their safety, their standard of living, their educations and future prospects, and jobs. We probably all care about breathing clean air and drinking clean water. We care about preventing crime. We care for all our basic rights outlined in the Constitution. And we care about having a voice in our community, state and national governments. Not just a voice, but also a fair and equitable response by our elected officials to the needs and concerns we express.
We will probably always have disagreements. Yet, it has been my observation that most of the disagreements stem more from how we address matters we care about, rather than whether or not we actually care about them. That’s not always the case, but I think it accounts for the greatest source of animosity when our “discussions” turn truculent and inflexible.
As the weeks progress and we become engaged, yet again, in election campaigns, the odds are we’ll retreat into our ideological corners and throw up our long-evolved instinctive barriers around our set viewpoints. We may cede our thinking and judgement to pundits who operate from hidebound worldviews and perceptions, and who are paid big bucks to do so. And their pay may not even depend on sincerity (honesty?) or even accuracy of their punditry, but rather their “effectiveness” at swaying opinion. Frankly their role is sometimes (often?) designed specifically to divide us, rather than bring us together to effectively craft solutions to our concerns.
But this is fair week. As in past years Democrats and Republicans will be in attendance and anxious to meet the public, chat about the things we all care about, and have a good time doing so. The Twin Falls County Democratic Party invites everyone to stop and visit under our tent. Let’s have a friendly chat and trade thoughts on how we can work together to steward the issues and values we care about. With any luck the weather will be delightful, the conversations will be fun and we can identify ways to collaborate for a wonderful future for Idaho and all her people.
This appeared in Wednesday’s Washington Post.
The latest symptom of America’s deepening political illness is the rise of “antifa”—short for “anti-fascist.” Clad in black and armed with clubs or pepper spray, these masked men and women style themselves the bane of neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klansmen and other extreme rightists wherever the latter may appear.
Antifa and like-minded offshoots were seen pummeling alleged right-wingers in Berkeley this past weekend, including a man they pushed to the ground and then kicked and punched until a journalist intervened. “There is a complete mob mentality here,” the Los Angeles Times’ James Queally reported from the scene. “People are randomly accusing random people of being Nazis.”
Exactly what kind of threat does antifa pose? We would not for a minute equate it to the menace of violent, ultra-right white-supremacist groups, which are enjoying an ugly renaissance bred, in part, by the succor President Donald Trump has given to racial and religious intolerance.
Antifa’s true danger is twofold: First, its violence does obvious and unjustifiable harm, both to free speech and to people and property; second, it tends to discredit, through association, the far broader peaceful movement against racism and hate. That movement must win if the United States is to flourish, and it can win only by upholding democratic norms and the rule of law, even in the face of everything the ultra-right may do to undermine them.
Trump’s equation of white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, with those who rallied against them was false and repugnant, but antifa activists’ deeds hardly promote the moral clarity necessary to isolate right-wing hate groups.
President Trump’s pardon of Joe Arpaio, the former sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona, has drawn predictable responses. The left, which long ago exceeded its sell-by date when it comes to ideas that work, denounced the decision as racist (that’s all they have) and a perversion of justice. Some moderates, like Sen. John McCain and Sen. Jeff Flake, both Arizona Republicans, Speaker Paul Ryan (R-WI) and former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, joined the critics.
Arpaio, who is 85, was convicted of disobeying a 2011 federal court order to halt traffic patrols that targeted immigrants. He faced up to six months in prison.
The White House issued a list of reasons for the president’s decision, which included Arpaio’s age, his service to the country, including enlistment in the military at the start of the Korean War, and his work as a police officer and special agent for the Drug Enforcement Administration.
Arpaio’s defenders say he was trying to help the federal government identify people in the country illegally. His opponents say he profiled Hispanics only, and thus engaged in racism. Given that Mexicans, according to U.S. Census Bureau data, make up the largest group of unauthorized immigrants, it made sense to focus on this group. That the number of unauthorized immigrants from Mexico has been decreasing, matters little, as the number of immigrants from Central America and Asia has increased.
Even critics must acknowledge that any president has sole discretionary authority under the Constitution to pardon anyone for almost anything, except offenses against the United States and curtailing the impeachment process.
It is instructive to review some of the hundreds of pardons delivered by Bill Clinton and Barack Obama when they were president. Many were granted to people whose resumes do not come close to the services rendered to the nation by Sheriff Arpaio.
President Obama issued 70 pardons during his two terms as president. He pardoned minor drug offenders, bank embezzlers, military deserters, and, according to the Chicago Tribune, a young sailor court-martialed and demoted for taking four pounds of butter from his Navy base in 1947.
Bill Clinton’s pardon list contained names of people who committed crimes a little more consequential, some even a little suspect. His most notorious pardon was granted to Marc Rich, a major donor to the Clinton campaign. The Rich pardon came during Clinton’s last hours in office and was condemned by leading Democrats, including former President Jimmy Carter.
For those with short memories, Rich was indicted in the United States on federal charges of tax evasion and making controversial oil deals with Iran during the Iran hostage crisis. Rich, who fled to Switzerland when he was indicted, never returned to the U.S., and died there in 2013.
Clinton later said he regretted the Rich pardon. Without a hint of irony, he said, “It wasn’t worth the damage to my reputation.” Most of Clinton’s other pardons were far less controversial. They included convictions for bank fraud and “odometer rollback.”
The president’s pardon of Arpaio is a far cry from those granted by Clinton and Obama. He was correct in sighting Arpaio’s age and service to the country among his reasons for granting it. His conviction had political overtones and it is perfectly fitting that the pardon addressed his conviction partially on a political level.
Arpaio reached the same conclusion when he tweeted: “Thank you @realdonaldtrump for seeing my conviction for what it is: a political witch hunt by holdovers in the Obama Justice Department.”
I think we have enough fast food eateries. How about nice restaurants? Red Lobster, Olive Garden and nice steak houses!
Shirley I Smith